In the past decade, the term “gut health” has gained more attention from researchers, healthcare practitioners, and social media. This is because of the growing body of evidence about the effect of gut health on our overall well-being.
Considering the importance of gut health, we list in this article,  7 tips to boost your gut health and enhance your health.

What exactly is gut health?

Our digestive tract, also referred to as the gut, includes the organs such as the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and anus. The gut is home to an array of microorganisms (about 100 trillion), both good and bad. Most of those microorganisms are bacteria, alongside fungi, viruses, and other microbes as well. They make up our gut microbiota or gut flora.

Gut health refers to the function and balance between the good and bad bacteria in our gut. In a well-balanced gut, the good bacteria outnumber the bad ones.

What is the importance of gut health?

The friendly bacteria in the gut play a vital role. They help digest the food we eat into nutrients that will be delivered to our organs through the bloodstream. They also produce many vitamins such as vitamin B6, B12, and vitamin K.(1)

Besides, the good bacteria also keep the bad bacteria in check by:

  • often multiplying so that bad bacteria don’t have a place to grow
  • producing substances that inhibit the growth of bad bacteria.
  • helping get rid of toxins

Furthermore, a huge variety of good bacteria in the gut also amplify  the immune system function.
Many studies have linked the gut health to the good functioning of most of the organs in the body, including the heart, skin, and brain. (2,3,4)
A healthy gut contributes to improve symptoms of depression, reduce obesity and inflammation in some chronic diseases. (5,6)
A healthy gut also affects sleep and may help prevent some cancers and autoimmune diseases. (7,8)
In addition, a healthy gut also sends signals to the brain through nerves and hormones, which promote general health and well-being.

What are the symptoms of an unhealthy gut?

An unhealthy gut is characterized by less diversity of good bacteria and an increase of pathogens. As a result, people with an unhealthy gut can experience the following symptoms:

  • Gas and bloating
  • Heartburn
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Poor concentration
  • Mood disorders such as anxiety or depression
  • Skin rashes and allergies
  • Sugar cravings
  • Unexplained fatigue

Luckily, there are several ways to improve our gut health.

1- Reduce stress

Studies suggest that exposure to stressful life events can lead to changes in the composition, diversity, and number of microorganisms in the gut. (9)
Another study also supports that social stress promotes the expression of virulent genes in the gut flora. (10)
Besides, many people choose to cope with stress by overeating and drinking too much alcohol, both of which negatively affect the gut. Therefore, stress management is essential for a healthy gut.

Here are few suggestions to manage your stress:

  • Try yoga
  • Start meditation
  • Listen to soothing music
  • Get enough sleep
  • Reach out to friends and family
  • Quit smoking and reduce caffeine
  • Reduce stress triggers
  • Exercise regularly

2- Take probiotics supplements

Probiotics are good and live microorganisms, often bacteria or yeast, that have health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts. They work by enhancing or restoring the function and composition of the gut flora.

The most popular way to get probiotics is taking probiotics supplements. However, probiotics supplements are not recommended for everyday use. Besides, probiotics are considered as a dietary supplement. It means that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate them as they do for drugs. As a result, you should be careful about the supplement you take and always ask for your doctor’s opinion before you start.

3-Eat naturally fermented foods

Supplements are not the only source of probiotics. Fermented foods are a natural way to get a daily dose of probiotics. It is important to know that all fermented foods do not contain live microorganisms. For example, the microorganisms in heat-treated or canned fermented foods are inactivated.

When you are looking for fermented foods that contain probiotics, you should go for the naturally fermented ones. Some fermented foods have probiotics added to them, and it is usually written on their label.

The top-fermented foods include :

  • Yogurt
  • Pickles
  • Kefir, a fermented probiotic milk drink
  • Tempeh, made from fermented soybeans,
  • Sauerkraut is thinly sliced cabbage that has been fermented by various lactic acid bacteria.
  • Kimchi or kimchee is a  traditional Korean side dish made of fermented and salted vegetables.

4- Eat prebiotic foods

Prebiotics are particular types of dietary fibers that feed the good bacteria in our gut. They help boost the number of gut bacteria that use them as fuel to produce nutrients for the colon cells. Incorporating prebiotic foods in your diet may help promote gut health, enhance your immune system, and keep your digestive system healthy.

Not all dietary fiber can be qualified as prebiotic. Some dietary fiber cannot be consumed by the gut bacteria. Dietary fiber with prebiotic function include inulin, fructooligosaccharides (FOS), and galactooligosaccharides (GOS)

The best natural prebiotic foods include :

  • Chicory roots
  • Asparagus
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Bananas
  • Whole oats
  • Dandelion Greens
  • Apple

Prebiotics are also available as a dietary supplement.

5-Avoid unnecessary antibiotics use

Antibiotics can dramatically affect the amount and type of bacteria in the gut. Broad-spectrum antibiotics work by killing a range of bacteria responsible for infection. Unfortunately, they can also kill the good bacteria in the gut. It is essential to avoid unnecessary or inappropriate use of antibiotics. This include :

  • the use of antibiotics without a prescription from a healthcare professional
  • using antibiotics for cold or other virals infections
  • taking antibiotics from a family member
  • using leftover drugs prescribed for other purposes.

When the use of antibiotics is necessary, there are many things you can do to offset the negative effects of antibiotics on gut flora.

  • Always take the antibiotics as prescribed
  • Take probiotics after a course of antibiotics to restore your gut flora
  • Eat fermented foods and prebiotic foods
  • Stay hydrated

6- Eat slowly

Eating slowly is one of the simplest yet most powerful ways to improve your gut health. It allows you to chew your food thoroughly. The digestion process starts in the mouth. Spending more time chewing breaks the foods into smaller molecules, helps the digestive enzymes in the saliva work better, and makes it easier for the stomach to digest the food properly. This promotes full absorption of nutrients and also help reduce digestive problems and keep the gut healthy.

7- Practice good oral hygiene

The mouth is the gatekeeper of our digestive system. Our Oral health can have a direct impact on the gut health. As in the case of the stomach, the mouth also has a microbiome made with good and bad bacteria. When there is an imbalance in the oral microbiome, the bad bacteria can get wash up in the gut and lead to digestive problems. The symptoms related to an imbalance of the oral microbiome often include bad breath, bleeding, and sore gums, and frequent tooth decay.

It is essential to practice good oral hygiene to avoid the spread of bad bacteria from the mouth to the gut. You should:

  • brush your teeth at least twice a day
  • floss daily
  • change your toothbrush every three months or less.

It should be noted that the goal is not to kill all the bacteria, including the good ones. So, it is important to avoid overusing antibacterial mouthwashes.

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3144392/
  2. http://depts.washington.edu/mbwc/news/article/the-gut-microbiome-and-brain-health
  3. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/are-gut-bacteria-linked-to-heart-health
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6048199/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5641835/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5082693/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6290721/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4690201/
  9. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0889159110005295?via%3Dihub
  10. https://msystems.asm.org/content/4/4/e00292-18
  11. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/
  12. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/can-gut-bacteria-improve-your-health
  13. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1021949819300122
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About the Author

Hermione M.

My name is Hermione. I am the founder of WomenH and I write about women's health, wellness, mental health, and personal growth. I created this platform to inspire women to take care of themselves mentally, physically, and emotionally to become their best selves. Thank you for stopping by.

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