Trillions of gut microbiota help break down nutrients and nourish your body’s other systems. Gut bacteria directly correlate to a person’s physical and mental well-being. Learn more about gut health, why it’s important, and how to maintain it.
What Is Gut Health?
Gut health refers to maintaining the ideal balance for your gut’s microorganisms. These gut microbes consist of both good and bad forms of bacteria. The overgrowth of bad bacteria can lead to a decrease in both physical and mental health. People can keep their gut health consistent by eating a wide array of healthy and whole foods, paying attention to probiotic and prebiotic consumption, and lowering stress levels.
Why Is Gut Health Important?
Gut health aids holistic wellness. Beneficial bacteria (also known as bifidobacteria or bifidobacterium) help break down essential nutrients in your stomach and intestines. As this process occurs, it also delivers the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients necessary to keep your entire body functioning at its optimal capacity.
Your gut’s health relies largely on eating foods conducive to a well-balanced microbiome. These are some of the best foods for gut health you can eat:
- High-fiber foods: Incorporate different types of fiber into your diet. Whole grains and certain forms of resistant starch can prove especially useful to your large intestine as it digests food. Legumes, lentils, soybeans, and quinoa will also help improve digestion due to their high levels of prebiotic fiber.
- Fermented foods: After probiotic-rich foods undergo the fermentation process, they can release good bacteria into your microbiome. Foods like kefir, kimchi, miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, and yogurt fit the bill. These all include high levels of lactobacilli and other beneficial bacteria conducive to gut health.
- Fruits and veggies: Not only do fruits and veggies often contain fiber, they’re also full of fatty acids and antioxidants beneficial to your gut. Leafy greens like lettuce, kale, and arugula can help out here. Artichokes, asparagus, and brussels sprouts are also useful. A handful of blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries can also prove advantageous.
3 Benefits of Good Gut Health
When you have a healthy gut, you’re on your way to more holistic wellness. These are just some of the overall health benefits that potentially come from maintaining good gut health:
- Improved digestive health: Good gut health ensures your digestive tract moves along without any obstacles. This reduces the likelihood of bloating, constipation, diarrhea, or more chronic diseases. It also helps ensure your other bodily systems get enough nutrients delivered to them. Digestive health can also aid in regulating blood sugar levels.
- More energy: When you take care of your gut, you’ll have a much higher reservoir of energy to draw on throughout the day. If your gut can deliver nutrients to your brain as efficiently and effectively as possible, you also stand to gain from higher levels of mental health and happiness.
- Strong immune function: A well-balanced gut microbiome correlates to a stronger immune system. You’ll have an easier time withstanding viral or bacterial infections as a result. In addition, you will run a lower risk of developing chronic diseases like IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) or IBD (inflammatory bowel disease).
4 Signs of Poor Gut Health
An unhealthy gut can lead to a substantial amount of inconvenience and pain. Here are a few signs you should look out for when determining your own gut’s health (or lack thereof):
- Fatigue: If you have problems in your gastrointestinal tract, you might often feel tired or fatigued. This is partly due to an imbalance in gut flora preventing your other bodily systems from getting the nutrients they need to thrive.
- Increased risk of illness: Declining gut health can lead to an increase in both contagious and chronic diseases. Microbiome diversity helps regulate blood pressure, the immune system, and more. When your gut becomes imbalanced, it can lead to you getting sick more often or developing long-term diseases as a result.
- Stomach issues: When problems occur in your digestive system, it should come as no surprise you might develop stomach issues as a result. This can run the gamut from occasional constipation to Crohn’s disease. If you continually experience these sorts of gut-related issues, consider seeing a gastroenterologist.
- Weight fluctuations: Rapid weight gain or weight loss can both be signs of gut health problems. Fluctuating between various weights very often is also worth taking into consideration. In the long term, eating disorders can also destabilize your gut flora.
How to Improve Gut Health
When you improve your gut health, you improve your health overall, too. Keep these tips in mind as you try to balance the types of bacteria in your gut:
- Change your diet. Healthy eating leads to healthy gut bacteria, and dietary changes can help improve the human gut microbiome. Avoid processed foods with added sugars or artificial sweeteners. Opt for a well-balanced diet of carbohydrates, proteins, healthy fats, prebiotics, and probiotics instead. Various whole foods and smoothies can be great for your gut health.
- Decrease stress. If you experience high stress levels often, your gut can suffer. Practice mindfulness meditation to promote a sense of calm. Make sure you get enough sleep. Try to remove yourself from toxic environments that damage your mental health. This decrease in stress can also help you prevent other health issues like heart disease.
- See a dietitian. Speak with a qualified dietitian about ways you can promote premium gut health in your own body. They’ll give you a working idea of what foods contain the right balance of carbs, fiber, protein, and so on to achieve an optimal microbiome.
- Take prebiotics and probiotics. Seek both probiotic and prebiotic foods. Drinks like kombucha contain active cultures and polyphenols capable of providing you with the same benefits as prebiotic and probiotic foods as well. You can also consider taking prebiotic and probiotic supplements.
Before Making Changes to Your Diet
Functional foods are whole or fortified fare that can potentially provide health benefits when you consume them as part of a regular diet. Since these foods do not yet have a legal definition, it’s crucial that consumers research any claims related to nutritional value and consult an accredited nutritionist or dietician before incorporating new foods into their diets. This article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not a substitute for nutritional advice from a trained professional.
This article originally appeared on masterclass.com , Dec 2022.