How to Improve Gut Health
Things you’ll learn in this blog:
If you’re interested in health and losing weight, you’ve no doubt come across the term “gut health.” What’s going on in your stomach seems to be all the rage in the health industry.
And it makes sense, as your gut health can have a massive impact on the overall health of your body. Something that medical professionals have known for a long time, but still, it's easy to underestimate how powerful your gut is in terms of general health.
However, you can’t magically turn your gut into a health haven overnight, especially if you’ve spent years neglecting it.
Several factors affect a gut's health, from stress to diet, so you must take the right action before seeing results.
Not only is it essential to understand the actions you should take to improve the health of your gut, but you need to recognize bad habits which can compromise your gut health.
So, how can you improve your gut health to improve your overall health and increase your chance of weight loss?
- Related content: Is there a link between gut health and weight loss?
What is Gut Health?
First things first, let’s get clear on what gut health means…
Gut health is the balance of bacteria and microorganisms in your digestive tract. This is often referred to as the “gut microbiome.”
There are trillions (yes, trillions) of microorganisms in your gut - you could spend years counting them and still wouldn’t get close to the total amount.
A healthy gut requires that you achieve the right balance of “good” microorganisms. If this is thrown off balance, the “bad” bacteria can start to run havoc, leading to multiple common health complications.
Why Gut Health Matters and How it Can Impact Weight Loss
A healthy gut underpins your overall well-being. Many conditions can be traced back to an unhealthy gut.
When the gut is happy and healthy, it will ensure that your immune system is robust, your mental health is thriving, and you can digest food properly. Essentially your quality of life can be massively improved.
If you have an unhealthy gut, you might find yourself struggling with some of these symptoms:
- An upset stomach
- Poor mental health
- Sleep disturbances
- Autoimmune conditions
- Skin irritation
As you can see, gut health, although physical, can have an impact far beyond that - including mental health and immunity and more. Having an unhealthy gut can greatly impact your health, quality of life, and ability to lose weight.
It’s not uncommon for people to be hitting the gym 3-5 times a week, getting their 10,000 steps a day in and still struggling to lose weight.
And it could all come down to an unhealthy gut…
Suppose their gut has an unhealthy balance of bacteria - this causes them to crave unhealthy and sugary foods and creates problems in digesting food. It can make losing weight a nigh-on impossible task for them.
In other cases, an unhealthy gut can cause severe weight loss. When the gut is imbalanced, it can find it hard to absorb nutrients, store fat, and keep blood sugar levels under control. As a result, an individual might suddenly lose a lot of weight and struggle to regain it until they fix their gut health.
No matter what your specific weight loss or gain targets are, a healthy gut provides you with the platform to achieve them.
When your gut is unhealthy, though, it’s an uphill battle - so how do you fix it?
4 Ways to Improve your Gut Health…
The good news is that if you’ve got any of these symptoms, it’s relatively simple and easy to improve gut health. There are no complex plans you need to follow; or dieting gurus that you must consult with - but you do need to be consistent.
You need to do four things to improve gut health…
- Eat a healthy diet
- Introduce supplements
- Reduce your stress levels
- Exercise more
Let’s look into this..
1. Improve your diet for gut health…
When it comes to improving gut health, your diet is everything. So your number one priority should be to eat a healthy diet.
Giulia Enders, writer and gut specialist says:
“Every meal we eat, we influence the great microbial organ inside us – for better or for worse.”
Although nothing should be completely off-limits when it comes to diet, there are something that you should eat more off, and other things you should eat less of to improve your gut health.
What foods should you not eat for gut health?
Although we would never tell you to completely eliminate any foods from your diet, there are some that you should limit your intake of to improve on your gut health, including:
Processed foods are generally not good for your gut or the beneficial bacteria that lives in your body. Highly processed foods often contain lots of added sugar, fat and salt, not to mention all the other chemicals and preservatives. These additives are linked to metabolic changes, can destroy the “good” bacteria.
Examples of processed foods include microwave meals, pizzas, hot dogs - basically anything that has multiple ingredients you can’t pronounce.
So instead of eating processed foods, the best action plan is to make home-cooked meals. Not only is this a tastier proposition, but it ensures you know what is going into your body - you can track the ingredients and ensure that each one is as healthy as possible.
Fried foods are a real crowd-pleaser, but they contain high levels of fat, and are often cooked in oils high in saturated and trans fat.
These have the potential to irritate the stomach, causing causing diarrhea, gas, and stomach pain. And they are a haven for the harmful bacteria to multiply - overrunning the good gut bacteria that we need.
A diet high in sugar isn’t going to do your weight loss goals any good, but not just for the reasons you think. Sugar can play havoc with the “good” bacteria in your gut, plus it can cause inflammation in your body.
So, if you’re a “sugarholic,” try to avoid sugary foods, snacks, and drinks or switch them to low-sugar options. Soda is one of the main culprits for this worldwide, so try to swap them out for alternatives where you can.
The flipside of sugar is artificial sweeteners - often used as a replacement to sweeten drinks. Artificial sweeteners are the most widely used food additive in the world and will be in anything that says “no sugar” - such as your soda- to reduce sugar intake and the subsequent weight gain.
But these sweeteners may contribute to the problem they seek to solve by interacting with the gut microbiome, inadvertently causing weight gain.
So while they might be delicious and seemingly low calorie, they have an impact on gut health and, therefore, weight.
Soy is usually considered healthy and is often used as a substitute for meat in vegan and vegetarian diets. However, a diet high in soy may also negatively impact the gut bacteria as it reduces the production of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria, two “good” bacteria that the gut needs to function effectively.
