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Trillions of bacteria live in the gastrointestinal tract or gut that helps the body process food. These organisms also have another important job: maintaining the homeostasis and overall health of your body1.

Having the right balance of bacteria and other microorganisms in the gut is the key to having a healthy gastrointestinal system and body. As such, it is crucial that you maintain this status and even improve it.

If you want to know how to improve gut health and maintain a balanced microbiome to function more efficiently and feel better inside and out, start by making these simple changes in your lifestyle:

1. Consuming more probiotic-rich foods

Probiotics refer to the yeasts and live bacteria that are good for your gastrointestinal tract. The health benefits of probiotics include2: Treating and preventing constipation

✓  Treating and preventing diarrhea


✓  Preventing and treating vaginal infections


✓  Reducing H. pylori, the cause of ulcers


Some of the foods rich in probiotics are3:

✓  Fermented vegetables, such as kimchi and sauerkraut


✓  Kefir


✓  Miso


✓  Tempeh


Taking probiotic supplements can also support your diet and improve your gut health.



2. Adding more prebiotic foods to your diet

Probiotics feed on prebiotics, or carbohydrates that are non-digestible. When prebiotics are in your gut, they encourage more good bacteria in the microbiome4.

Examples of prebiotic-rich foods are:

✓  Asparagus


✓  Grapefruit


✓  Garlic


✓  Onions


✓  Legumes






3. Eating more fiber

Fiber helps keep food moving through your gastrointestinal tract. A high-fiber diet also prevents and treats different digestive problems, such as constipation and hemorrhoids5.

To get the most from this nutrient, eat both soluble and insoluble fiber.

Soluble fiber helps the body absorb nutrients from the foods you eat6.

Foods rich in this nutrient include7:

✓  Citrus fruits


✓  Dried beans


✓  Oat bran


✓  Peas


Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, helps draw water into and add volume to your stools8. The most common sources of this nutrient are9:

✓  Vegetables


✓  Wheat bran


✓  Whole grains






4. Consuming less sugar and sweeteners

A diet rich in sugar and artificial sweeteners may lead to gut dysbiosis10, a condition pertaining to an imbalance of gut microbes.

This imbalance in the microbiome can affect various body functions and the person’s behavior.

A study on rats has shown examples of sugars and sweeteners that are unhealthy for the gastrointestinal system, namely11:

✓  Aspartame


✓  Sucratose


Honey is a healthier alternative to sugars and sweeteners12. Use it for sweetening your food and beverages





5. Eating less fatty foods and more lean meats

A diet high in fatty foods has been associated with the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut13.

Lean cuts of meats are better for your gastrointestinal and overall health. Examples of these are:

✓  Skinless chicken and turkey14


✓  Salmon15


✓  Tuna16


However, limit your portion sizes and eat more foods that promote healthy gut flora such as fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.





6. Avoiding alcohol

Drinking too much alcohol is never good for your body. It can also have negative effects on your gut health17.

Overindulging in alcohol affects your gut in the following ways18:

✓  Increases gastrin levels and acid secretion


✓  Slow bowel movement


✓  Causes diarrhea and malabsorption


Healthy beverages you should try to consume more of are19:

✓  Water


✓  Low-fat and skimmed milk


✓  Soy beverages


✓  Green tea






7. Avoiding stress

Stress affects various aspects of your well-being, including gut health. It can affect the important probiotic bacteria like Lactobacillus in your microbiome20.

This, in turn, can increase your risk for inflammatory conditions.

The top stressors that affect gut health are21:

✓  Stress


✓  Depression


You can manage stress more effectively by learning and practicing22:

✓  Deep breathing


✓  Meditation


✓  Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)


These lifestyle changes are not hard to do. If you need more reasons to follow them, keep in mind that your overall wellness will also improve as you enhance and maintain your gut health.

Read more about the importance of keeping your gastrointestinal tract in good condition by visiting our Gut Health page.



References:

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. Microbial Activities and Intestinal Homeostasis: A Delicate Balance Between Health and Disease. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4339954/. Last visited 10th Feb 2021
  2. Harvard Health Publishing. Health benefits of taking probiotics. https://www.health.harvard.edu/vitamins-and-supplements/health-benefits-of-taking-probiotics. Last visited 10th Feb 2021
  3. Harvard Health Publishing. How to get more probiotics. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-get-more-probiotics. Last visited 10th Feb 2021
  4. ScienceDirect. Prebiotics. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780123849472005602. Last visited 10th Feb 2021
  5. National Library of Medicine - National Center for Biotechnology Information. Health benefits of dietary fiber. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19335713/. Last visited 10th Feb 2021
  6. WebMD. Dietary Fiber for Constipation. https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/dietary-fiber-the-natural-solution-for-constipation#1. Last visited 10th Feb 2021
  7. WebMD. Dietary Fiber for Constipation. https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/dietary-fiber-the-natural-solution-for-constipation#1. Last visited 10th Feb 2021
  8. WebMD. Dietary Fiber for Constipation. https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/dietary-fiber-the-natural-solution-for-constipation#1. Last visited 10th Feb 2021
  9. WebMD. Dietary Fiber for Constipation. https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/dietary-fiber-the-natural-solution-for-constipation#1. Last visited 10th Feb 2021
  10. National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. Effects of Sweeteners on the Gut Microbiota: A Review of Experimental Studies and Clinical Trials. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6363527/. Last visited 10th Feb 2021
  11. National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. Non-nutritive sweeteners possess a bacteriostatic effect and alter gut microbiota in mice. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6033410/. Last visited 10th Feb 2021
  12. The University of Waikato. An Investigation of the Health Benefits of Honey as a Replacement For Sugar In the Diet. https://researchcommons.waikato.ac.nz/handle/10289/2612. Last visited 11th Feb 2021
  13. BMJ Publishing Group Ltd & British Society of Gastroenterology. Effects of dietary fat on gut microbiota and faecal metabolites, and their relationship with cardiometabolic risk factors: a 6-month randomised controlled-feeding trial. https://gut.bmj.com/content/68/8/1417. Last visited 11th Feb 2021
  14. National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. Role of poultry meat in a balanced diet aimed at maintaining health and wellbeing: an Italian consensus document. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4462824/. Last visited 11th Feb 2021
  15. Healthline Media. Tuna vs. Salmon: Is One Healthier?. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mercury-content-of-fish#bottom-line. Last visited 11th Feb 2021
  16. Healthline Media. Tuna vs. Salmon: Is One Healthier?. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mercury-content-of-fish#bottom-line. Last visited 11th Feb 2021
  17. PubMed National Center for Biotechnology Information. The Gastrointestinal Microbiome: Alcohol Effects on the Composition of Intestinal Microbiota. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26695747/. Last visited 11th Feb 2021
  18. PubMed National Center for Biotechnology Information. The effects of alcohol consumption upon the gastrointestinal tract. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11151864/. Last visited 11th Feb 2021
  19. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Healthy Beverage Guidelines. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-drinks-full-story/#level-2. Last visited 11th Feb 2021
  20. National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. Stress, depression, diet, and the gut microbiota: human–bacteria interactions at the core of psychoneuroimmunology and nutrition. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7213601/. Last visited 11th Feb 2021
  21. National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. Stress, depression, diet, and the gut microbiota: human–bacteria interactions at the core of psychoneuroimmunology and nutrition. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7213601/. Last visited 11th Feb 2021
  22. iMedPub LTD. Stress management techniques: evidence-based procedures that reduce stress and promote health. https://www.hsj.gr/medicine/stress-management-techniques-evidencebased-procedures-that-reduce-stress-and-promote-health.php?aid=3429. Last visited 11th Feb 2021