Caroline Hanna | 29 Jun 2021 | Gut Health, Latest Articles

Thirteen Ways To Improve Gut Health: Research-Backed Tips

Gut health has a huge impact on our overall health and wellbeing. It has links with a wide variety of health problems, affecting not just our digestion, but also our mental health, our quality of sleep, even the health of our skin.

This means it’s vital to treat our gut well, keeping it healthy and working to improve it where necessary. Luckily, we’ve put together a list of thirteen research-backed tips that will help you improve your gut health.

The importance of gut health

An ever-increasing amount of evidence shows us that bad gut health is correlated with a wide variety of conditions [Source: PubMed]. This means that maintaining good gut health could put you in a better position with your overall health.

There are links between gut health and non-communicable diseases, such as:

  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Neurological disorders 
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer

This suggests that disrupted gut health may play a role in other conditions too [Source: PubMed].

Improving your gut health may significantly help you to prevent other health conditions. Keep reading to see our thirteen ways to improve your gut health, or if you need a little more support, why not talk to one of our Functional Medicine Practitioners or Registered Nutritional Therapists?

How to improve your gut health and microbiome naturally

One of the best ways to improve your gut health is through the food you eat. Evidence shows there’s a distinct correlation between your gut health and quality of your diet. Diets high in fibre and prebiotics (foods that your gut bacteria love to eat) support a more diverse microbiome [Source: PubMed]. A diverse gut microbiome (lots of different species, or types of microbes living in your gut) is one of the most important markers of good overall health [Source: PubMed].

To read more about how to improve your gut health and microbiome naturally, read our blog, 9 Ways To Have A Healthy Gut.

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Which foods can heal your gut?

No one food or supplement can heal your gut: that’s not how your body works. Your gut is one system that is part of an incredibly complex, much bigger system. All the other systems in your body, like your endocrine system, immune system or nervous system, for example, are connected to it.

So, healing your gut takes more than changing your diet, but a great way to start is to focus on replenishing your microbiome (the community of microbes that live in your gut). You can do this by including plenty of probiotic foods in your diet, as they’re rich in the good bacteria your gut needs to reach optimum health. These foods include:

  • Kefir
  • Kimchi
  • Sauerkraut
  • Miso
  • Kombucha

To learn more about healing your gut, check out our blog, How Long Does It Take To Repopulate The Gut With Good Bacteria?

The worst foods for gut health

We know some foods have a negative impact on your gut health. For example:

While the study on saturated fats and gut health used mice, not human, it suggests that saturated fats might not be as good for your gut as poly-unsaturated fats such as oily fish, avocados, nuts and seeds. [Source: NIH].

What are the three gut superfoods?

While there are many foods that are great for your gut—far more than three—some of the best foods are:

  • Kefir: a natural probiotic, this delicious yogurt drink is packed full of good bacteria to give your gut a healthy boost.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil: brimming with polyphenols and poly-unsaturated fatty acids, drizzling good-quality olive oil on your salads and vegetables is a great way to support your gut health.
  • Spinach: this leafy green vegetable is a fantastic source of fibre and antioxidants, both of which will help to improve your gut health.

You can learn more about what to eat for gut health by reading our blog, How To Get Rid Of Bad Bacteria In The Gut.

What are the signs of a healthy gut?

Keeping your gut healthy starts in your mouth and ends with your stool. One of the most important signs of a healthy gut is your stool itself. According to the NHS, passing three bowel movements per day to three per week is healthy [Source: NHS]. 

However there is evidence to show that when you eat enough fibre you’ll have at least one bowel movement per day [Source: PubMed]. At Healthpath we recommend a minimum of 35g of fibre a day.

Your stools should also be well-formed and easy to pass. Symptoms such as loose stools, constipation and diarrhoea can be signs of poor gut health.

If you find it easy to digest foods and you don’t experience things like bloating, flatulence or abdominal pain, and you don’t suffer from skin conditions, autoimmune conditions or other health concerns, the chances are you have a healthy and well-functioning gut. 

If you’re curious to know what’s going on in your gut, check out our Gut Health Tests. Depending on which one you choose, you’ll find out:

  • your levels of friendly and unfriendly bacteria
  • whether you have yeast overgrowth, parasites or worms
  • how your digestion is working
  • if you have leaky gut

Looking for advice? Speak to a gut health expert.

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How can I improve my gut health fast?

We know that there are plenty of ways to improve your gut health, and we’ve put together a handy list of thirteen research-backed ways to improve gut health below. The most important thing to remember is that gut health is about more than just the foods you eat. 

Your overall lifestyle impacts your gut health too.

Lowering stress, exercise and sleep can also be hugely beneficial for your gut health. Read our list below and learn how you can improve your gut health fast.

How to improve gut health #1: diversify your diet: eat a wide variety of foods

One of the most simple ways to improve gut health is to make sure you’re eating a diverse diet. While it can be easy to slip into a food routine, having the same porridge for breakfast every day or snacking on the same types of fruit, a healthy gastrointestinal microbiome depends on a varied diet [Source: PubMed].

