Trillions of bacteria call your gut home and live along fungi and viruses to make your gut microbiome. They are essential to keep your body in a healthy condition. Hence, it is necessary to maintain a healthy gut that allows you to keep inflammation in check, shields you from diseases, and also promotes your mental health. Here’s how you can restore gut health:
1. Get on probiotics – The fragile, yet important ecosystem in your gut needs to be balanced. It can be upset very easily due to the change in diversity and composition of your gut bacteria. Things that happen in your life can have direct consequences on your gut bacteria and intestinal health. That’s where probiotics come in.
Probiotics have been recommended for a long time to promote and restore gut health. They can support the healthy microbiome in your gut since they contain live bacteria that are beneficial to your health. Studies show that among the numerous benefits of probiotics, restoration of gut bacteria is one. If you want to opt for natural probiotics, you should introduce more live fermented food in your diet. Here are a few examples:
- Sourdough bread
- Lacto-fermented pickles
- Miso, Tempeh, and other fermented soybean products
2. Change your diet – To improve or restore gut health, you should switch your diet as soon as possible. While barbeque sausages and grilled pork chops can be delicious, you should switch to a plant-based diet if you want to improve your gut microbiome. Your gut needs a lot of prebiotics – dietary fibers and plant-based ingredients are full of them. Research shows that a plant-based diet is very effective in promoting a diverse ecosystem of healthy bacteria in your gut.
Probiotics like yogurt, cheese, and sourdough thrive on prebiotics. You will often find them in the form of non-digestible carbohydrates in grains, pulses, vegetables, seeds, and more. However, the typical western diet rich in meat, fat, and refined sugar lacks those gut-nurturing ingredients. The typical diet doesn’t just reduce your gut health but also increases the risk of metabolic problems, weight gain, and other diseases. That’s why you need to switch to a plant-based diet.
- You can use ingredients like whole grains, rye, and barley to make your bread or breakfast cereal instead of refined flour
- Consume fiber-rich food like apple, pear, and bananas
- Look up recipes that make good use of mushrooms, carrots, onions, etc
- You can replace meat protein with legumes and numerous Asian and European recipes allow you to keep things interesting
3. Workout regularly – Things you put inside your body make a big difference in your gut health. The same holds for various external factors like your lifestyle. If you are less active and barely work out once a week, your gut microbiome would have a hard time keeping you healthy. Research suggests that those who have a healthy lifestyle and exercise regularly have a more healthy and diverse gut microbiome compared to those who are physically less active. There are both qualitative and quantitative differences.
The differences become even more clear when you compare athletes with non-athletes. However, you don’t need to participate in the next Olympic event. Working up a sweat and pumping your heart by running, dancing, or cycling for 3 or more hours every week will help you maintain a healthy gut. Combine that with strength exercises and you’ll get excellent results.
4. Avoid Stress – You may be aware of how stress harms your mental and physical health. However, it can also hurt your gut health. Your gut microbiome influences various organs including your intestines and brain. So, when you feel stressed, it has a severe impact on your gut microbiome. It can reduce the count of probiotic bacteria like Lactobacillus in your gut.
Studies show that stress can harm the ecosystem in your gut. Since your gut bacteria also influence your mood hormones, you can also be cranky and easily irritated. To relieve stress avoid stressful and challenging situations. Try meditation and breathing exercises to keep yourself calm throughout the day.
5. Bring down the sugar – Unfortunately, avoiding sugar is an extreme challenge in the 21st century. You can’t tell if something has sugar or not since it may not taste sweet. Refined sugar is even more diabolical since it can mess with your metabolism, mood, and gut health. Supermarkets, restaurants, and food in other commercial establishments use a lot of added sugar. So your natural sugar intake remains high even without your knowledge and that exposes you to the risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. It also disturbs the fragile balance in your gut.
That’s why you should be aware of the sugar content in your food. Avoid store-bought food, takeaways, processed food, and sugary drinks. Avoid eating out at restaurants that are known to add a lot of sugar to their food. Usually, restaurants do that for an easy route to flavor without using high-quality ingredients. Eating out a few times a month isn’t going to do much harm. However, try to cook most of your meals at home.
While sugar does a lot of damage, sugar-free alternatives aren’t any better for your gut and intestines. Artificial sweeteners aren’t as good as you think they are and increase your risk of diabetes and obesity. Moreover, studies have found that artificial sweeteners abundant in drinks and food can be very toxic to your gut microbes. Instead, reach for a fruit or a piece of dark chocolate to satisfy your sweet tooth.
6. Get enough sleep – As mentioned before, your gut and brain have an intrinsic relation and their communication can affect your mood and sleep patterns. Your biological clock or circadian rhythm controls many things like your sleep cycle and digestion. Your gut microbes are also living organisms that follow a schedule. If you don’t get enough rest and sleep, it can upset those microbes and create problems with digestion.
When you are sleep deprived, the composition of your gut microbiome goes through changes and can have severe effects. That’s why you shouldn’t ignore sleep and make lifestyle changes to improve it. Get a bedtime schedule and follow it thoroughly. Go to bed at the same time each day and avoid your phone or other sources of screen light before you go to sleep. You should also avoid a poor diet and heavy alcohol consumption to get rid of sleep deprivation and restore gut health.
7. Reduce alcohol consumption – Shots at the bar or more than a few glasses of beer may get you in a great mood for a little while. However, they aren’t good for your head, your bank account, or your intestines and gut. Alcohol affects the flow of food through your digestive tract and also harms the gut barrier. So, apart from constipation and diarrhea, you also increase the number of pathogenic microbes in your gut.
That’s why you should reduce alcohol consumption to maintain a healthy gut. Hard liquor and beer shouldn’t be consumed too often and it would be best to replace them with a glass of red wine when you want to celebrate good news. In contrast, red wine can be good for your gut bacteria and also contains antioxidants and polyphenols that help you fight a lot of diseases.
8. Easy on the painkillers – You shouldn’t pop a pill from every minor pain. Painkillers, especially the non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory variants are the most commonly prescribed medicines. They are highly popular since they relieve menstrual pain. However, you may be trading a lot for short-term relief. Since painkillers are anti-inflammatory in nature, when used over the long term they can harm your gut lining and in severe cases lead to bleeding. To avoid that you shouldn’t take painkillers at every available opportunity.
9. Decrease the use of Laxatives – When you are suffering from constipation, reaching out for laxatives is a natural response. However, that shouldn’t be the case during minor cases since laxatives can disturb the natural rhythm of your gut. If you suffer from eating disorders, you are more likely to abuse laxatives. That’s why laxatives should be an option among many and you shouldn’t depend on them.
Instead, bring changes to your diet and lifestyle. Work out every day and add more fiber to your food. Try to get on a regular toilet routine to get in sync with your biological clock. Moreover, it’s okay if you go without bowel movements for a day.
As you can see, changing your diet, exercise and other lifestyle choices can help you restore and improve your gut health. Get a good amount of sleep, get more fibers, eat probiotics, and don’t go after a pint of beer on every occasion. Most importantly don’t underestimate the role of gut health for your physical and mental well-being. With trillions of bacteria and human cells, the small organ works hard to keep you healthy and that’s why it’s important to not upset the complex ecosystem of gut bacteria.