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How to Improve Gut Health

In case you missed it, each one of us has over 100 trillion microbes living in our gut. We’re just full of life! This living community in our gut is known as the gut microbiota. It’s home to a whole variety of bacteria, yeasts, viruses and other microbes.

We’ve been taught for centuries (and all throughout this pandemic) that bacteria, or “germs”, are bad for us and need to be cleaned away. But as scientists have discovered more about our gut flora, we’ve come to realize how vital those germs are to our health and wellbeing

Here are a few ways that our gut health affects our overall health:

  1. Our gut makes essential vitamins. Our friendly in-house gut microbes make amino acids, Vitamin K, B12, Folate, and Thiamine. Another fun fact – the key enzymes needed to form vitamin B12 are found only in bacteria. No gut bacteria = No vitamin B12!
  2. The gut turns fiber into energy. Our gut microbes are vital for metabolism. They ferment indigestible plants (fibre), turning them into short chain fatty acids. These fatty acids help fuel our body with energy, are anti-inflammatory and so much more.
  3. The gut microbiota influences our immune system. Our gut microbes are key to our immune response and help us fight off infections. A healthy gut is so powerful that it can prevent infection by pathogens and viruses!
  4. Gut health can affect mental health. Research shows that our gut has a mind of its own. No really, the gut is home to nerve cells, the same cells found in our brain. These cells that talk to each other through the gut brain axis. Bringing a whole new meaning to “going with your gut

As you can see, the gut is so important for our health. But not all of us have provided a great environment for our gut microbes. Unfortunately for our gut bugs, they don’t share our love of hand sanitizers, processed foods, couch potatoing and antibiotics. Meaning many of us have a lack of diversity and abundance of gut microbes. Science has long shown that these imbalances of our gut bacteria can lead to obesity, cancers, depression, IBS, IBD and other chronic diseases.

So truly, good health starts with good gut health. Keep reading to learn how to give your gut health a much-needed boost!

 

Food to improve gut health

Simple changes to improve your gut health

Lucky for us, as adults we can modify our gut health fairly easily. Our diet can affect the microbes in our gut in as quick as five days. Meaning that the influence of diet on our gut bacteria cannot be glazed over!

Limit animal proteins, fats, sugars and processed foods 

The “western diet” is notorious for being high in calories and low in nutrients. This diet is typically high in the saturated fat, animal protein, ultra-processed, and sugary food categories and ranks low in fiber and nutrients. Well, it turns out that our gut microbes rely on fiber and plant nutrients as their main source of food, and without them, they starve off. The western diet also promotes the growth of pathogenic bacteria, which can lead togut dysbiosis and to the development of disease. 

A healthy diet = a healthy gut. And while the key to gut health isn’t that easy, it is crucial to limit the foods that are known to harm our gut. 

Exercise for your gut

The spiciest health news on the block is that exercise can do more than just give you a good pump at the gym. Recent studies show that exercise can increase the diversity, number of, and the development of, beneficial bacteria in our gut. 

These results indicate that exercise can significantly affect our gut health. For this reason, consider adding more exercise into your routine. Simple changes like taking the stairs, going for a daily walk, or picking up a sport are a great place to start.

Sleep for your gut

Research shows that our gut microbes may have a sleep schedule of their own. We rely on circadian rhythms to regulate our sleep-wake cycle. They dictate when we fall asleep and wake up. Similarly, our gut microbes rely on microbial rhythms. Research shows that these rhythms are capable of influencing and disrupting each other – with consequences for our health and sleep.

While the relationships between sleep, our gut microbiota and health are atad complicated. There’s a clear link between sleep and gut health. Disruptive, poor sleep patterns can deteriorate gut health. On the other hand, maintaining good sleeping habits can keep our gut in a good rhythm. 

Don’t sleep on the benefits of a good night’s rest for gut health, aim for 7-9 hours each night for a good gut boost!

Load up on Fiber for Gut Health

Soluble fiber, insoluble fiber, prebiotic fibers. ALL of the fibers can boost our gut health. Fiber refers to the parts of plants that we can’t digest. Think corn, which is loaded with cellulose, an insoluble fiber. 

While we, humans, cannot digest it, our resident friendly gut microbes rely on fiber as their main source of energy. Meaning a high fiber diet is crucial for gut health. Also, eating many different sources of fiber can help to diversify our gut - and a diverse gut is a healthy gut!

Certain fibers, known as prebiotic fibers, are especially important for our health. They’re fermented by gut microbes and transformed into short chain fatty acids, which we now know are loaded with health benefits. 

  • To get your fill of fiber, consider adding more plants to your diet. Fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds are all great sources of fibers. Aim to eat at least 4 to 5 servings of plants each day, which is more than enough to stimulate gut health!
  • Intentionally set out to eat more prebiotic fibers. Good sources of prebiotic fiber are onions, garlic, asparagus, bananas, artichokes, apples, and oats.
  • For an easy fix of fiber consider Holy Crap cereal. Loaded with organic super seeds, dried fruits, and oats, Holy Crap contains over 7g of fiber in two tablespoons. Not to mention, it’s easy to add to almost any dish! Check out our gut-friendly recipes here.

In summary

While gut health is certainly a trendy topic, it’s influence on our health is here to stay. As science continues to uncover the benefits of gut health, there’s no question that caring for and fuelling our gut will always be relevant. 

We know that our gut microbes respond to changes in our diet. So, our best bet is enriching our gut with high fiber foods and while limiting the amount of processed, sugary foods we eat. Establishing a good exercise and sleep routine are staples of a good gut routine, and they definitely couldn’t hurt. Eat well, sleep well, be well!

 



References

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David, L. A., Maurice, C. F., Carmody, R. N., Gootenberg, D. B., Button, J. E., Wolfe, B. E., Ling, A. V., Devlin, A. S., Varma, Y., Fischbach, M. A., Biddinger, S. B., Dutton, R. J., & Turnbaugh, P. J. (2014). Diet rapidly and reproducibly alters the human gut microbiome.Nature,505(7484), 559–563. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature12820

Gentile, C. L., & Weir, T. L. (2018). The gut microbiota at the intersection of diet and human health.Science (New York, N.Y.),362(6416), 776–780. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aau5812 

Li, Y., Hao, Y., Fan, F., & Zhang, B. (2018). The Role of Microbiome in Insomnia, Circadian Disturbance and Depression.Frontiers in psychiatry,9, 669. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00669

Monda, V., Villano, I., Messina, A., Valenzano, A., Esposito, T., Moscatelli, F., Viggiano, A., Cibelli, G., Chieffi, S., Monda, M., & Messina, G. (2017). Exercise Modifies the Gut Microbiota with Positive Health Effects.Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity,2017, 3831972. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/3831972

Rinninella, E., Cintoni, M., Raoul, P., Lopetuso, L. R., Scaldaferri, F., Pulcini, G., Miggiano, G., Gasbarrini, A., & Mele, M. C. (2019). Food Components and Dietary Habits: Keys for a Healthy Gut Microbiota Composition.Nutrients,11(10), 2393. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11102393