Whether you realize it or not, you and your gut are in a relationship. But what level of commitment do you have with digestive health? Is it serious? Or do you keep it casual, only paying attention to your gut when it needs a little love? No matter your relationship status, improving gut health with a few time-tested tips can have you on your way to living happily ever after. What is your relationship with your gut? Let’s find out.
Get Intimate with Your Gut
If you’re like most people, you probably only think about your digestive system when it’s growling with hunger or indigestion. But your gut isn’t just the place where your lunch goes after you eat. Your gastrointestinal (GI) tract is home to trillions of microorganisms—both beneficial and harmful—that make up your gut microbiome. Typically, this diverse collection of bacteria, fungi, and viruses lives in harmony, working not only to help break down the foods you eat but also to protect you against pathogens and other threats your health may face. But when these microbes get out of balance and the harmful ones outnumber the good, things can start to go awry. Medically called dysbiosis, an imbalanced microbiome can lead to a number of health issues.
Gut Love on the Rocks
Even the best relationships go through some rough patches. Regardless of how well you take care of your digestive health, things are bound to fall out of balance at some point. And that can be bad news since you’re more susceptible to getting sick when your gut’s in a state of dysbiosis. Unfortunately, it can happen more easily than you might think. Things like the typical American diet, stress, and poor sleep can all skew your bacterial equilibrium and open you up to everything from the inconveniences of gas and bloating to more serious conditions such as Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). And it’s not just your digestive health that can be jeopardized. Your gut can also influence your mood, cognition, and mental health.1
Fostering a Healthy Relationship with Your Gut
Fortunately, improving the relationship you have with your gut can be as easy as making a few tweaks to your everyday habits—no couples therapy required. Here are five tips for improving digestive health.
Eat a variety of foods. Even if your diet is a healthy one, eating the same old kale salad or quinoa bowl every day isn’t providing your gut with the full range of health benefits it needs to thrive. That’s because chowing down on the same meals over and over again means you’re only getting the same nutrients over and over again—while missing out on a slew of others. And that can actually have a negative impact on your health.2 So next time you’re at the grocery store, fill your cart with a variety of foods you don’t usually eat. Be sure to include plenty of new fruits and veggies, the brighter and more colorful the better. Add in some fermented foods like yogurt and kimchi, which contain naturally occurring probiotics that support a healthy gut. And don’t forget the fiber. A fiber-rich diet supports the microbiome, reduces inflammation, and bolsters bowel function.
Stay hydrated. Not drinking enough water to can throw a wrench into good gut health no matter how honed your diet. Low fluid intake can lead to uncomfortable digestive problems such as chronic constipation, gallstones, and other colorectal issues.3 On the flip side, maintaining good hydration levels not only improves stool consistency and bowel motility but also has the added benefit of significantly lowering blood pressure.4
Reduce stress. Stress can wreak havoc on your gut. And an unhappy gut can lead to anxiety and even depression. Fortunately, there are effective ways to reduce your stress load. Exercise has been shown to positively influence gut microbiota and cognition by reducing stress.5 Meditation can also help as it regulates the stress response by suppressing chronic inflammation and maintaining a healthy gut-barrier function.6
Sleep it off. Not getting enough sleep every night won’t just make you grumpy and tired the next day; it can affect the diversity of your gut microbiome as well.7 That’s why it’s critical to get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night. And keep your bedtime consistent: A recent study indicated that a regular sleep schedule may be even more important than how many zzzz’s you catch.8
Take a probiotic. A daily probiotic can do wonders for your digestive health, especially if your gut is suffering from dysbiosis. That’s because probiotics boost the beneficial bacteria in your GI tract while keeping harmful microbes at bay, bringing balance back to your belly. But not all probiotic supplements are created equal. That’s why it’s important to choose a clinically studied supplement such as Kyo-Dolphilus, which is guaranteed to be viable at the time of consumption.
For an even bigger boost, look for a supplement that combines probiotics with prebiotics. Prebiotics act as fuel for the beneficial bacteria, supercharging their effectiveness. This lab-tested combo, called a synbiotic, can further increase the abundance of beneficial microbes, including the all-important Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria strains. Even better, synbiotics may help to counteract microbial fermentation, which can lead to a host of health issues and even damage your DNA.9
No relationship is perfect. But the more love and attention you give to your gut, the more your gut will take care of you. Incorporating these digestive health tips into your routine can get you on the right track to digestive bliss.
- Appleton J. The Gut-Brain Axis: Influence of Microbiota on Mood and Mental Health. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2018;17(4):28-32.
- Michels KB. A prospective study of variety of healthy foods and mortality in women International Journal of Epidemiology. Volume 31, Issue 4, August 2002, Pages 847–854.
- El-Sharkawy AM. Acute and chronic effects of hydration status on health, Nutrition Reviews, Volume 73, Issue suppl_2, 1 September 2015, Pages 97–109,
- Nakamura Y. Effect of Increased Daily Water Intake and Hydration on Health in Japanese Adults. Nutrients. 2020; 12(4):1191.
- Gubert C. Exercise, diet and stress as modulators of gut microbiota: Implications for neurodegenerative diseases. Neurobiology of Disease. Volume 134, 2020.
- Househam AM. The Effects of Stress and Meditation on the Immune System, Human Microbiota, and Epigenetics. Adv Mind Body Med. 2017 Fall;31(4):10-25.
- Smith RP. Gut microbiome diversity is associated with sleep physiology in humans. PLOS ONE. 14(10): e0222394.
- Fang, Y. Day-to-day variability in sleep parameters and depression risk: a prospective cohort study of training physicians. npj Digit Med. 4, 28 (2021).
- Sergeev IN. Effects of Synbiotic Supplement on Human Gut Microbiota, Body Composition and Weight Loss in Obesity. Nutrients. 2020;12(1):222. Published 2020 Jan 1
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.