What have you done today to improve your gut health? For a long day, people mostly thought of the gut as the place where food was digested and nothing more. But medical research has moved beyond that now. Now, almost everyone knows how vital your gut microbiome is for your overall health.
If you’re determined to live as healthy a life as you can, then it’s time to think about your gut. And you can start with this ultimate guide on how to improve your gut health.
What is the Gut Microbiome?
Your gut starts at your mouth and continues down the tube that is your oesophagus down to your stomach, your small and large intestines, and all the way to your anus. Basically, it’s the path your food takes after you eat it.
Your gut is filled with microorganisms. This tiny population includes everything from bacteria to viruses, fungi, and parasites. When you’re healthy, these microorganisms or microbiota live in harmony. They also perform lots of vital functions in your body.
When your gut is unhealthy, these microorganisms become unbalanced. This is state known as gut dysbiosis. Certain microorganisms can start to become overgrown, resulting in infections of all kinds. Then your gut lining can start to degrade, allowing the bacteria to pass back into your bloodstream, causing inflammation and infections.
When the bad bacteria flourish, the good bacteria in your gut start to decline in health. This means they can’t perform their essential functions in your body.
Medical science is only just starting to understand the importance of the gut microbiome for health. But what’s clear is that poor gut health can contribute to everything from autoimmune disorders to heart diseases and more.
The Birth of your Gut Microbiome
The combination of microorganisms in your gut is completely unique to you. It’s first established through:
- Your genetics
- The birth canal
- Your mother’s breast milk
However, your microbiome changes throughout your life in response to:
- What you eat
- Your environment
- Your age
- Certain medications like antibiotics
- Any diseases you experience
- Physical activity levels
- Your exposure to pathogens in general
All of these factors can change the composition of your gut microbiome for the better or for the worse.
The Benefits of a Healthy Gut Microbiome
These days, doctors are calling the gut microbiome another organ because it performs so many essential functions. Here are just some of the functions that a healthy gut performs or helps with:
Obviously, a healthy gut microbiome will help control digestion, ensuring that you get the nutrients your body needs from food.
Around 70 percent of your immune system is found in your gut. This is why it’s vital that you take care of your gut and make your immune system as strong as possible so it can protect you again viruses and bacteria.
Serotonin, the brain neurotransmitter that makes you feel happy, is actually produced in your gut. So, if you’re feeling down, then take a look at the health of your gut microbiome.
Blood Sugar Control
The microorganisms in your gut seem to have a strong role in regulating weight, blood sugar, and insulin resistance. That’s why changes in the gut microbiome are strongly associated with these metabolic disorders, which are becoming ever more common in the modern world.
There are millions of nerves that connect your brain directly to your gut microbiome. This may explain why people with mental disorders often have unhealthy or highly unusual gut microbiome compositions.
So, although this connection isn’t fully understood, it’s clear that gut health is pivotal to brain health and function.
Certain bacteria in the gut promote HDL cholesterol, which helps remove excess cholesterol from the body. This may help cut down on cholesterol build-up in the arteries around your heart and promote better heart health.
The Consequences of an Unhealthy Gut
Now you have a better idea of what your gut microbiome can do for you when it’s healthy. But there’s another side of this too. When your gut is unhealthy, its effects can be just as widespread and potentially deadly.
Here are just a few of the conditions and disorders associated with an unhealthy gut microbiome:
- Blocked arteries because of a harmful gut bacterium that produces a chemical that contributes to this condition
- Weight gain
- Chronic inflammation
- Heart disease because of blocked arteries and high cholesterol
- Type 1 and 2 diabetes
- Autoimmune diseases like MS, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis
- Mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia
- Intestinal disorders like irritable bowel disease (IBS)
Are you convinced about the importance of improving your gut health yet?
How to Improve your Gut Microbiome
You can change the composition of your gut microbiome in just a day by making the right lifestyle choices. And best of all, you don’t have to make all of these changes to see a difference. Just choose one change, implement it, and you’ll make a difference to your gut health.
Here are some ideas for changes you can make:
Reduce your Stress Levels
Stress causes inflammation, which negatively affects your gut microbiome. This is even more dangerous if you experience chronic, ongoing stress, which can be very damaging to every part of your body.
If you’re often stressed, here are some ideas for lowering your stress levels:
- Keep a stress journal to identify what’s stressing you out
- Eliminate or reduce the stressors that you identify
- Try meditation
- Do yoga
- Take breaks throughout the day
- Go on holiday
- Get a pet
- Spend time with loved ones
- Stop using negative coping mechanisms like drinking or smoking
- Set realistic goals for your life and work towards them
- Get out in nature
- Do breathing exercises
- Improve your diet
Gentle, regular exercise can do wonders for your stress levels. Just remember that if you exercise too hard, you’re actually causing stress. So, if you aren’t a gym bunny, this gives you a great reason to stick to more moderate exercises like:
- A walk around the neighbourhood
Just make sure that you choose a form of exercise that you enjoy. Because if you have to force yourself to exercise, it will only cause you more stress!
