Hey Angels & Alphas!
A while ago, we talked about the importance of keeping your gut healthy.
We learned what the gut microbiome is, as well as all the benefits that come with taking good care of it.
Hopefully, by now, you understand that taking this extra step toward improving your health brings incredible benefits to your overall fitness and wellbeing.
By keeping the bacteria in your gut healthy and productive, you’re going to see an increase in your energy levels, a strengthening of your immune system, as well as better memory and brain health.
And who doesn’t want that?!
Today, I want to give you some practical tips on keeping the bacteria in your gut working for you instead of against you!
Without further ado, let’s get into the 7 most popular science-backed ways to improve your gut health and achieve a balanced and productive microbiome!
When it comes to health, stress is always a crucial factor. Managing it is vital for your overall health, and not just your gut health.
Nevertheless, the connection between your gut microbiome and your brain has long been proven, and we know that the two communicate all the time!
Through gut hormone signaling, tryptophan signaling, microbial metabolites, and other similar pathways, the composition of your gut microbiome gets majorly altered.
This works both ways – if you’re experiencing inflammation or you have a leaky gut, this can contribute to developing stress-related disorders.
Studies on animals such as this one have concluded that even short-term psychological stress ultimately damages the microorganisms that “live” in your intestines.
That’s why I put stress first on this list – I believe that one of the best ways you can improve your gut health is to reduce daily stress with mindfulness, rest, and meditation.
That being said, there are two different “types” of stress that impact your gut health negatively, and they are:
- Psychological Stress
- Stressing the Senses (with deafening noises, very hot/cold weather, even unpleasant visual stimulus).
You can deal with these by using meditation, muscle relaxation, breathing exercises, foam rolling, or just a day at the spa.
One thing’s for sure – the world is at no shortage of ways to reduce stress. Make sure to use them!
Perhaps one of the most obvious ways people damage their gut health daily is by smoking.
Smoking not only affects your gut health but also dramatically increases the risk of cancer and has a negative impact on your heart and lungs.
In 2018, research was published that studied smokers over a span of 16 years! It found that smoking directly impacts the intestinal flora and increases the number of harmful microorganisms in your gut. You can check out the study here.
An even more recent study found out that smoking increases the chance of developing IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), as well as other systemic and intestinal conditions.
Avoid Sugar & Artificial Sweeteners
Let’s look at a couple of animal studies.
First, this 2015 research on diet and cognition concluded that animals on a Western diet (meaning a diet high in sugar and fat) had imbalanced gut bacteria levels, leading to worse nervous system performance and a variety of cognitive and behavioral changes.
Later on, another study on animals found out that aspartame (an artificial sweetener found in most store foods) increased the number of bacteria strains related to metabolic diseases. Metabolic diseases are conditions that increase the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease. Yikes!
Does any of this come as a surprise? If you’ve done some research on gut health, you most probably realize that sugar and artificial sweeteners wreak havoc on your microbiome. (Partly because of dysbiosis, a condition that imbalances gut microbes).
Moving on to a more human study, check this one out. It concluded that artificial sweeteners may be causing an increase in blood sugar, even though they’re not actually sugar. This means that they negatively impact blood glucose levels, which can lead to a variety of health complications.
It’s a fact – high-sugar diets alter the function and composition of your gut microbiome. Harmful bacteria loves sugar, so if you reduce your sugar intake, you’re substantially limiting your bad bacteria’s food supply!
So try to stay away from the western diets that are high in refined sugar and highly processed foods. Make sure you keep the sauces, sweet beverages, and candy to a minimum.
Speaking of bad foods…
I don’t know what you’ve heard about GMO, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t really on the positive side of the spectrum.
Technically, a genetically modified organism shouldn’t be all bad. But for the most part, these foods get modified in a way that lets them resist and withstand the harsh chemicals that get sprayed on them.
Every time you’re eating GMO food, you’re risking consuming a chemical known as glyphosate – a major contributor to dysbiosis and leaky guts.
Exercising on a Schedule
If you’re here, you’re probably someone who exercises regularly.
But did you know how much you’re doing for your health just by doing this?!
Everyone knows exercise is healthy and awesome, we’ve all heard this a billion times, but did you know that exercise is one of the most significant contributors to healthy gut microbiome composition? Not to mention, exercising regularly helps keep your heart healthy and your weight balanced.
Here’s a great study outlining the impacts of exercising on gut health and managing excess weight.
And here’s a great study from a couple years back that shows that athletes generally hold a wider variety of gut bacteria than nonathletes. (Their diets weren’t the same either, so take this with a grain of salt. No pun intended.)
From this, we learn that exercise increases the number of “good” species of bacteria in our body’s biome. Athletes were also reported to have a larger number of commensal bacteria – bacteria which we derive valuable nutrients from.
To make sure you’re getting the adequate amount of exercise to keep your gut healthy and balanced, the golden rule is at least 3 hours of moderate-intensity training every week.
Probiotics and Fermented Foods
Now we know that we should avoid sweets, processed foods, and GMO if we want to keep our gut biome healthy.
But are there any foods that benefit our gut bacteria?
Well, of course!
Some people just choose to use probiotic supplements that you can pretty much get at most food stores and drug stores. (Research has shown that they work and that they help prevent inflammation.)
But there are a couple of foods out there, classified as fermented foods.
They are a natural, chock-full source of probiotics, and consuming them has shown to improve gut health!
Some of them include:
Kefir – a delicious fermented probiotic milk drink.
Sauerkraut – a finely shredded cabbage that has been fermented by lactic acid.
Pickles – if they’re not made with vinegar, they’re really healthy, and they aid blood clotting.
Kombucha – delicious tea full of healthy probiotic properties.
Natto – a fermented soybean product. A Japanese staple dish that contains the healthy Bacillus subtilis bacteria.
Kimchi – a tasty (but spicy) Korean side dish. Contains bacteria that aid digestive health.
Getting Enough Sleep
I sort of wanted to talk about this in the “stress” section, but I believe it deserves its own.
Honestly, getting enough sleep (and that being good-quality sleep) is probably one of the biggest contributors to long-term microbiome balance.
But by improving both your mood and your cognition, it essentially works wonders for managing stress and aiding healthy bacteria.
Check this out – a study did on the irregular sleep habits of animals! It concluded that disturbed sleep is directly linked to high risks of inflammatory conditions, which in turn are directly connected to the gut microbiome!
This is big! A regular sleep schedule, going to bed at the same time every day, and focusing on the quality of your sleep are all things that will positively impact your gut health!
The truth is, poor sleep changes the composition of that microbiome in a bad way.
The golden rule of thumb is at least 7 hours of sleep every night. The focus shouldn’t really be on length but on sleep quality. Think about your breathing patterns, your pet disturbing your sleep, snoring, etc. Fixing these things goes a long way toward improving your sleep quality.
Keeping your gut healthy has a variety of benefits for your body and your mind.
By taking these actionable steps toward keeping your gut microbiome balanced and healthy, you’re doing more for your health than you believe.
Honestly, with all the benefits that a healthy gut brings, you can’t not work toward it.
If you’re here, you probably want to improve your health, your physique, and your cognition (among other things).
And every method I’ve shared with you today will help you do just that.
Basically, you can use this as your “healthy lifestyle checklist,” but always remember to consult your doctor/physician before making any drastic changes to your diet/lifestyle.