Gut health is an integral component of overall wellness and can have profound effects on everything from digestion to mood.
There are various strategies available to you for improving gut health, such as adding prebiotics and probiotics into your diet.
1. Eat fermented foods
Fermented foods contain probiotics and prebiotics which contribute to maintaining healthy gut bacteria, as well as helping improve digestive health and immune function. By including fermented food in one’s daily diet, fermented bacteria is maintained at optimal levels in order to promote overall well-being of one’s gut microbiome.
Foods containing lactic acid bacteria as well as their fermentation processes stimulate natural bacterial responses that support your gut’s ability to absorb nutrients more readily, helping prevent inflammation which is often at the core of many health conditions and diseases.
These foods are easy to incorporate into your diet, with many being available ready-made at supermarkets. For instance, you can easily purchase kefir at the store – an irresistibly delicious probiotic-packed drink similar to yogurt that can replace dairy milk in many of your recipes!
Fermented foods are also great ways to add extra vitamins and minerals into your diet while improving gut health, making these easily homemade solutions at home with only minimal ingredients required.
Fermented foods provide prebiotics as well as increasing your fiber consumption and lowering the risk of heart disease. By adding just a few tablespoons of fermented food into your daily meals, fermented food could make an enormous impactful change to overall digestive health.
Consuming a diet high in fiber is one of the key steps you can take to help ensure that your gut has an ideal mix of beneficial and harmful bacteria. Eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains can increase fiber consumption and encourage beneficial bacteria to flourish in your gut.
Prebiotics can also aid your immune system by providing additional anti-inflammatory molecules called proline and serine, which work to regulate inflammation in the body – essential in preventing and treating illnesses ranging from ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease to allergies and asthma.
Fermented foods provide many health advantages, yet some people may experience side effects from eating too many. Side effects may include bloating and diarrhea; therefore it is wise to consume these in moderation and check with your physician prior to adding new foods into your diet.
2. Take a probiotic or prebiotic supplement
Probiotic and prebiotic supplements are an easy and efficient way to maintain gut health, though you can also find these bacteria through fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi and tempeh.
Probiotics can assist in maintaining a balanced gut microbiome and supporting an efficient immune system, while simultaneously decreasing inflammation and encouraging weight loss. Furthermore, probiotics may lower your risk for certain chronic diseases.
Probiotics can aid digestion and alleviate constipation. Before taking probiotics, however, consult with either your physician or registered dietitian to make sure it’s the appropriate supplement for you.
Prebiotics can be found in various food products such as whole grains, legumes, vegetables and some fruits. Prebiotics are non-digestible fiber compounds that pass through your digestive tract unaltered, providing sustenance for gut bacteria that produce short-chain fatty acids in return.
Your gut bacteria utilize these fatty acids to produce enzymes that break down dietary fats and other food particles for digestion purposes, according to Dr. Vincent Pedre, author of Happy Gut. This allows them to remain viable during the digestive process.
Fatty acids can increase the number of probiotics in your gut. These probiotics include lactobacillus, bifidobacteria and Saccharomyces boulardii strains.
Fung notes that many are unaware that their diet may contain too little prebiotic dietary fiber to support optimal gut health, citing how too few people eat enough fiber-rich food, leaving less prebiotics than needed in our bodies.
Adding prebiotic supplements to your routine can be an effective way of increasing the gut microbiome and improving health. Studies have revealed that increasing prebiotic consumption can lessen symptoms associated with IBS, diarrhea and IBD.
Many people also rely on prebiotics to manage their blood sugar. Prebiotics can help avoid sudden spikes and decrease insulin need to break down sugars in your body, potentially decreasing risk of diabetes.
Prebiotics may also help those sensitive to antibiotics that destroy beneficial gut bacteria, as well as anyone experiencing yeast infections or having difficulty digesting specific foods.
3. Avoid foods that trigger digestive issues
If you suffer from digestive issues like bloating or diarrhea, it is essential that certain foods or drinks be avoided that could be triggering symptoms. A food diary may help pinpoint these foods as potential sources of discomfort for your system.
If avoiding these foods is impossible, an effective strategy to support gut health would be increasing your intake of probiotics and prebiotics; both provide essential support for digestion while simultaneously helping balance out bacteria within the gut – an effect which has multiple advantages such as improving your immunity and energy levels.
Of course, eating high-quality nourishing food will ensure you get plenty of essential microorganisms! Just be sure to select a variety of wholesome items.
Fermented foods like yogurt, kefir and kimchi provide your body with essential beneficial bacteria that are easy to incorporate into your daily diet. If this type of food is new to you, start off slowly by including one serving every day until eventually working up to a full meal.
As well as eating these foods, you can add prebiotic-rich vegetables and whole grains such as broccoli, cauliflower and kale to your meals as well as fruits with skin such as apples, bananas and grapes, plus barley, wheat or oats for extra fiber intake.
Prebiotics are non-digestible fiber compounds that feed your gut’s friendly bacteria and can be found in many plant foods like fruits, vegetables, seeds and legumes.
Prebiotics and probiotics can also be found in dietary supplements, which contain both.
Resistant starch can help boost the bacteria in your gut by realigning food molecules like rice, pasta and potatoes into resistant starches – ideal if you plan to cook your foods as it makes them easier for your body to break down.
Exercise and a nutritious diet can both play an integral part in keeping your digestive tract operating more effectively. A diet high in proteins can aid absorption of iron, calcium and B vitamins as well as improve bowel function; conversely a high fiber intake will benefit both microbiomes as well as reduce bad bacteria within your gut microbiome.
4. Exercise regularly
Exercise can also contribute to improving gut health in many ways. It’s best to incorporate strength and endurance activities that build muscle mass into your fitness regime for maximum effectiveness.
Research indicates that regular exercise can significantly change your gut microbiome – an ecosystem of bacteria living in your digestive tract – helping lower risks associated with inflammatory bowel disease and certain cancers.
Studies have found that aerobic exercise increases levels of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), produced by good bacteria and known to help reduce inflammation while helping your body absorb nutrients more effectively. Furthermore, SCFAs may increase bowel movement frequency to prevent constipation or diarrhea.
Researchers conducted an in-depth examination of the bacteria present in the feces of participants who had participated in an exercise program for 6 weeks and either were lean and fit or obese, finding that lean individuals had higher concentrations of SCFAs while obese participants showed decreased levels.
However, this research revealed some important caveats. According to researchers, any changes in your gut bacteria population were both temporary and reversible – meaning they will eventually return back to their preexisting levels after some time has passed.
Saltz suggests that to optimize gut health and increase energy, the key is finding a workout you enjoy that keeps you consistent over time. Doing something you love will increase chances of long-term commitment to exercise.
Exercise can have a positive impact on the relationship between your gut and brain, improving both mood and digestive tract function. Your brain communicates directly with your gut via nerve connections; as a result, it has influence over digestive processes as well as body’s responses to stressors such as inflammation.
Physical activity has also been shown to help reduce depression and anxiety symptoms by stimulating production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter which helps you feel less stressed out and more positive.