Your gut, also known as the digestive tract or gastrointestinal (GI) tract, plays a role and affects literally everything in your body. It’s responsible for ensuring your body is functioning correctly. As your body breaks down food, your gut absorbs nutrients that help support bodily functions, including energy production, waste elimination, mental health, and disease prevention.
Research has discovered that the brain communicates with the gut and its microbes. Microbes are the bacteria, viruses, and fungi that line the stomach, colon, and intestines. Your gut microbiome plays a key role in controlling your mood, emotions, sleep, metabolism, and overall health. According to the National Institutes of Health, digestive diseases affect 60 million to 70 million Americans. Symptoms of an unhealthy gut include:
- Chronic pain
- Mental health issues (such as depression and anxiety)
- Weight loss
- Fatigue or lethargy
Balancing your gut health can help to reverse and improve health conditions. This is why it’s important to take special care of your gut. Here are some simple ways you can improve gut health so you can feel your best.
Add More Probiotics to Your Diet
One of the best ways to improve gut health is by eating “good” bacteria known as probiotics. Probiotics aid digestion and protect you from bad bacteria. Introducing good bacteria into your gut also helps to reduce inflammation and stimulates your immune system. Examples of probiotics include fermented foods such as yogurt, kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut, tempeh, and pickled vegetables.
Eat Prebiotic-Friendly Foods
In order for probiotics to do their job and help your gut to flourish, they need prebiotics. Prebiotics are dietary fibers that feed the probiotics. This helps the good bacteria to grow and produce nutrients that provide numerous health benefits. Examples of prebiotic foods are whole grains, garlic, onions, flax seeds, bananas, and apples.
Limit Gluten Consumption
Gluten, a naturally-occurring protein found in certain grains, such as wheat, rye, and barley, can wreak havoc on your gut, especially if you have gluten sensitivity or intolerance. Research has found that gluten can damage the gut barrier and lining, resulting in an increased intestinal permeability, also known as leaky gut. When this happens, tiny particles and proteins can “leak” into your bloodstream and become exposed to your immune system, which then causes inflammation.
Take Supplements for Additional Support
Depending on your specific dietary needs, it can be a challenge to consume the necessary amount of probiotics and prebiotics to achieve a healthy gut. For additional support in nourishing your gut with healthy bacteria, consider taking supplements. Probiotic and prebiotic supplements can assist in feeding your gut and getting it in tip-top shape.
Don’t Over Use Antibiotics
While you should never take unnecessary medication, you should avoid taking antibiotics if you don’t absolutely need them. For example, if you have a common cold, you probably don’t need antibiotics, as your body can successfully fight it on its own. Antibiotics can wipe out both bad and good bacteria.
Eat a Variety of Fruits and Vegetables
In addition to providing your body with healthy and beneficial vitamins and minerals, fruits and vegetables offer an extra dose of fiber. Both soluble and insoluble fiber offer unique benefits that can aid in a healthy gut. Soluble fiber helps improve digestion and lower blood sugar, while insoluble fiber softens stool, making it easier to pass. Aim for three servings of vegetables a day with at least four or five different sources of vegetables.
Improve Your Gut, Improve Your Health
No two guts are the same, which ultimately means that no diet will have the same effects on every gut. However, foods that are gut-friendly can at least help in improving the health of your gut. Some foods may work better for you than others. It’s a matter of finding out what your gut and body needs. Making small changes to your diet and lifestyle can have major effects on your gut and digestive health. Be conscious of what you’re putting in your body and how it makes you feel. Your gut will thank you!