Gut health is an essential component of overall well-being. It refers to the balance and function of the microorganisms living in our digestive tract, which can influence everything from digestion and immune function to mental health and disease prevention. While many factors contribute to gut health, there are steps we can take to promote a healthy gut microbiome. Here is an expert’s guide to building up your gut health:
Eat a varied and plant-rich diet
Eating a varied and plant-rich diet is one of the most important things you can do for your gut health. Aim to eat a wide range of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes to provide your gut bacteria with a diverse range of nutrients. These foods are also rich in fibre, which can help feed beneficial gut bacteria and promote regular bowel movements. If there is one thing you implement from this, let it be this.
Include fermented foods in your diet
Fermented foods such as yoghurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha and miso contain beneficial bacteria that can help populate your gut microbiome. These foods that contain bacteria known as probiotics, can help improve digestion, support the immune system and reduce inflammation in the gut. Fermented foods also contain prebiotic fibres that can help to feed these beneficial gut bacteria. It is important to choose high-quality, unpasteurised versions to ensure that beneficial bacteria are still alive.
Consume processed and sugary foods in moderation
Processed and sugary foods can disrupt the balance of bacteria in the gut and contribute to inflammation. Being conscious of these foods and eating them in moderation can help promote a healthy gut microbiome and reduce the risk of chronic disease. Cutting out whole food groups is not necessary for a healthy gut but being mindful of eating and nutrition can be beneficial. Ensuring you are eating enough food to support a healthy functioning body is just as important.
Stress can have a significant impact on gut health by affecting the composition of the gut microbiome and increasing inflammation in the gut. When we are stressed or in a fight-or-flight state the body directs its attention and energy away from the gut and digestion to the muscles and functions that will help us with survival, therefore if you are constantly in a stressed state your digestion and gut will be compromised. Engage in stress-reducing activities such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises to help promote a healthy gut.
Get enough sleep
Sleep is essential for overall health, and it also plays a role in gut health. Lack of sleep can disrupt the balance of bacteria in the gut and increase inflammation. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night and prioritise good sleep hygiene, such as establishing a regular sleep schedule, removing screens and bright lights before bed and keeping your room cool, dark and quiet to help promote quality sleep and support a healthy gut.
Regular exercise can help promote a healthy gut microbiome by improving gut motility (the ability of the digestive system to move food through the digestive tract), increasing the diversity and growth of beneficial gut bacteria and reducing inflammation. Exercise is also an essential part of a healthy lifestyle and weight management that supports an overall healthy gut. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week, including a mixture of aerobic exercise (running, cycling, swimming) and strength training exercises.
Consider taking a probiotic or prebiotic supplement
Probiotics are live bacteria that can be taken as a supplement to help populate the gut microbiome. Prebiotics are non-digestible fibres that can help feed beneficial gut bacteria. This type of supplementation can be helpful if you have been on medication or antibiotics that destroy the gut microbiome. It can be helpful to consult with a healthcare professional to determine if a probiotic or prebiotic supplement is right for you. Supplementation is not a replacement for a healthy balanced diet and lifestyle.
When building up your gut health it requires a multifaceted approach that includes a varied and plant-rich diet, fermented foods, stress management, sleep, exercise, and possibly a probiotic or prebiotic supplement. By prioritising these lifestyle factors, you can promote a healthy gut microbiome and improve your overall health and well-being.