Lack of sleep, high-stress levels, a poor diet composed of high-sugar and processed foods can wreak havoc to your gut health. And if you’re taking antibiotics, your gut microbiome will be more prone to different illnesses characterised by poor digestion and irregular bowel movement, to name a few.
Unfortunately, poor gut health may also increase one’s risk of immune, heart and brain diseases, along with a myriad of other issues. It can also affect nutrient absorption, hormone levels and skin quality. To notice issues with your gut health, a few signs to watch out for include an upset stomach, which includes heartburn, diarrhoea, constipation, bloating, and gas. However, if you have a balanced gut, you’d have few difficulties digesting food or eliminating waste.
1. MANAGE STRESS
One of the first things to do in order to improve gut health is to lower stress because a high level of stress can pose a threat for the entire body – and one of its targets is the gut. To manage stress, you can get a massage, do meditation, take a walk, or spend more time with family and friends. Plus, don’t forget to reduce caffeine, because too much of it can also lead to stress. Some people also find it helpful to take care of a pet, laugh with friends, and engage in a new hobby, or get back to an old one.
2. KEEP YOURSELF HYDRATED
There is no excuse for this one either. You must drink enough water in order to enable the smooth movement of food in your stomach and intestines. It also offers benefits for the intestines’ mucosal lining and aids in the balance of good bacteria. Again, aim for at least eight glasses of water a day for a healthy gut.
3. STRIVE TO GET ENOUGH AND QUALITY SLEEP
Lack of sleep affects gut health, which leads to even worse sleep issues. Try getting at least 7 or 8 hours of quality sleep every night.
4. CHEW FOOD CAREFULLY AND SLOWLY
One thing that will help is to eat without distractions, like your phone or TV. Focus and be in the moment. Try to chew your food by eating meals slowly and thoroughly. If you do, you can absorb nutrients better and improve digestion. So, if you want to keep a healthy gut and reduce digestive discomfort, chew food slowly.
5. SUPPLEMENT WITH A PREBIOTIC OR PROBIOTIC
Another way of improving gut health is to add a prebiotic/probiotic to your daily diet. Prebiotics can promote the growth and flourishing of good bacteria, while probiotics can increase the population of good bacteria.
NOTE: If you have SIBO, or another bacterial overgrowth, you should avoid probiotics. Before supplementation, however, you must consult your general practitioner for the right time to start and for a good choice of probiotics supplements.
6. TWEAK YOUR DIET
Do you have a high sugar diet? Or do you consume highly processed food? If so, it is high time you look into changing your diet. Instead, add more plant-based foods, as well as lean meats to your diet to improve your gut health.
Also, consider a high fibre diet that can contribute to better gut health. Try to include more fruits and vegetables to aid digestion. A few good sources include berries, kale, broccoli, and asparagus.
You must also avoid foods with artificial sweeteners, which may lead to microbe imbalance or gut dysbiosis. And, if you consume a lot of aspartame, an artificial sweetener, it may also lead to metabolic disease due to the increase of certain bacterial strains leading to it.
[A metabolic disease may increase your risk of heart disease and diabetes as well as significantly affect blood sugar levels due to how they work on the gut flora. So, even if artificial sweeteners are not really sugar, they can still increase blood sugar levels.]
7. DO YOU HAVE A FOOD INTOLERANCE?
If you have a food intolerance, you might have been suffering from diarrhoea, nausea, abdominal pain, cramping and bloating. To improve your gut health, you must avoid trigger foods and check if your symptoms are improving. If you know which foods lead to these issues, you can eliminate them and therefore, improve your diet. And by changing food habits, you will create and feel a positive change in your gut health.
8. EAT FERMENTED FOODS
In addition to considering probiotics and prebiotics in your diet, you should also include fermented foods like kimchi, which contains beneficial gut bacteria to improve digestive health.
Fermented foods are potent sources of probiotics. Other than kimchi, sources like kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, and fermented vegetables contain a whole load of probiotics.
Another way to promote gut health and improve your digestion is to exercise regularly. This can promote weight management or weight loss. It can also help in increasing the diversity of species. As a tip, it may help to engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, and make sure to include muscle strengthening in your routine at least twice a week.
10. DON’T TAKE ANTIBIOTICS IF UNNECESSARY
Overuse of antibiotics is linked with different health concerns, like antibiotic resistance. For this reason, avoid taking them if it is not necessary. Although they can help fight bacterial infection, they can also cause an imbalance in the gut. They can even eliminate the good bacteria. So, if possible, you can consult your doctor about alternatives to an antibiotic prescription.
Here you have the most effective ways to improve gut health. Consider following them and start feeling results from within – healthy digestion – to get more out of life, enjoy more time with loved ones and experience better satisfaction in your diet.
This article is not intended to be a replacement for medical advice. Before making any diet changes, for instance, you must consult your GP. Tips shared above are only for general reference.