What does it really mean to have a healthy gut? In a nutshell, it means having the right bacterial balance in your microbiome. You see, your microbiome consists of trillions of microbes that live inside your gut and work around the clock producing mood-regulating, brain-stimulating, and immune-boosting chemicals, as well as supporting healthy digestion and helping to keep premature aging at bay. Here are our top tips to optimize your microbiome and keep it in peak shape.
Eat more plants. Plant foods containing fiber are the best fuel for your gut bacteria. A plant-based diet is also linked with greater diversity of gut bacteria. That is why a plant-based diet that includes a variety of whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruit increases the microbial diversity in your microbiome. Legumes, for example, contain a type of fiber called prebiotics, which feed your good gut bacteria and produce short-chain fatty acids.1 Combined with probiotics, prebiotics provide long-term sustainable nourishment to your microbiome. Whole grains contain something called polysaccharides which provide bulk and absorb water to promote healthy bowel movements. Fruits and veggies also contain simple sugars which draw water into the gut to assist the movement of fiber and help to prevent constipation.2
It is important to eat a wide variety of plant foods because the more diverse the gut microbiota, the more resilient it will be. That said, it’s important to clarify that “plant-based” doesn’t mean you have to become vegan. A primarily whole-food, plant-forward diet brings you many more health benefits than just avoiding animal products.
Take a probiotic. Incorporating a clinically studied probiotic supplement into your daily routine can help your beneficial bacteria flourish and can keep harmful microbes in check. This can also help to manage gas, bloating, and other gastrointestinal issues. Look for a probiotic that is shelf-stable, which means it can safely be stored at room temperature. This makes it easy to take with you when you are on the go. It’s also important to make sure it is guaranteed to be viable at time of consumption.
Try an elimination diet. Elimination diets are the gold standard for identifying food intolerances and sensitivities, which are becoming increasingly common. An elimination diet is a way of eating that omits a food or group of foods believed to cause an adverse reaction for two to four weeks. The omitted foods are then gradually reintroduced, one at a time, to see if they trigger a reaction. Once you’ve identified any foods that trigger a reaction, you can remove them from your diet. An elimination diet may also help to alleviate symptoms like bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation and nausea.
Chew thoroughly: Eating on the run or grabbing a quick bite isn’t uncommon in today’s fast paced society. With all the demands of everyday life, sitting down for a relaxing meal isn’t always in the cards. If this sounds familiar, take note: Gulping down food quickly can have a negative impact on your digestion. That’s because when you inhale your food, you don’t chew each bite well—and this can lead to indigestion. But when you chew, a digestive enzyme known as amylase is released into your saliva, beginning the process of breaking down your food.3 This is the first step in healthy digestion. Chewing slowly also gives your brain enough time to register when you’ve had enough, preventing overeating.
Your digestive health matters. Incorporating these tips into your daily routine can help maintain a robust microbiome and a healthy digestive system, one bite at a time.
- High dietary fiber intake linked to health promoting short chain fatty acids: Beneficial effects not limited to vegetarian or vegan diets. ScienceDaily. 2015. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150929070122.htm
- Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet. Mayo Clinic. 2021 mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fiber/art-20043983
- The digestive process: Digestion begins in the mouth. Alton Memorial Hospital. 2020. https://www.altonmemorialhospital.org/Health-Library/View-Content?contentTypeId=134&contentId=193
This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.