It isn’t uncommon to experience nutritional deficiencies these days. In fact, despite the overabundance of food here in Australia, people of all ages aren’t eating all the foods they need for optimum health.
Diet is highly individual. Some people do well on low carb diets, while others need a different mix. However, here are some general principles you should follow that will improve your gut microbiome:
- Eat more fruit and vegetables
- Cut down on red meat and eat less than 3 portions a week at most
- Replace white bread with whole grain products
- Include more fibre in your daily eating plan
- Eat nuts and seeds
- Experiment with beans, pulses, and legumes
- Eat fermented foods
- Try to include greater diversity in your diet
Eat More Fibre
Fibre is probably the most important thing you can eat to improve your gut health. The western diet is noticeably lacking in healthy fibre, which can result in slow elimination and digestive problems. Fibre also helps to feed the healthy bacteria in your gut, so you absolutely must include more of it in your diet.
Some of the best high fibre foods to eat are:
- Fruits like bananas, pears, and apples
- Vegetables like leeks, onions, broccoli, and asparagus
- Legumes like black beans, lentils, and split peas
- Whole grains like pearl barley, oats, or bulger
Probiotics are supplements, foods or drinks that contain beneficial yeast and bacteria that are found naturally in your body. These products can help to replace the healthy bacteria that your gut lost because of antibiotics or lifestyle choices. They can also tip the balance in your gut towards good bacteria and health!
Avoid Antibacterial Products
Antibacterial products like handwashes and surface cleaners are everywhere at the moment. However, they really aren’t necessary and may do more harm than good.
Studies have shown that using plain soap and water is just as effective for removing harmful substances from your hands. And they don’t carry the risk of long-term health consequences.
There is also a strong link between antibacterial products, antibiotic resistant super bugs, and the gut microbiota. So, skip the harsh products and use plain old soap and water.
Avoid Harmful Foods
There are lots of foods that you shouldn’t eat if you’re looking to improve the health of your gut microbiome. These foods you should avoid include:
- Red meat, which lowers the number and diversity of microorganisms in your gut
- Fried foods, which promote the growth of bad bacteria
- Artificial sweeteners, which come into contact with the gut and may negatively affect its microorganism composition
- Sugary foods, which nourish the bad microorganisms in your gut like yeast
- Snacks and bars that contain lots of sugar and carbohydrates
A gut detox can be a good way to give your digestive health and the good bacteria in your gut a quick boost. These diets usually last a few days, which is enough to change the composition of your gut microbiome at least temporarily.
There are a lot of different diets available online, so you need to do your research. Here’s a quick guide to finding the right gut detox diet:
Talk to your Doctor
If you’re unwell or have any disorders or diseases, you must always talk to your doctor before making any big changes to your life.
Choose the Right Diet
Your body and your gut microbiome are different to everyone else’s. So, it follows that detox programs that work for others may not work for you. Listen to your body carefully and if you notice any serious side effects, stop what you’re doing immediately.
Take Some Time
The point of a gut detox diet is to give your gut the nutrients and time it needs to heal. And you can’t really do this if you’re at work all day and stressing yourself out. So, try to schedule your detox for a weekend or holiday.
Life is busy and so are you. And you don’t want your detox diet to cause additional stress that will make your gut even more unhealthy. Instead, try to shop and plan your diet and your schedule ahead of time so you can just relax and enjoy it.
Focus on Your Diet
What you eat is pivotal to the health of your gut. So, a healthy diet plan that contains plenty of fruits, vegetables, and other foods that are good for your gut is vital.
What you drink is important as well, so make sure you increase your water intake until you’re getting at least 2L for women and 2.6L for men every day.
If you have nutritional deficiencies or doubt your ability to get all the nutrients you need through your diet, then why not try a supplement that supports your gut health and microbiome?
Do you have a sleep debt? It’s not uncommon these days for people to lose sleep because of work or home commitments. But a healthy sleep schedule is vital for a healthy gut. Try to use your detox time to catch up on your sleep. This will also help you overcome any side effects that you may experience as your body detoxes.
Do some gentle exercise during your detox time as long as you feel up to it. Just don’t force yourself and cause more stress.
The Importance of Your Diet
What you eat is probably the most important factor in determining the health, composition, and functioning of your gut microbiome. The two main dietary problems that may be negatively impacting your gut health are:
Lack of Diversity
People who eat a diet with very low diversity often have very low diversity in the gut microbiome as well. Unfortunately, the highly processed western diet is often focused around just a few ingredients. In fact, around 80 percent of processed foods is made using just meat, corn, soy and wheat. Over time, this represents a stunningly restricted diet.
In contrast, more traditional diets usually include around 150 ingredients each week. This is a staggering difference considering the relative wealth and ease of the modern world. But it may go a long way towards explaining why so many people struggle with an unhealthy gut these days.
This lack of dietary diversity means that you may not have the gut microorganisms you need to perform essential functions in your body. The lack of diversity can also allow the overgrowth of bad bacteria, which leads to health problems.
