By now, you’ve probably heard the term “gut health” and how our gut microbiome plays a key role in everything from our digestive health to our mood and everything in between.
If you’re experiencing fatigue, frequent illness, gas, diarrhea, or heartburn, it could indicate bad gut health.
Thankfully, there are quite a few quick and easy ways to improve the health of your gut microbiome to help you feel your best.
This article will discuss 15 of our favorite natural gut health hacks to help you get your gut back on track and enjoy the benefits a healthy gut brings.
- A healthy gut is the foundation of everything. It aids in digestion, helps absorb nutrients from the foods you eat, protects the body against infection, and so much more.
- An unhealthy gut can negatively impact many aspects of your health and performance. It can also cause stomach disturbances such as gas, bloating, and heartburn.
- Some of our top gut health hacks to achieve a balanced gut microbiome include prioritizing a healthful diet rich in fruits and vegetables, taking probiotics and collagen, and prioritizing physical activity.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BALANCED GUT HEALTH
In recent years, research has shed light on the importance of a diverse and healthy gut microbiome. We now know that the good bacteria in your gut do more than just assist with digestion.
The beneficial gut bacteria in the digestive tract help keep harmful bacteria in check. This allows for a healthy gut, which consists of an optimal balance of good and bad bacteria.
A healthy gut microbiome plays an important role in your overall health by aiding digestion, supporting your immune system, and regulating hormones.
In fact, an estimated 80% of your immune system is housed in the gut. It’s also where the majority of serotonin — known as the “feel-good” hormone — is produced.
If your gut is unhealthy, you may experience the following:
- Frequent illness
- Weight gain
- Bloating and gas
- Sugar cravings
If you feel like you are suffering from an unhealthy gut, there are steps you can take to naturally restore your gut microbiome.
THE BEST GUT HEALTH HACKS FOR A HEALTHY GUT
If you feel like you are suffering from an unhealthy gut, there are steps you can take to naturally restore your gut microbiome. Below, we’ve compiled 15 of the best gut health hacks to keep your gut in tip-top shape.
1. EAT MORE FERMENTED FOODS
Fermented foods have undergone fermentation, which is a process that converts carbohydrates to alcohol or organic acids using yeast or bacteria.
Many fermented foods are rich in lactobacilli, a type of bacteria known for its ability to support a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut.
According to one study from 2021, people who ate fermented foods daily for ten weeks increased the diversity of their gut microbiome while decreasing markers of inflammation.
Here are some fermented foods to try:
2. GET ADEQUATE SLEEP
Getting a restful night’s sleep is important to maintain good gut health. When you don’t get enough high-quality sleep, your hormones can become unbalanced, and levels of the stress hormone known as cortisol can rise.
Chronically elevated cortisol can cause a person to overeat, resulting in weight gain and digestive disorders.
Most adults should aim to get at least 7 hours of high-quality sleep each night.
3. EAT A VARIETY OF FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
Eat plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables to support bacterial diversity and benefit your digestive tract and overall health.
In particular, cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage contain compounds called glucosinolates that are metabolized by bacteria and can support the growth and balance of beneficial gut bacteria.
If you struggle to get in the recommended five servings of fruits and veggies per day, you aren’t alone.
Many people choose to supplement with VEGGIES powder as a convenient way to increase their vegetable intake while promoting healthy digestion.
4. INCORPORATE MORE PLANT-BASED MEALS INTO YOUR DIET
According to one study, minimally processed plant foods—fruit, seeds, nuts, and whole grains — are beneficial for a diverse, thriving microbiome. They also have different types of fiber in them and can feed a wider variety of bacteria.
You’ll also want to aim to eat more whole grains. People who eat more whole grains and skip refined grains often experience improvements in healthy gut bacteria in addition to some immune responses.
Additionally, whole grains can increase the production of short-chain fatty acids, which are an important energy source for cells lining your colon.
While you don’t have to completely remove meat altogether, incorporating more whole, plant-based meals throughout the week can help you keep your gut bacteria in check.
5. INCREASE YOUR PROBIOTIC INTAKE
Probiotics contain beneficial live bacteria that can increase the amount of good bacteria in the gut and support healthy digestion.
Good food sources of probiotics include:
Alternatively, you can take a high-quality probiotic supplement to help restore the number of good bacteria in your gut.
6. EAT PREBIOTIC FOODS
In addition to filling your diet full of probiotic-rich foods, you’ll also need to eat foods that feed these little health-promoting microorganisms.
