Natural ways to improve your gut health
Gut health – and the importance of looking after it – has gained a big reputation in recent years, for good reason.. While research continues to uncover more and more about how your gut’s microbiome contributes to your health, we already know it can influence:
- your mood
- your sleep
- how easy you find it to lose weight, and
- how likely you are to accumulate stomach fat rather than other varieties, if you gain weight.
In fact, the results of a 2021 study even linked poor gut health to experiencing more severe symptoms if you contract COVID-19. Yikes.
Keen to take steps to give your gut health a boost? Here’s a handful of science-backed strategies to try.
Eat more plant-based foods.
This means everything from fruit and vegetables to legumes, cereals, wholegrains, and nuts and seeds. When people did that by ‘going vegan’ for 16 weeks for a study, the makeup of their gut bacteria improved significantly. One explanation is that a wide range of plant-based foods are packed with the prebiotic fibres that feed your gut’s ‘good’ bacteria. Another is that fruit and vegetables are loaded with polyphenols, compounds that have also been shown to have a positive impact on gut bacteria. And the best news is that the beneficial gut-health changes triggered by going plant-based can occur within a matter of days.
Do some regular exercise.
That’s always a good idea for your health in general, but it’s great for your gut health too. Research proves it, finding that simply by choosing to do something physically active most days of the week, you’ll encourage levels of healthy gut bacteria to flourish and levels of unhealthy types to fall.
Get enough sleep.
Yes, your gut health does influence the quality of your sleep, but it works the other way, too. In fact, missing out on just a couple of good nights’ sleep in a row is enough to temporarily mess with the ratio of healthy-to-unhealthy bacteria in your gut. The short story? For the sake of your gut health (and a whole lot of other things) prioritise sleep.
Start – or keep – eating fermented foods.
Whether it’s sauerkraut or kimchi, as long as its been fermented rather than preserved using something like vinegar as most shelf-stable products are, fermented foods deliver a hit of probiotics. Essentially they’re live bacteria that add to the population of bacteria already living in your gut, helping to restore its ‘healthy’ versus ‘unhealthy’ bacterial balance.
Say goodbye to saturated fat.
Well, not farewell forever, but it does pay to keep a lid on it for the sake of your gut health. Diets high in saturated fat not only encourage the growth of harmful species of gut bacteria, they also reduce the diversity of bacteria that live there, which isn’t good news, either. Limit your saturated fat intake by eating leaner cuts of meat, reduced-fat dairy foods and choosing processed foods that contain less than 3g of saturated fat per 100g.
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