10 Step Guide to Good Gut Health

An unimaginable amount of bacteria, fungi, and viruses reside in our gut. All of these organisms combine to form the gut microbiome. 


This inner ecosystem is responsible for many essential functions in our bodies, including immune system regulation. 


The bacteria in our guts also protect us from harmful germs, produce nutrients, and break down food that the body can't digest. 


That is why maintaining a balanced and healthy relationship with the gut guarantees good well-being.  


The state of our microbiome depends on multiple factors, including some that we can not control – method of delivery at birth, infant feeding, and genetics. 


However, as science is moving forward, it becomes evident that dietary and lifestyle factors are one of the leading influences on our gut health. 


And since it is essential to keep your microbiota in a perfect state, here is the list of 10 steps to follow to achieve nothing less but a good gut.

10. Eat More Fiber-Rich Foods

Fiber is the carbohydrate portion of plant foods, which we cannot digest. It can be divided into two types – soluble and insoluble fiber.


When bacteria digest soluble fiber, short-chain fatty acids are produced. They nourish the gut, improve immune function, and prevent inflammation. 


The more fiber you eat, the more fiber-digesting bacteria grow in your gut.


Insoluble fiber is resistant to being broken down by the bacteria in our gut. As a result, it adds to our stools. 


This kind of fiber helps promote regular bowel movements and reduces the time that waste spends inside the intestines. 


This prevents or relieves constipation and encourages healthy gut microbiota. 

Here are some high-fiber foods that are good for your gut bacteria:

  • Fruit such as berries, pears, melons, and oranges
  • Vegetables such as broccoli, artichokes, carrots, and sweetcorn
  • Peas, beans, green peas, chickpeas, lentils
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Whole grains

9. Avoid Sugars 

Sugar can easily be called a number one of the worst foods for gut health. It negatively affects the composition of the gut microbiome.


As found in a study conducted on mice, sugars affect the beneficial bacteria in our guts. This bacteria is responsible for processing certain healthy foods, like vegetables, which means that digesting leafy greens might become difficult and unpleasant for a person who consumes many sugars.


Also, diets high in sugar cause inflammation in the gut and your body, affecting the gut microbiome's ability to regulate blood sugar. This can directly cause weight gain, type 1 and 2 diabetes, and even cancer. 

Here are the best ways we found to cut down on sugar:

Lose or cut on the table sugar

Be attentive to how much sugar you consume right now, and start by cutting the amount in half. 


Drink water instead of soda

Water is the best option for your microbiome, and it is also helpful for those trying to lose weight. 


Swap canned, dried, frozen fruits for fresh and whole ones

Dried canned and frozen foods often have hidden sugars in them. Choose whole fruit instead. 


Read and compare the food labels

When looking for something to snack on, read the label and choose the option with less sugar in the ingredients list.


Substitute

Try adding spices instead of sugars to your food. Ginger, allspice, cinnamon, and nutmeg can improve how food tastes. 

8. Include Foods With Polyphenols in Your Diet

Polyphenols are naturally occurring compounds found in plants. They help protect plants from predators. Polyphenols also give fruits and vegetables their vibrant colors. 


Even though polyphenols are harmful to the plant's predator, they are harmless and even beneficial for human health. 


This compound is also considered a prebiotic as it encourages good bacteria growth in the gut and limits harmful bacteria. 


Several studies also found that polyphenols have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, and anti-cancer properties. 


This suggests that the consumption of polyphenol-rich food reduces the incidence of numerous chronic disorders. 


Additionally, polyphenols, including those in green tea and turmeric, may make it easier to maintain or lose weight.

Here are the top 10 foods or seasonings highest in this naturally occurring compound you could use in the kitchen for better gut health:

  1. Cloves
  2. Peppermint
  3. Star anise
  4. Cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  5. Mexican oregano
  6. Celery seed
  7. Black chokeberry fruit
  8. Dark chocolate (unsweetened)
  9. Flaxseed 
  10. Black elderberry fruit

7. Consume Fermented Foods

If we had to choose the best foods for gut health, fermented foods would come among the winners. 


Fermented foods are very high in probiotic bacteria. By eating such foods, you are adding bacteria and enzymes to your microbiome. 


The good bacteria that come from fermented foods improve digestion, boost immunity, and help us maintain a healthy weight or even lose some. 

Add these fermented foods to your diet to help your gut:

Kimchi

It is a traditional Korean dish made by salting and fermenting vegetables. The probiotics in this dish can also prevent you from various infections. 


It also contains a beneficial bacteria called lactobacilli, which is very useful for the digestion process and may help improve diarrhea or constipation. 