This massively depends on the type of soy, and organic soy is healthy, especially when it’s fermented (natto, tempeh, or miso).
Alcohol is a big one, and although it’s a social lubricant that can help us have a good time, it can also harm the healthy bacteria in the microbiome.
According to research, one in three people drink alcohol (roughly 2.4 billion people). Unfortunately, many of these individuals consume alcohol far beyond the recommended limit, which often leads to alcoholism and long-term gut problems. Even if you don’t have a problem with drinking, it can still result in digestion issues, high blood pressure, and reduced immune capacity.
The main issue with alcohol consumption is that it slows stomach emptying, which can result in bacterial degradation of any food eaten.
You don’t have to stop drinking alcohol altogether for your gut health. But it is a good idea to reduce your alcohol intake if you currently drink large amounts during an average week.
Remember, there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself to the occasional bag of sweets or glasses of wine in the week. Life is all about balance, and if you are going to maintain a healthy lifestyle, then it needs to be sustainable for you.
Cutting out entire food groups will make them more enticing, and you’ll be drawn to them.
However, the problem arises when you consume these foods and drinks consistently.
Over time, they can start to negatively impact your gut and cause some of the problems discussed earlier in this article. So, if you currently struggle with eating or drinking too much of one of the listed items, you need to be proactive by reducing your intake.
What foods help to improve gut health?
So, now you know what foods you shouldn’t be eating (too much of).But what foods can you incorporate into your diet that can help you improve your gut health?
Probiotic-Rich & Fermented Foods
One way to offset the impact of the above food is to pack your diet with probiotic-rich, and fermented foods. These foods are full of “good” gut bacteria that can even help to fight off the “bad” bacteria.
Some examples of probiotic foods are:
- Sourdough bread
- Apple cider
Not only can these make delicious additions to your diet, but you’ll notice a positive difference to your health when you start to introduce them.
Although the name is the same, there is a distinction between probiotics and prebiotics. Probiotics contain the “good” bacteria, whereas prebiotics is types of fiber that “feed” and enhance the beneficial bacteria already in your system.
Prebiotic food includes things such as
- Whole grains
The good news is that they are generally cheap and easy to buy, so can easily be added to any diet.
It’s worth mentioning that alcohol, sugar, stress, and overuse of antibiotics can kill the positive effects of prebiotics, so make sure to bear this in mind as you move forward.
Fermented foods are a heaven-sent treat for the gut because they increase the beneficial bacteria in the gut, strengthen the biome, and enhance food preservation. Essentially, it’s the holy trinity.
Popular examples include
- raw cheeses
They are easy to source, and added daily in small amounts can help improve the gut microbiome.
Fruits & vegetable
Fruits and especially vegetables are essential for your gut health (and health in general).
Leafy greens, in particular (such as spinach and broccoli), are excellent sources of fiber and essential vitamins like Vitamin A. Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage are also highly recommended.
In this modern day and age, as well as a healthy, gut-friendly diet, it’s a good idea to introduce supplements to your diet to increase your pro and prebiotic intake. They are especially helpful if you’ve been unwell and been on a course on antibiotics, to ensure the “good” bacteria are replaced in your body.
Over recent years, probiotic supplements have become incredibly popular on the market. These supplements can help with digestion, reducing stress, and a more robust immune system – to name a few benefits.
They are not a replacement for a healthy diet, so you can’t just eat what you want and hope that supplements fix everything.
Prebiotic supplements are also popular, as well as general supplements like Zinc and Vitamin D.
Usually, most supplements are taken once (or twice) a day with a meal. However, if you buy supplements to improve your gut health, you should take your supplements in the morning with breakfast.
*Please speak to a health professional before taking any supplements.
- Related content: What is leaky gut syndrome? (and how to fix it)
3.Reduce Stress Levels…
Easier said than done…
But stress plays a major part in many people's lives, and can have a massive impact on your overall health including gut health. Many people aren’t aware of the link between stress, gut health, and overall health - but there is a strong link, and that’s partly down to the impact stress has on the gut microbiome.
For instance, stress can impact the stomach by increasing motor function in the large intestine. As a result, calories get burnt faster, leading to weight loss (this is why many people with high-stress levels are underweight).
To reduce your stress levels, there are various strategies you can try:
- Be physically and mentally active
- Fix your sleeping pattern
- Do yoga
- Spend more time outside
The automatic assumption is that diet is to blame, and it might well be. But reducing stress can also help with gut problems.
Getting your body moving, and exercising is a great idea regardless of gut health, as it will positively impact your overall quality of life.
However, exercise can also help increase the number of beneficial bacteria inside the gut and create a more robust immune system.
The COVID-19 pandemic started the at-home workout trend that has remained popular. However, you might prefer to join a gym or exercise in a public park (such as by going for runs) – it’s entirely your choice.
Some of the exercises that can help improve your gut health include
Generally, it’s recommended that adults do an average of 60 minutes of exercise per day. The exercise routines should be a combination of moderate and vigorous intensity levels to ensure that the maximum benefits are gained.
Ready to improve your gut health?
Improving your gut health might seem like a small thing, but it can have a massive impact on your overall health and your weight loss goals. It’s a great thing to get control of and it doesn’t have to be complicated - small consistent steps will help improve it over time.
A healthy gut is the key to a healthy body and life. Once you nail this, your body will thank you for it, and you’ll be much less likely to experience gut-related health problems. Remember to speak to your doctor or healthcare provider if you have further questions or concerns.
If you are still struggling to lose weight, after your gut is healthy then you may need a little extra help in the form of PhenQ.