3 Things Besides Diet that Can Improve Gut Health

The food you eat is key to your gut health — but it’s not the only important thing. Exercise, sleep and stress also play an important role. Watch the video above to find out how.

The food you eat is key to your gut health — but it’s not the only important thing. Exercise, sleep and stress also play an important role.

Hi, I’m Dr. Andrea Klemes, Chief Medical Officer of MDVIP.

When we exercise, we do more than stretch our muscles and get our hearts going. Exercise benefits our gut microbiome, the trillions of microbes in our guts. Exercise helps keep the mix of bacteria diverse and even increases the number of beneficial bacteria.

Moderate exercise may also reduce the permeability of our intestinal lining, keeping pathogens from crossing that barrier. Exercise also decreases inflammation, which further helps the microorganisms which are helping you.

While moderate exercise is beneficial, limited exercise is harmful to our gut health and may lead to a negative feedback loop. One recent study suggested that an out-of-balance gut biome may actually reduce our willingness to exercise.

Like exercise, the connection between sleep and our gut health goes both ways. When we get enough, sleep helps our gut biome stay in balance. When we miss sleep, our body releases hormones that affect our mood and our stress levels. These hormones in turn can negatively influence the diversity of our gut biome.

Beyond stress, our gut biome produces about 95 percent of our body’s serotonin, a key regulator of our sleep cycle and our body’s clock. Studies have shown that people with odd sleep patterns or sleep deficits have less serotonin in their guts. 

Stress is also hard on a lot of our body’s systems, including the gut. You’ve probably experienced flutterings in your belly when you’re anxious or stressed. But stress doesn’t just make us feel funny, it can reshape the composition of our gut biome. Too much stress can throw off the delicate balance of bacteria in our guts, leading to poorer outcomes.

When we’re stressed, our body releases hormones and causes inflammation, which can adversely affect the kinds of bacteria present in your gut. In turn, these bacteria release metabolites, toxins and hormones that alter eating behavior and mood – creating a destructive cycle.

Stress can also delay stomach emptying and conversely speed up movement through our intestines. This can lead to pain and diarrhea, among other digestion issues. 

Our understanding of our gut health is still relatively new, but studies are clear that exercise, stress management and sleep along with a diverse, healthy diet can make a big difference in how we feel and in our overall health.

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