Sauerkraut

Fermentation in cabbage promotes the growth of probiotics, which help make foods more digestible. It means that your gut can absorb the vitamins and minerals easier. 


Kefir

It is a fermented milk drink, which is similar to yogurt but more watery. 


Sour in taste and a bit fizzy, kefir is very rich in probiotic bacteria and also contains calcium.


Kombucha

It is a drink made by fermenting black sweetened tea – all while using bacteria and yeast cultures. 


Those who drink kombucha report having some health effects such as reduced blood levels, improvement of the liver, immune system, and gut functions. 


Miso

Although most of us know miso in the form of soup, it is actually a fermented paste made from soybeans and a mold called koji. 


Miso provides the microbiome with beneficial bacteria and is rich in folic acid, various B vitamins, vitamins E and K. 


Yogurt 

Studies found that eating yogurt regularly affects body weight and can even reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 


It is also a natural prebiotic and is associated with reduced inflammation. 

6. Avoid Stress

Stress and a healthy gut are incompatible. Whether it's short-term or long-term stress, these both are harmful to the gut and, therefore, overall health. 


One of the most prevailing short-term stress symptoms is losing the appetite and the overall slowdown of your digestion. 


Long-term stress can trigger diarrhea, indigestion, or an upset stomach. 


When we are stressed, some of the hormones and chemicals released by the body enter the digestive system and disrupt the absorption of nutrients. This may lead to gas production and discomfort or even pain in the abdomen. 


Also, it can be a vicious cycle when stress, gut, and eating habits come together. 


  • Psychological stress causes us to choose foods that are less likely to be healthy, and in this way, influencing what bacteria prevail in our gut. 

  • Stress starts causing inflammation or other harmful alterations. The gut bacteria, in turn, releases toxins and other similar components that may alter mood and eating behavior. 

  • Due to stress and the situation in the gut, it is most likely that the following food choice will be poor again, leading to the worsening gut microbiome balance.

To avoid stress or learn how to handle it, you could consider:

  1. Practicing meditation, stress reduction, or yoga
  2. Connecting with supportive people
  3. Finding time for pleasurable hobbies

5. Get Enough Sleep

Sleep and gut microbiome are closely intertwined and related. 


Lack of sleep unbalances the hormones, and stress hormones may rise. It can lead to a leaky gut, where toxins and food can get through the intestine wall and enter the bloodstream. 


This can mainly lead to food sensitivities and changes to gut bacteria. 


Also, sleep deprivation leads to the rise of hunger hormones, resulting in increased appetite. And, of course, tiredness makes you chose unhealthy foods high in sugars for a quick energy boost. 


As a result, it can get more challenging to maintain a healthy weight or lose extra pounds. 


Staying up late might also mean overeating close to bedtime, which negatively impacts digestive health. Eating before going to sleep doesn't allow the body to rest. 

To sleep better, you should: 

Increase bright light exposure during the day 

Try spending more time outside during the daytime. It helps regulate your circadian rhythm and fall asleep easier. 


Avoid consuming caffeine late in the day 

Caffeine can be found in the bloodstream 8 hours after it was consumed. Have your coffee with your lunch, and don't indulge in it for dinner. 


Reduce irregular or long daytime naps

One short daytime nap can be beneficial; however, too many or too long periods of sleep can interfere with your night sleep.


Sleep and wake at consistent times

Consistency is critical when it comes to sleep. Your circadian rhythm is naturally formed to help you fall asleep and have a better quality sleep. 

4. Exercise Regularly

Several studies now suggest that exercise has an impact on the gut microbiome. It enriches the microflora diversity and enhances the number of microbial species. 


Exercise promotes the growth of bacteria that produce butyrate – fatty acid, which is the primary fuel for the cells that line the gut. 


Butyrate is responsible for helping these cells fulfill their functions correctly while maintaining the integrity of the gut lining – this way preventing inflammatory bowel disease and insulin resistance. 


Exercising changes the gut microbiome, thus preventing obesity and improving metabolism, proving that gut health and weight loss are highly related.


Even low-intensity exercise can have an impact on the gut. 


It shortens the amount of time that stool stays in the tract. As a consequence, exercise can reduce the risk of colon cancer and inflammatory bowel disease. 


The good news is that all types of exercises (even walking) help the good bacteria stick to the stomach lining, which prevents bacteria from going through the intestine into the bloodstream. 


Exercise is also essential for the immune system because it decreases inflammation and promotes a more balanced environment – this prevents the development of gut diseases. 