Most prebiotic foods are classified as carbohydrates. They stimulate the growth and activity of beneficial gut bacteria.
Sources of prebiotic foods include:
- Chia seeds
- Chicory root
7. AVOID ADDED SUGAR
Over-consuming sugar can disrupt the gut microbiome, decreasing the amount of good bacteria in your gut.
This can lead to increased sugar cravings and inflammation, which can further worsen gut health.
If you have a sweet tooth, choose fruit and yogurt or foods with naturally occurring sugars for a gut-healthy snack.
8. LIMIT STRESS
Chronic stress leads to digestive stress because it increases the amount of harmful bacteria while reducing the amounts of beneficial bacteria like lactobacilli.
Making time to relax can help both your brain and your belly wind down. Meditating, practicing light yoga techniques, managing time spent on social media, and practicing deep breathing can all relieve stress and lead to improved mental health.
9. EXERCISE REGULARLY
In addition to improving your overall health and wellness, regular physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight. Some research shows that it can also improve gut health and contribute to bacterial diversity.
For example, one study from 2018 included a group of previously-sedentary volunteers who participated in six weeks of endurance exercise. Researchers found that exercise improved the diversity of their gut microbiota. Interestingly, once the volunteers stopped exercising, their microbiomes returned to their previous state.
Exercising can also help stimulate blood flow and circulation, which can help keep your colon healthy.
Aim for at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity physical activity to support a healthy gut microbiome
10. AVOID TAKING UNNECESSARY ANTIBIOTICS
Sometimes, we have no other option than to take antibiotics to heal and recover. However, they can negatively affect your gut microbiome.
When you are treated for a bacterial infection with antibiotics, they destroy the harmful bacteria. Unfortunately, they also kill good bacteria in the process, leading to an imbalanced gut microbiome.
Eating probiotic-rich foods or taking probiotics when you start antibiotics can help promote balanced gut health and lessen the risk of diarrhea caused by antibiotics.
11. ADD COLLAGEN TO YOUR DIET
Collagen plays an important role in building, repairing, and maintaining healthy connective tissue throughout your digestive tract.
Having a healthy, strong digestive system is extremely important for preventing “leaky gut,” which happens when the barrier lining of your intestines is damaged.
Bone broth is one of the best dietary sources of collagen. However, for some, drinking bone broth every day can become difficult.
Supplementing with collagen peptides is a great way to add collagen into your diet. Plus, it can easily be mixed into your coffee, favorite smoothies, baked goods, and more.
12. STAY HYDRATED
Not drinking enough water can lead to reduced performance, delayed digestion, and fatigue.
Staying hydrated is vital for maintaining a healthy mucosal intestinal lining and helping to balance your gut microbiome.
Men should aim for a total daily fluid intake of about 15.5 cups, while women need around 11.5 cups.
13. CHEW FOOD THOROUGHLY
Chewing is the first step in digestion. Chewing your food allows it to break into smaller pieces and helps it mix with digestive enzymes found in saliva.
This increases nutrient absorption and improves overall digestion, which can support a healthy gut.
14. LIMIT ALCOHOL
When consumed in large amounts, alcohol can wreak havoc on your mental and physical health. Additionally, it can have a harmful effect on gut bacteria. Excessive alcohol intake reduces the variety and number of species of bacteria in the gut.
It can also increase the permeability of the intestinal lining, which is sometimes referred to as leaky gut.
Try to have several alcohol-free days each week, and avoid overdoing it when you do drink.
15. EAT FOODS WITH POLYPHENOLS
Dietary polyphenols are shown to alter the composition of the gut microbiota, supporting gut health.
Because polyphenols are responsible for giving foods their vibrant colors, choose a wide range of colorful fruits and vegetables to increase your polyphenol intake.
Other ways to incorporate polyphenols into your diet include:
- Drinking unsweetened green or black tea
- Consume cocoa powder or dark chocolate
- Enjoying red wine in moderation
Your balance of gut bacteria is very important for your overall health and performance. An unbalanced gut microbiome can lead to inflammation, irritability, fatigue, and a slew of other problems.
To achieve optimal gut health, we encourage you to give some of the gut health hacks we’ve discussed a try. Be sure to eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and probiotic-rich foods. You’ll also want to take a collagen supplement, exercise regularly, get adequate sleep, and make time to relax.