How to improve your gut health 

November 2023 

A healthy gut is tied to the overall health and wellbeing of your body.

Your gut, or digestive system, contains trillions of tiny microbes that play a huge part in your overall health. A healthy gut means you have a good balance of bacteria, or microbes, in your gastrointestinal tract. These microbes help the body obtain energy from the food you eat, get rid of toxins and fight harmful viruses and bacteria, making it one of the most vital organs in the human body. 

If you have an unhealthy gut, you might experience a variety of symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhoea, constipation, stomach pain, nausea and vomiting. In addition to digestive symptoms, an unhealthy gut can affect your entire body and lead to migraines, mood changes, and a compromised immune system.

By making appropriate lifestyle and dietary changes, you can alter the diversity and number of microbes in your gut for the better. Here are 9 ways to improve your gut health naturally.

Fruit and vegetables are high in fibre and bacteria in the gut help digest this fibre which in turn stimulate their own growth. A balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables provides the fibre that builds good bacteria and gut health. Fibre is a plant-based nutrient that reduces the risk of metabolic diseases by stimulating the growth and diversity of good bacteria in the gut, research suggests. Sweet potatoes, spinach, beets, carrots and fennel are full of naturally gut-enhancing fibre. Aim to eat at least 30 different types of vegetables per week.

Probiotics, also called “friendly bacteria” or “good bacteria”, are live microbes found in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut and miso. Probiotics work by promoting the growth of healthy gut bacteria.

Prebiotics serve as “food” for good bacteria in the body, and are found in unprocessed foods like apples, asparagus, bananas, corn, garlic, flaxseeds, leeks, onions, oats, lentils and walnuts can improve gut health.

Too much stress can impact your gut health. Many people will have experienced an upset stomach during times of stress. Stress can cause stomach problems and change the levels of bacteria in the gut. This is because stress can elevate stress hormones, cause inflammation, and change the way the body functions. In turn, this can cause your gut bacteria to release metabolites, toxins, and neurohormones that can cause changes to the way you eat and affect your mood. Some stress management techniques include meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises, a massage, and journaling.
Too much sugar – and in particular refined sugar – can negatively impact the health of your digestive system. Eating a large amount of sugar is linked to an overgrowth of bad bacteria in your gut. Eat less sugar and processed food as this may negatively affect our gut microbiome by changing the balance of good-to-bad bacteria. They often contain ingredients that either suppress 'good' bacteria or increase 'bad' bacteria.
Antibiotics kill ‘good’ bacteria as well as ‘bad’. If you need antibiotics, make sure you eat lots of foods that boost your microbes afterwards.
Getting enough restful sleep is essential for allowing your body and gut to regenerate and repair. You should aim for seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.
Recent studies have shown that exercise may actually increase the number of beneficial microbes in the gut. There is evidence to show that a few brisk 10-minute walks each day bring health benefits. Consider taking short walks during the day and use the stairs instead of the elevator to stay active. Physical activity, such as a walk after dinner, also helps with digestion. 
Proper hydration plays a crucial role in supporting digestion and keeping your gut hydrated. Drink fluids throughout the day to keep you well hydrated. Aim for at least one-and-a-half to two litres of water daily, and adjust this amount based on your activity level and the weather. 
Smoking increases the risk of chronic intestinal disorders and digestive tract cancers. 

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