Understanding your gut and keeping it healthy is an important part of your everyday dietary needs. Your gut microbiome can be improved by changing several factors in your lifestyle.
What is the gut microbiome?
Your gut microbiome is microorganisms that live in your intestinal tract. Your digestive tract hosts around 200 different types of bacteria, viruses and fungi. These microorganisms play a key role in how you digest your food and absorb nutrients.
Like other microorganisms, your microbiome can change over time and will shape the bacteria that lives in your gut. Some of these things can be difficult to change, such as;
- Stressful life events
Our lifestyles can often be altered to help with the production of microbiomes. By keeping your microbiomes healthy, your gut will also be taken care of.
Studies have found that gut health can have a direct link to:
- The immune system
- Mental health
- Autoimmune diseases
- Endocrine disorders
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Cardiovascular disease
What can you do to help keep your gut healthy?
Certain foods and healthy lifestyle habits can improve your gut health naturally.
Eating fibre rich foods will stimulate the growth of the microbiomes in your gut. Different foods will have different levels of fibre, but these are some easy ones to plan into your meals.
What are gut-healthy foods that can be easy to incorporate into your diet?
- Fermented foods contain beneficial bacteria that can help support the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut. These include yoghurt, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut.
- Fruits and vegetables are high in fibre, which helps keep your digestive system functioning properly. Aim for a variety of colours and types to get a wide range of nutrients.
- Whole grains are also high in fibre and can help support healthy digestion. Whole grains include oats, quinoa, and brown rice.
- Legumes such as beans, lentils, and chickpeas are high in fibre and protein, and can help support healthy digestion.
- Nuts and seeds are rich in fibre and healthy fats, and can help support a healthy gut.
- Bone broth is made by simmering bones and connective tissue, and it is rich in collagen and other nutrients that can help support a healthy gut.
- Probiotic supplements contain live bacteria and yeast that can help support the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut. It’s important to talk to a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement.
It’s important to note that everyone’s nutritional needs are different, and it’s important to talk to a healthcare provider or registered dietitian before making any changes to your diet. It’s also important to aim for a balanced and varied diet to ensure you are getting all the nutrients your body needs.
Exercise helps improve your good gut bacteria. Research has found that just six weeks of consistent exercise can help change your microbiome in a positive way. Exercise can help stimulate the movement of your digestive system, which can help prevent constipation and other digestive issues.
Physical activity can also help to reduce stress, which can have a positive impact on your gut health. Chronic stress can disrupt the balance of bacteria in your gut and lead to digestive problems.
Exercise can also help improve blood flow to your digestive tract, which can help support the health and function of your digestive system. Some research suggests that regular physical activity may also help support the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut.
What types of exercise help support good gut health?
- Strength training
In general, it’s recommended to aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise each week. It’s also important to listen to your body and stop exercising if you experience any discomfort or pain.
Limiting the alcohol that you are drinking will also promote the idea of good gut health. Heavy drinking sessions can damage the mucous cells in your stomach, which can lead to inflammation and stomach lesions. Alcohol with over 15% alcohol volumes can delay the stomach from emptying. This can lead to bacterial degradation of the food, and abdominal discomfort.
7 ways to maintain a healthy gut
- Eat a varied diet that includes a variety of plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. These foods are high in fibre, which helps keep your digestive system functioning properly.
- Incorporate fermented foods into your diet, such as yoghurt, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut. These foods contain beneficial bacteria that can help support the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut.
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Water helps to soften and move waste through your intestines, which can help prevent constipation.
- Exercise regularly. Physical activity can help stimulate the movement of your digestive system and keep everything functioning properly.
- Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep can disrupt the balance of bacteria in your gut and lead to digestive problems.
- Reduce stress. Chronic stress can have a negative impact on your gut health. Try practising relaxation techniques such as meditation or deep breathing to help reduce stress.
- Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. These habits can damage the cells lining your digestive tract and disrupt the balance of bacteria in your gut.
How to spot the signs of an unhealthy gut
Stress levels, sleep, high consumption of processed and sugary foods, and antibiotics can all affect your gut microbiome. This can in turn have an impact on other areas of your health, including your hormone levels, immune system, and weight.
Here’s some of the common signs to tell if your gut health isn’t at its best:
If you have problems digesting certain foods, and the cause isn’t from an allergic reaction, then it may be caused by poor quality of bacteria in your gut. Any symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and nausea can be triggered from digestive problems in your gut.
Any signs of gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea and heartburn can all be indicators of poor gut health. Having a balanced microbiome means that your gut will be able to process foods more efficiently and eliminate the necessary waste.
Poor sleep or fatigue
Poor gut health can also affect your sleep, and leave you unable to sleep for long durations which can lead to severe exhaustion and fatigue. Inflammation, metabolic function and mental health are all impacted by your gut health which can then have a knock-on effect on your sleep.
High sugar diet
Eating a lot of processed foods and added sugars can reduce the amount of ‘good’ bacteria and diversity in your gut. Studies have shown that this can also cause increased inflammation throughout your body, which can be a forerunner to diseases, including cancer.
Different types of bacteria present in the gut can cause some skin irritations, like psoriasis. Maintaining the right levels of beneficial bacteria can support your immune system to prevent suffering with these types of skin conditions.
Your gut has direct links to your immune system, and an unhealthy gut can affect your immune system’s ability to properly function. This can lead to autoimmune diseases where your cells attack themselves rather than harmful viruses.
Weight gain or loss
If you’re gaining or losing weight without making any change to your diet or exercise habits, then this can also indicate an unhealthy gut. When your microbiome doesn’t have optimal diversity, it can affect your body’s ability to absorb nutrients, control blood sugar levels and store fat.
Gut health isn’t a straightforward matter, and there can be lots of contributing factors. If you want to check in on your gut health, start by reviewing your diet and paying attention to how you feel after eating certain food groups and meals. Remember that changing your diet and lifestyle can not only support better gut health, but also your overall health.