To help your gut through exercise, you could do: 

  • Brisk walking 
  • Yoga
  • Breathing exercises
  • Crunches

At least 30 minutes of exercise per day can have a meaningful impact on your gut health. 

3. Pay Attention to What Medicine You Take

A recent study showed how serious the effects of medications could be.


The researchers found that some categories of medications may increase antimicrobial resistance, leaving the gut vulnerable to gut disorders and other intestinal infections.


The scientists analyzed 41 commonly used medication categories. 


It was found that laxatives (medications that reduce the production of stomach acid) and metformin (a drug for diabetes) had the most significant impact on the gut. 


Medications for heartburn showed the most alarming effect on the microbiome. 

However, since these drugs are sold over the counter, the number of people who use them without physicians' control is massive. 


The drug could increase resistance to antibiotics and increase the number of harmful bacteria in the gut. Therefore dosing it correctly and limiting the intake is very important. 


Despite the research, it is still early to conclude the long-term consequences. However, it is important to be mindful when it comes to the use of medications. 


If in doubt, it is always best to consult your physician and only take medications as needed and exactly as prescribed. 


The unnecessary use of medications is a problem that can cause multiple issues in the gut.

2. Take Probiotics

According to the NHS, probiotics are "live bacteria and yeasts promoted as having various health benefits, and are often described as 'good' or 'friendly' bacteria."


Probiotics are actually gut health supplements and aid gut microbiome and health in multiple ways.


They are found in fermented foods and also come in as supplements in tablets, powders, and capsules containing the bacteria in dried form. 


They also help with weight loss, digestive health, immune function and generally improve or restore the gut flora. 


Since probiotics have almost no side effects and are beneficial to most people, it is worth considering supplementing probiotics, especially if fermented foods are not consumed daily. 


It is important to note, that since some of the probiotics get destroyed by the stomach acids before it gets to the gut, the supplementation should be sufficient. Consult your doctor or carefully read the labels to find out the exact amount of prebiotics to take. 

1. Make Intermittent Fasting Your Lifestyle

A pilot study from May 2020 has observed a group of adults during Ramadan. 


By examining their stool samples before and after Ramadan (which mimics 29 days of intermittent fasting), the researchers found that the gut microbiome has significantly changed. 


The bacteria have grown in quantity and quality.


It has been revealed that the numbers of beneficial bacteria that are responsible for weight loss, protection from harmful intestinal microorganisms, and inflammation were significantly enriched at the end of the fasting. 


Although this was only a pilot study, the results reveal that Ramadan fasting, which represents an intermittent fasting regime, leads to positive compositional changes in the gut microbiota.

If you decide to try fasting, there are a few essential things to do and know before you start: 

Consult with a health professional

Find out the state of your health to make sure fasting will give you the best results.


Start with a shorter fast

There is no need to rush in and start with 20-hour fasts. First, give yourself a 14-hour feeding window and see how it goes from there.


Listen to your body

Don't make any significant changes if you feel like your body is not ready yet. If you are hungry at the same time every day and it's out of your feeding window – move your fasting to another time. 


Find a peer or a guide to get advice and support

Talk to your spouse or friends and see if you could be fasting pals. If you are better at doing this solo, use a fasting app to help you track your progress and get inspiration. 

Conclusions

By following these 10 steps, you will not only improve your gut microbiome but will also take control of your weight, mood, and long-term health. 


Having a healthy gut means having good health. 


As Hippocrates said, "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." It is still very accurate to this day. Add exercise and omit stress from this equation, and you might as well reach your health goals. 



FAQ


How can I improve my gut health?

1.Since it is essential to keep your microbiota in a perfect state, here is the list of 10 steps to follow to improve gut health: 

  1. Eat More Fiber-Rich Foods
  2. Avoid Sugars 
  3. Include Foods With Polyphenols in Your Diet
  4. Consume Fermented Foods
  5. Avoid Stress
  6. Get Enough Sleep
  7. Exercise Regularly
  8. Pay Attention to What Medicine You Take
  9. Take Probiotics
  10. Make Intermittent Fasting Your Lifestyle

2.What foods heal your gut?

Here are some high-fiber foods that heal your gut:

  • Fruit such as berries, pears, melons, and oranges
  • Vegetables such as broccoli, artichokes, carrots, and sweetcorn
  • Peas, beans, green peas, chickpeas, lentils
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Whole grains

Also, foods and seasonings with polyphenols (naturally occurring compounds found in plants) like cloves, peppermint, cocoa powder (unsweetened), Black chokeberry fruit and many more.


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