Whether you feel bloated after eating or running unexpectedly to the restroom, digestive troubles have a way of decreasing your quality of life. The good news is that there are ways to improve your gut health and microbiome. This microbiome is composed of trillions of microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, that live in your digestive system.
In a healthy gut, these microorganisms are beneficial to the host (that’s you!) and help digestion and absorption of nutrients. Here are some good hacks to keep your gut health in check:
You (really) are what you eat.
The food you eat – improving your gut health is not simply a matter of ingesting fermented foods… although these help!
- A balanced diet with a wide range of foods is known to improve the microbiome by making it more diverse.
- Your body also benefits when you eat seasonally, meaning eating vegetables and fruit growing naturally during that time, wherever you happen to be in the world.
- Increase the fibre in your diet. Non-digestible carbohydrates from whole grains act like fertiliser in the large intestine as they promote the growth of certain good bacteria. These are called prebiotics. High-fibre foods include broccoli, chickpeas, lentils, beans, whole grains, apples, almonds, and green peas.
- Eat foods rich in polyphenols. These are plant compounds with many health benefits, including reducing inflammation, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Gut bacteria also digest these. Examples are cocoa and dark chocolate, almonds, onions, blueberries, green tea, and red wine.
- Add probiotic foods to your diet. These are fermented foods such as natural yoghurt, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, miso, skyr, and sauerkraut.
- Add a probiotic food supplement to your intake. If fermented foods aren’t your cup of tea, or you cannot eat these super regularly, the only way to ensure an excellent probiotic intake is to take supplements. Choose a probiotic like ClinFlor that provides a high quality and diverse supplement containing bacteria and yeasts (Saccharomyces, three types of Lactobacilli and Bifidobacterium) together with a prebiotic of micronised almonds.
And what you avoid.
- Decrease sugar. Eating too many simple sugars such as glucose and fructose disturbs the gut microbiota. Artificial sweeteners are not a suitable replacement either when it comes to the gut. These may encourage the growth of bacteria associated with disease when present in high amounts.
- Avoid snacking. That midnight snack might sound comforting at the time, but your gut needs time to heal from digestion, which is an inflammatory activity. There’s no need to overdo it with fasting, but your gut will enjoy a rest and time to recuperate.
- Alcohol – as mentioned earlier, red wine in moderation can be beneficial for the gut as it contains polyphenols. However, it is essential to keep consumption low when it comes to good health in general. Most alcohol has sugary additions, so it is not a gut’s best friend, even in moderate amounts.
- Medicines allow us to have better and longer lives, but they can also have a destructive effect on our gut microbiota. Antibiotics are notoriously harmful in this regard. Many people need to increase their probiotic uptake when prescribed a course of antibiotics to avoid or at least decrease certain side effects. Other more commonly used medicines, such as pain killers, also interfere with gut microbiota and should only be taken when necessary.
And how you act.
- Stress negatively impacts the microbiome and might decrease the abundance of certain probiotic bacteria such as Lactobacillus. Studies have shown that the gut-brain connection goes both ways – and so an unhappy tummy may lead to a low mood!
- Rest. A lack of sleep may disturb your digestion and has been linked with weight gain and a less diverse microbiome. A lack of sleep is alarming for your brain, and if your brain isn’t happy, your gut feels it too.
- Exercise more. Scientific research has demonstrated that exercise changes the composition and capacity of the gut microbiota with potential beneficial implications. With exercise, the gut microorganisms multiply more and are more diverse, increasing the gut barrier integrity and regulating the immune system.
The microbiome has a significant influence on your metabolism, immune system, and propensity to illness. Studies find that it may also affect body weight, appetite, allergies, and mood. Taking care of your gut with slight tweaks to your diet and behaviour can have powerful changes to the way you feel.
10 Ways to Improve Your Gut Bacteria, Based on Science. Healthline. November 2016. Accessed at: 10 Ways to Improve Your Gut Bacteria, Based on Science (healthline.com)
16 Easy Hacks To Enhance Your Gut Health Every Day In 2020. December 2019. Atlas Blog. Accessed at: How To Improve Gut Health: 16 Simple Hacks For Your Gut In 2020 (atlasbiomed.com) Mailing, Lucy J.; Allen, Jacob M.; Buford, Thomas W.; Fields, Christopher J.; Woods, Jeffrey A. Exercise and the Gut Microbiome: A Review of the Evidence, Potential Mechanisms, and Implications for Human Health, Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews: April 2019. Accessed at: Exercise and the Gut Microbiome: A Review of the Evidence, P… : Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews (lww.com)