You’ve got to admit that it is a little overdue that so many people are starting to wake up to the importance of gut health. Good gut health equates to proper overall health. Nevertheless, many people are not entirely sure of what they should do. Most want the easy way out, and who can blame them, by just taking a supplement. That is an important part of optimal gut health, but only part of it. There are a number of lifestyle choices that can make a big difference too.
#1 Eat More Fermented Foods for Good Gut Health
The process of fermentation is a result of the presence of various bacteria. Believe it or not, most bacteria are helpful or at least harmless to humans. In fact, many types of them are found throughout your digestive system and their presence or absence can have an enormous effect on your gut health.1 For example, anything that is pickled is laden with good bacteria. The commercially available products are not as good because they include preservatives and salt. Both of these inhibit bacterial health. Look for the ones in the refrigerated section instead.
These friendly bacteria that are essential to optimal gut health are known as probiotics. More than 100 trillion types of good bacteria exist in and on your body. 2 One that most people are familiar with is acidophilus. However, there are actually hundreds of different types of probiotics found in fermented foods. Commonly they are also available in supplement form. They destroy any bad bacteria in your gut and also break down certain food that your digestive enzymes cannot. In fact, when you have gas, it is the probiotics in your body having a feast and producing gases from it.1
Anyone who has ever had thrush or a yeast infection is familiar with what happens when probiotics become scarce. This is common when someone takes antibiotics. Since antibiotics kill all types of bacteria, including ‘good’ ones, the ‘bad’ ones have a chance to take over.
#2 Drink Less, Or Better Yet, Not at All
You might be the type of person that likes to have a drink after a long day. And of course, every day is a long day! Nonetheless, alcohol is not a great choice for supporting good gut health. White and red wine provide some nutritional benefits, including to your digestive tract, but you can get the same benefits from white and red grape juice, but without the alcohol content. Beer and spirits on the other hand are just all-around lousy choices.
#3 Get 8 Hours EVERY Night
You probably remember your mother telling you that getting plenty of sleep is important. Perhaps she told you that hoping you’d pipe down, but she was still right. Failing to get enough sleep has all sorts of negative health effects including on your digestive health. In fact, while you sleep your health bacteria multiply which in turn improves your overall gut health. If you don’t get enough sleep, then these good bacteria can’t propagate properly.3
It may seem odd, but exercise improves gut health too. In fact, studies show that exercisers have a greater diversity of bacteria in their gut. This just means that active individuals actually have more different kinds of good bacteria than non-exercisers. There is a relationship between protein intake and number of bacteria strains (or types), but it is clear that exercise positively affects gut health. 4
Have you ever noticed how sedentary people seem to have more trouble with digestive issues? Constipation, diarrhea, stomach pains and hemorrhoids are all more common in sedentary and overweight folks.
#5 Supplements to Improve Gut Health
Like every system in your body, your digestive tract has need of more than one thing to keep it healthy. In fact, there are 3 main components to a healthy gut.
First is digestive enzymes. These break down the fats, proteins and carbs that make up foods Like probiotics, there are many different types, all of which specialize in breaking down a particular type of food. Thus, a comprehensive digestive enzyme supplement is a must-have for optimal gut health in order to help properly break down the food you eat. Your body makes digestive enzymes already, but unless you are still in grade school, exercise regularly and experience no stress, it is doubtful that the process is what it should be.
Second is fiber. We often hear about how important fiber is. It helps slow digestion so your gut has more time to absorb food and also ‘cleans up’ your digestive tract. The path from your mouth to your anus is really a long tube of folds. Food can become lodged in these folds and cause problems as severe as cancer. Fiber creates a sort of gel out of the food you eat and food particles stick to it. The gel then carries them through the digestive tract to be absorbed or removed.
Lastly are probiotics. We have already talked about this one, but they come in supplemental form too. When deciding on a particular product, the more cultures the better. For example, a product may contain 1 billion live cultures. Another may have 80 billion.