Your gastrointestinal tract is a 30-foot long set of organs home to trillions of bacteria, both good and bad. The balance and type of these bacteria is what is referred to as “gut health”. When you have good gut health, you should have consistent bowel movements, no constipation, diarrhea, bloating, or abdominal pain. However, if you’re anything like the 70 percent of Americans who suffer from gut problems, you know that this is rarely the case.
So what causes gut problems? Well, you can only have a healthy gut if you lead a healthy, balanced lifestyle and eat the right foods. Eating lots of sugar and processed foods, not exercising enough, not drinking enough water, and being stressed out all of the time all contribute to an imbalanced gut microbiome.
But don’t worry! There are plenty of things you can do to naturally improve gut health. In this article, we’ll cover 6 great techniques. By following these tips, you’ll greatly improve not only your digestion but also your overall health and you’ll effectively prevent various diseases. Let’s get into it!
Manage your stress
Yup, your gut health doesn’t depend solely on what you eat. It’s also greatly influenced by your mental state, specifically the levels of stress you’re exposed to.
You may have noticed that when you’re extremely stressed out, you suddenly become constipated or have diarrhea. This can be explained by a study conducted by Galley et. al, which observed animals and found that exposure to stress led to a reduction in crucial gut bacteria, leading to problems with digestion and overall health.
There are plenty of effective stress management techniques, such as meditation, spending time in nature, practicing affirmations, listening to music, taking a break from technology, practicing deep breathing, and improving your sleep quality.
Drink plenty of water
Hydration is key when it comes to gut health for a number of reasons. First, water helps everything move smoothly along your intestines and ensures that your stool is soft. Second, water flushes out the toxins in your gut. And last but certainly not least, water helps keep a healthy balance of bad and good bacteria in your gut.
So always make sure to stay hydrated throughout the day. Start your day off with a big glass of water in the morning and always have a glass near you. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty but rather drink consistently throughout the day.
Eat fiber-rich foods
Fiber is also crucial if you want a healthy gut. According to this study by Zou et. al, fiber helps increase the number of good gut microbes and thickens the wall of the intestines. Fiber also helps form a bulkier and softer stool, preventing constipation.
Some great examples of fiber-rich foods include oats, quinoa, avocados, pears, berries, bananas, broccoli, lentils, chickpeas, sweet potatoes, and chia seeds. While including these foods into your diet is very important if you want a healthy gut, make sure not to go overboard. On average, adults need 25-30 grams of fiber a day. Too much fiber can result in diarrhea, bloating, and excessive gas.
Avoid artificial sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners are horrible for the gut microbiota. This animal study by Palmnas et. al found that aspartame, which is a popular artificial sweetener, increased the risk of metabolic disease by increasing certain types of bacteria in the gut.
The study also found that while consuming aspartame instead of sugar led to reduced weight, it also dangerously raised blood sugar levels. Although this study was conducted just on aspartame, other artificial sweeteners likely produce the same result. So if you’ve been consuming artificial sweeteners instead of sugar to avoid raising your blood sugar levels, you might want to reconsider that decision.
This study by Hemarajata et. al demonstrates the importance of probiotics for gut health. According to the study, probiotics are great for the gut’s microbiome, preventing intestinal ailments, and reducing inflammation. Probiotics also fight off bad bacteria in the gut. Once you start taking probiotics, you may feel some minor side effects like bloating, diarrhea, or gas. However, these effects usually subside within a few days.
The benefits of probiotics extend way beyond improving gut health. Probiotics can also boost your immune system, improve weight loss results, aid in heart health and mental health, and even act as a great remedy for allergies.
Eat fermented foods
Instead of taking probiotic supplements, fermented foods are also a great source of probiotics! Examples of fermented foods include kimchi, kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, and apple cider vinegar. Fermented foods are also full of antioxidants, have anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties, and help fight and prevent diabetes.
However, fermented foods have a very distinct taste and not everybody is a fan of them. For instance, apple cider vinegar has a pretty strong taste but many people still take it because of how beneficial it is. Apple cider vinegar is not only great for gut health but it can also help with weight loss, balance blood sugar levels, and improve heart and skin health.
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So there you go! 6 easy and effective ways to improve gut health. By following these tips and changing up your lifestyle, you’ll greatly improve not only your digestive health but also your heart health, brain health, mental health, and even your sleep quality. Good luck!