Science-Based Ways to Improve Gut Health

A picture of microorganisms that are part of your gut biome.

Many things you can do to improve your general overall health and wellbeing are also proven to positively impact gut health. These include lifestyle efforts like getting regular exercise, eating less sugar, reducing stress and quitting smoking. 

But there are additional specific things you can do for improved gut health. 

Here are six tactics you can take for a healthier gut.

Include probiotic and fermented foods in your diet: Probiotic – good bacteria – foods help the healthy bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract microbiome thrive. Probiotics are fermented foods that are particularly important to promote a healthy gut. They undergo lacto fermentation, a process in which natural bacteria feed on the starch and sugar in foods and promote omega-3 fatty acids, enzymes, B vitamins and different species of good bacteria. 

Yogurt with live cultures, sourdough bread, sour cream, sauerkraut and pickles are examples of fermented foods and regularly including them to your diet may help your gut health. Over-the-counter daily probiotic supplements exist but are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and haven’t been shown to be beneficial as eating probiotic foods. 

Eat more veggies, fruit, legumes and beans: Beneficial bacteria need to feed on nondigestible carbohydrates, known as prebiotics, in order to multiply. Whole grains, onions, garlic, lentils, beans and bananas are great sources of prebiotic foods. Keep in mind these foods are high in fiber, which your body can’t digest. But healthy bacteria like Bifidobacterium help digest fiber,  which in turn helps prevent infections and produce healthy chemicals. 

Add foods rich in polyphenols: Like fiber, polyphenols, which are found in foods such as dark chocolate, grape skins, blueberries and broccoli, are not generally digested. Instead, they pass into our intestines, where beneficial bacteria feast on them. They can increase the amount of Bifidobacteria and lactobacilli, a bacterium that produces lactic acid.

Reduce your sugar consumption: Science is finding that sugar and sweeteners can cause an imbalance of microorganisms in the microbiome of the intestinal tracts, causing distress in the stomach’s ability to digest and absorb nutrients and maintain an environment for beneficial bacteria to thrive. Artificial sweeteners may also negatively affect your gut biome.

Reduce your use of disinfectants: There is concern that overusing disinfectants can disrupt your gut microbes, and there’s some evidence behind this concern, especially for children. Studies have shown that disinfectants can increase levels of microorganisms linked to metabolic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes. Infants in households that used disinfectant cleaning products were found to be at particular risk.

Use antibiotics only when necessary: Antibiotics are a wonder drug, enabling us to fight bacterial infections. But they can also damage our gut flora by reducing beneficial bacteria needed for a healthy gut environment. Always follow your doctor’s advice and only use antibiotics when prescribed. 

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