The health of your gut microbiome deeply impacts your overall wellness. The gut contains trillions of bacteria that influence digestion, immunity, and more. Practicing good gut health habits can balance this microbiome, and improve gut function. Here are some key ways to nourish a healthier digestive system.
Eat More Fiber-Rich Foods
One of the best ways to improve your gut health is by eating more fiber-rich foods. Fiber acts as a prebiotic, meaning it feeds the good bacteria in your gut. Aim for getting 25-30 grams of fiber per day from foods such as beans, lentils, broccoli, spinach, chia seeds and sweet potatoes. High-fiber foods help promote regularity and prevent constipation, which is beneficial for gut health and keeping your gut lining intact.
Drink Plenty Of Water
Staying hydrated is important for gut health and helping your GI tract run smoothly. Water helps move waste products and undigested foods through the gut. Aim for 6-8 glasses of water daily to keep your gut hydrated. Water also helps you feel full and reduces appetite, which can aid in maintaining a healthy weight.
Reduce Intake Of Processed Foods And Added Sugars
Processed foods, fast foods, and those high in added sugars are terrible for your gut health. They contribute to inflammation, alter gut bacteria, and are low in nutrients. Limit foods such as white bread, chips, frozen dinners, white pasta, sugary cereals, and candies which contain lots of added sugars and preservatives.
Take Probiotic Supplements
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that are found in yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and gut health supplements. Probiotic supplements help boost the good bacteria in your gut microbiome and support better digestion and immunity. Look for a probiotic supplement that has multiple strains of bacteria, specifically look for ones containing Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
Get Enough Good Fats
Good fats like omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation in the gut and promote better gut health. Focus on getting more anti-inflammatory fats from sources such as fatty fish, chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, and avocados. Use olive oil for cooking and dressing. Limit intake of saturated fats from red meat and full-fat dairy products.
Manage Your Stress Levels
Stress negatively impacts your gut health. It causes inflammation, alters gut bacteria, increases GI symptoms, and can lead to a leaky gut. Engage in daily stress management techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, yoga, or journaling. Getting plenty of sleep is also important for allowing your gut lining to repair and reset. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
Be Cautious With Antibiotic Use
Antibiotics kill both good and bad bacteria in the gut, often leading to digestive issues and dysbiosis. Only use antibiotics when absolutely necessary and in the proper dosage suggested. After a round of antibiotics, it is important to restore gut bacteria. Eat yogurt or take a probiotic supplement, especially one with the Lactobacillus bacteria.
Limit Intake Of Other Gut Disrupting Medications
In addition to antibiotics, common medications like acid blockers, steroids, and NSAIDs can negatively impact gut health. Use these medications carefully and only when medically necessary. Discuss alternative options with your doctor whenever possible. Some supplements like peppermint or licorice can help reduce inflammation and ease GI distress.
Stay Away From Gut Irritants
Certain foods can irritate the gut lining and worsen digestive issues. Avoid common gut irritants such as gluten, dairy, corn, soy, eggs, and spicy foods. Gluten and dairy are two of the biggest gut irritants, especially for those with underlying gut inflammation or leaky gut. Eliminate them from your diet for at least 3-4 weeks to determine if your gut symptoms improve. You can always reintroduce them again in moderation if tolerated.
Consider Digestive Enzymes Or Bitters
Digestive enzymes help break down foods so your gut has an easier time absorbing nutrients. Supplements containing bromelain (from pineapple), lipase, protease, and amylase can improve digestion. Herbal bitters like gentian and dandelion root help stimulate stomach acid and bile flow before meals, which aids digestion and gut health. Using either digestive enzymes or bitters before each meal may help reduce gut inflammation, bloating, and indigestion.