Low Quality Foods
The lack of dietary diversity isn’t the only problem. There’s also the problem of low-quality foods. Processed, fried, and sugary foods, they can all affect the health and functioning of your gut microbiome.
When you fill your diet with these foods, the microorganisms in your gut can’t get all the nutrients they need to function correctly. These foods also contain substances like trans and saturated fats that directly damage the gut microbiota. This is a recipe for a very unhealthy gut indeed.
The Best Foods to Improve Your Gut Health
If you’re ready to start making changes and eating for a healthy gut microbiome, then here are some of the foods that will help the most:
Nuts such as almonds, cashews, and pistachios contain prebiotics. This is a type of plant fibre that feeds the good bacteria in your gut.
Natural yoghurts contain probiotics, which are healthy bacteria that can help to repopulate your gut or improve the microorganism composition. However, make sure that you choose a natural, no added sugar version.
Apples, with the skin intact, contain lots of fibre. This includes pectin, a prebiotic fibre that nourishes good gut bacteria and helps improve the health of the lining of your gut. Pectin also helps prevent constipation.
This Korean food is basically fermented vegetables and it’s surprisingly tasty, if a bit spicy sometimes. It’s also full of probiotics that your gut bacteria will absolutely love.
Leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, Bok choy, broccoli, artichokes, and mustard greens contain lots of natural fibre which will help feed your gut microbiota and keep things moving down there.
This is another fermented milk product. It’s packed with probiotics and tastes great in smoothies for a gut-boosting kick.
Figs are absolutely delicious in season and go well in salads, desserts, and pastries. They also contain both soluble and insoluble fibre, so they can help with weight loss and constipation while they’re improving your gut microbiome.
Avocadoes are packed with fibre and contain lots of nutrients that will help to improve your overall health.
This is another fermented dish made with cabbage. Avoid the sauerkraut that isn’t pickled in vinegar, as this version isn’t as good for your gut.
Kombucha is taking off in the western world at the moment and for good reason. It’s a fermented tea that’s filled with probiotics and comes in lots of different flavours, to suit all tastes.
These tiny fruits do more than prevent urinary tract infections. They’re also powerful prebiotics that support good bacterial growth, particularly the bacteria that boost gut lining health. They’re anti-inflammatory and can also help protect your gut from bad bacteria.
Garlic will help to control the growth of harmful bacteria in your gut, allowing the good bacteria to flourish.
Olive oil contains substances that help to reduce inflammation in your gut, which will help protect your gut microorganisms.
As long as you leave the membrane on, grapefruit contains lots of fibre to improve your gut microbiome. It also contains polyphenols, plant compounds that help fight the growth of bad bacteria and increase the number of good bacteria in your gut.
Miso is another fermented product. It’s from Japan and made from fermented soybeans and is amazing in soup.
Legumes are a tasty, cheap, and filling way to get improve your gut health by eating more fibre. They can be eaten in salads, soups, curries, or on their own as snacks. Some of the best legumes for gut health are chickpeas, black beans, peas, and lentils.
These delicious fruits contain inulin, which stimulates good bacterial growth in the gut.
These unpopular vegetables have a bad reputation, but they’re actually extremely good for your gut microbiome. They contain fibre to feed your gut bacteria and sulphur compounds, which can help your body fight off harmful species of bacteria.
Grains are staples in almost every country around the world, but in the western diet they’ve been replaced by white bread. This isn’t a good thing as white bread is highly processed and often contains too much sugar.
Whole grains on the other hand contain the bran, the endosperm, and the germ. This makes them highly nutritious, and they often contain everything from iron to B vitamins and minerals. They also contain lots of fibre, which is why they’re so good for your gut health.
Some of the best whole grains to eat to improve the health of your gut are:
- Whole oats, which contain a soluble fibre that improves nutrient absorption and digestion
- Whole grain rye, which contains about 90% of an adult’s daily recommended dose of fibre per 100g serving
- Buckwheat, which contains resistant starch to feed the healthy gut bacteria in your colon
- Bulgur, a good high-fibre choice
- Whole barley, which contains 60% of an adult’s daily recommended dose of fibre per cup
- Brown rice
- Popcorn, which contains 14.5 grams of fibre per 100 grams
Peaches, of any colour and type, contain lots of fibre that helps nourish the gut bacteria and improve elimination.
The gut microbiome is a highly complex and barely understood part of the body. But that isn’t an excuse for ignoring it, because that can and will lead to long-term health problems.
Despite its complexity, the gut is like any other part of the body. It needs you to make healthy lifestyle choices that will keep it healthy as well. And the time to make those changes is today, before any damage your gut has sustained becomes long-term or debilitating.
If you’ve been neglecting your gut health for a long time and need some help, then it’s time to take advantage of the latest scientific and nutritional advances. The Axis Recovery Support Pack contains a trio of superfood solutions that will support and help heal your gut microbiome and your gut barrier. It’s a delicious and effective part of any gut healthy diet.