Gut health is one of the most neglected and underestimated facets of human health. Your gut microbiome—the collection of bacteria, viruses, and fungi that populate your GI tract—has a huge influence on a variety of bodily functions, from how you digest food and how your immune system functions, to how you think and feel, surprisingly enough.
Scientists are still in the early stages of understanding fully how the gut microbiome works, as well as how to improve it, but what we know already is astounding. When you have a healthier, more diversified gut microbiome, you can maintain a healthier weight, resist diseases more effectively, raise your mental health, and more.
So the question is: How can you make your gut healthier?
Tips for a Healthier Gut
These are ten of the most important tips for maintaining a healthy gut microbiome.
1. Take a gut health supplement. One of the easiest steps you can take is to administer a gut health supplement. These supplements often include probiotic compounds designed to stimulate the development of healthy microflora in your gut. They frequently provide substances like glutamine, a free-form amino acid that promotes healthy GI function; and arabinogalactan, a type of fermentable fiber. If you take these supplements regularly, you’ll support a much healthier environment for your gut microbiome.
2. Eat healthier foods. This is good advice no matter what your goals are, but you should try to eat conventionally “healthier” foods. These tend to be less processed; for example, it’s better to eat blueberries than a pint of blueberry ice cream. However, it can sometimes be hard to draw a distinction. Fruits and vegetables are often good choices, as are complex carbohydrates and lean meats.
3. Eat a more balanced diet. Unfortunately, eating healthy foods isn’t enough to create a healthy microbiome. Your gut thrives on diversity, so it’s vital to consume a wide range of foods. Try to mix up your daily diet, and take in fodder of many different varieties.
4. Eat smaller, more frequent meals. This is a good tip for weight loss as well, but try to eat smaller, more frequent meals. Your digestive tract is designed to function on a constant and steady basis. Whenever you eat one gigantic meal, you run the risk of overloading your system. Instead, make the tasks of your GI tract easier by taking in small quantities at a higher frequency throughout the day.
5. Focus on probiotic and prebiotic foods. Probiotic foods are edibles that contain live bacteria; prebiotic foods sustain and support the good bacteria that already inhabit your gut. Both are essential for gut health, so try to get more of them. Common options are yogurt, sauerkraut, miso soup, soft cheeses, and sourdough bread.
6. Chew your food thoroughly. When you eat meals, try to chew your food thoroughly before you swallow it. This makes it easier for your digestive system to do its part. This is also an excellent way to slow down your dining pace, and enjoy your meals more overall.
7. Keep stress in check. It should be no surprise to learn that stress has a wide variety of unhealthy effects on the body—including inhibition of your gut health and digestive efficiency. If you want a healthier gut, you ought to keep your levels of stress in check. Exercise, meditation, and taking regular vacations can all help you here.
8. Get plenty of fiber. Fiber is essential for healthy digestion, and the fermentation of fiber in your gut also supports the development of a healthy microbiome. Get lots of fiber throughout the day, from such foods as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. You can also increase your intake by taking a fiber supplement. Most Americans don’t get enough fiber, so watch your intake.
9. Drink more water. Water is critical for keeping your digestive system working well. Adequate hydration can keep you healthier in a number of other ways, too. Drink more water throughout the day; and if you find this difficult, try to keep a water bottle with you at all times, or set a timer to help you drink water at regular intervals.
10. Limit your intake of alcohol and caffeine. Alcohol and caffeine are okay in moderation, but both can put too much stress on the digestive system. Try to limit your caffeine and alcohol intake on a daily basis and you’ll maintain a healthier gut.
Learning More About Gut Health
There’s still much we have to learn about the gut microbiome and how it influences human health. Over the next several years, and maybe across the next few decades, we’re likely to see more studies and analyses emerging that will fully explain this fascinating aspect of the human physiology.
Keep watching for new information to improve your own understanding, which will lead you to better health habits.