Start by making one or two new recipes per week, or simply pick up a new vegetable in your food shop. Little changes can be a big help!

How to improve gut health #2: try probiotic foods or supplements

Probiotic supplements are another fantastic way to support your gut health. You’ve probably heard a lot about probiotics recently, and for good reason: recent research has shown us that they can significantly improve your gut health, as well as—for example—your immune and reproductive system too [Source: PubMed].

If you’re not sure where to start, we offer a wide range of probiotic supplements. Or, if you want some  support to take control of your health, you can book a free consultation to speak to one of our Registered Nutritional Therapists.

How to improve gut health #3: limit processed foods

We all know that processed foods aren’t great for us, but did you know that they can be particularly bad for gut health? Research shows that diets high in highly processed foods are associated with less diverse gut bacteria, which is a sign of poor gut health. This includes:

  • white bread
  • crisps
  • cured meats
  • fizzy drinks

Over time, this means that eating processed foods can cause gut dysbiosis, which can lead to inflammation and eventually other health problems [Source: PubMed]. If you need a reason to opt for natural, whole foods, this is it. Swap sweets for fruit and your gut will thank you!

How to improve gut health #4: exercise sensibly

It’s not all to do with food. Evidence suggests that aerobic exercise is beneficial to the microbiota [Source: PubMed]. Incorporating regular exercise into your daily routine is a great way to optimise your gut health.

How to improve gut health #5: manage your stress levels

Stress can really damage your microbiome. Studies show that elevated cortisol (the hormone released during your fight-or-flight response) changes your microbiome [Source: NCBI].

Try to be aware of your stress levels, and minimise them through activities like meditation, breathing exercises and journaling. Over the long term, these little habits can build up into big changes. 

How to improve gut health #6: minimise alcohol

It should come as no surprise that alcohol won’t help to improve your gut health. While enjoying a glass or two now and again won’t significantly impact your gut health, excess alcohol can damage the microbiome, and result in Leaky Gut.

How to improve gut health #7: go plant-based

Research shows that eating a plant-based diet promotes a more robust and diverse microbiome: a key indicator of good gut health as well as overall wellbeing [Source: NCBI].

While you don’t necessarily need to become vegan overnight, eating a mostly plant-based diet can really help to improve your gut health.

How to improve gut health #8: take antibiotics only when necessary

Antibiotics destroy your microbiome. While they can save your life, if they’re overused they can be harmful to your gut health. Try to avoid over-consuming antibiotics, and only take them when you really need them (as prescribed by a doctor).

How to improve gut health #9: stop smoking

A great way to improve your gut health is to give up smoking. Evidence shows smoking damages the microbiome [Source: NIH].

How to improve gut health #10: limit sugar

Too much sugar can be a problem for your gut, as it can cause imbalances between good and bad bacteria [Source: NCBI]. Try to limit sugary foods (be aware of hidden sugars, too) and enjoy the benefits of improved gut health.

How to improve gut health #11: eat fermented foods

Fermented foods are a natural source of probiotics, and an easy way to help your gut bacteria achieve a healthy balance. Try to include things like sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, miso and kefir in your diet.

How to improve gut health #12: get enough sleep

We all know the impact that good sleep, or lack thereof, can have on how we feel overall, but recent research has found that good quality sleep is positively correlated with microbiome diversity [Source: NCBI]. All the more reason to get to bed on time!

How to improve gut health #13: avoid artificial sweeteners

Sweeteners commonly found in low-calorie drinks and foods, such as saccharine, sucralose and stevia, have been shown to disrupt the composition of our gut microbiota [Source: PubMed]. Steer clear of these artificial sweeteners and opt for real, whole foods instead.

Key takeaways

When it comes to gut health, we’re all different. Our bodies are home to over 100 trillion organisms, and no two microbiomes are the same. However, there are some general ‘rules’ that help almost everybody. Try these thirteen ways to improve your gut health and see how fast you feel the difference.

Focus on these thirteen research-backed tips and start to support your microbiome and improve your gut health today: 

  • Diversify your diet: eat a wide variety of foods
  • Try probiotic foods or supplements
  • Limit processed foods
  • Exercise sensibly
  • Manage your stress levels
  • Minimise alcohol
  • Go plant-based
  • Take antibiotics only when necessary
  • Stop smoking
  • Limit sugar
  • Eat fermented foods
  • Get enough sleep
  • Avoid artificial sweeteners

Author

Caroline Hanna BA (Hons) is a soon-to-be Registered Nutritional Therapist (DipCNM mBANT), chef and writer. A lover of food and nutrition, Caroline first trained to cook at Le Cordon Bleu before studying at the London College of Naturopathic Medicine.

Caroline also has a background in journalism and copywriting, and continues to write regularly for magazines and private clients, inspiring others to optimise their wellbeing through delicious, healthy food.

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