How to Keep Your Gut Healthy
Good health begins in your gut. If you support your gut health, everything else will fall into place. Follow these five tips to kick-start your gut health.
1. Eat a Nutrient-dense Diet
If you fell off the healthy eating track, your gut is likely feeling the consequences. Now is a great opportunity to re-optimize your diet. To keep your gut healthy, it’s essential to recommit to organic, nutrient-dense, whole foods instead of processed or refined junk food. Make sure to ditch all toxic and inflammatory foods, such as sugar, alcohol, caffeine, gluten, and dairy.
Mix up your old recipe routine by experimenting with new foods. Diversity in your diet creates a healthy diversity of gut flora in your microbiome. The more diverse your gut bacteria are, the more health benefits you will have. There are tons of nutrient-rich and delicious recipes online and in cookbooks. Look for recipes featuring an array of vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and organic meats to support your gut health.
2. Heal Your Underlying Gut Infections
Overindulgences and stress can increase your risk of gut infections, like candida overgrowth and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). Tackle these underlying gut infections as soon as possible, since both can set you up for leaky gut, which in turn can lead to autoimmune conditions such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Graves’, Crohn’s, and celiac disease. Talk with your doctor about your symptoms to see if any testing is necessary to diagnose. From there you can come up with a treatment plan for any lingering infections.
3. Take Probiotics and Prebiotics
Prebiotics and probiotics play important roles in your gut health. Despite their similar names, they are quite different from one another. Prebiotics are non-digestible fibers that are fermented in your gut by the beneficial bacteria (probiotics) that keep your microbiome balanced. Prebiotics feed your probiotics, and they work together to improve your gut health. Without prebiotics, probiotics can’t do their job as effectively, and vice versa.
Prebiotics are found in many common foods, and are essential for gut health. Since your body cannot completely break them down, they reach your gastrointestinal tract and end up being fermented in your gut by friendly bacteria. Therefore prebiotics “feed” your good gut bacteria, helping them to produce important nutrients for your colon cells, which leads to a healthier digestive system. Eating a diet with lots of prebiotics can improve your digestion, reduce your risk of GI infection and inflammation, and boost your metabolism.
Prebiotic-rich foods include:
Probiotics are live, beneficial bacteria that help keep your gut in balance. Eating a diet high in inflammatory foods, exposure to environmental toxins, and stress can all feed the bad bacteria in your gut. Plus, taking even one round of antibiotics wipes out your gut bacteria.
Taking a probiotic supplement can help replace good bacteria and keep bad bacteria levels down. Probiotics improve your digestion, reduce your risk of autoimmune conditions, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, and prevent yeast-related infections, such as candida overgrowth and eczema.
Try taking high-quality probiotic supplement daily to maintain optimal gut health. If you are recovering from antibiotics or working to repair a leaky gut, make sure to take higher, more concentrated strains to provide extra support for your gut. There are many different types of probiotics that may be gentler if you experience any gut symptoms.
4. Get Plenty of Sleep
Sleep gives your body a chance to work on repair and recovery. The relationship between sleep and gut health goes both ways. While an unhealthy gut microbiome can lead to sleep problems, your sleep and circadian rhythms can also impact the health and diversity of your flora.
Research has shown that not getting enough sleep can negatively affect your gut health and compromise your microbiome. Disrupted sleep and misaligned circadian rhythms can also lead to obesity and metabolic disorders.
One way to avoid this is to develop a night-time routine and sleep schedule, and sleeping seven to eight hours a night. Avoiding sugary foods, caffeine and alcohol, decreasing your blue-light exposure in the evening, and choosing relaxing activities, such as reading or journaling before bed, can help you fall asleep easier and get higher-quality sleep.
5. Relieve Your Stress
Your brain and gut are constantly interacting. When you are under stress, your gut can feel it too. Have you ever felt butterflies in your stomach when you were nervous? Or how about that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when something goes wrong? Those are just some examples of gut-brain communication. You are also more likely to overeat or reach for comfort foods when stressed.
Research shows that major stressful events can affect your gut health for months or even years. Furthermore, chronic stress damages your gut much more seriously than acute stress. Ongoing stress from work, sickness or death of a loved one, lack of sleep, a poor diet, and other daily stressors creates dysbiosis in your gut. An imbalanced gut can leave you open to more serious complications, such as inflammation, frequent illness, fatigue, autoimmune conditions, and other chronic diseases. That’s why it’s so crucial to make time to de-stress and practice self-care!
Some helpful stress-relieving activities include:
Meditation and breathing exercises
Sipping herbal tea
A warm bath with calming essential oils, such as lavender
Are you ready to make this your healthiest year yet? By repairing your gut and making gut health a part of your daily life, you will see and feel the difference a healthy gut can make!