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How to Improve Gut Health: 7 Tips

Medically approved by
Dr Earim Chaudry
Last updated
17th September 2021

In 30 seconds…

To improve gut health, stay hydrated, well-rested, and stress-free, whilst maintaining a healthy, balanced diet. Whole grains, fermented foods (like kimchi and sauerkraut), and legumes all promote healthy gut bacteria. Poor gut health causes problems for skin, weight, sleep and overall health.

Your Gut: A Tireless System

It’s easy to dismiss just how hard your gut is working. Not only does it turn everything you eat and drink into energy and nutrition, but it’s also one of your immune system’s first lines of defence against disease. Plus, it plays an essential role in regulating your mood and energy levels too.

All in all, it’s not to be underestimated – and for the benefit of both it and you, it’s important to keep it in tip-top condition.

Here, we share seven ways to help you improve gut health. But first, let’s look at some signs that your digestive tract might not be as healthy as it could be.

Signs of an Unhealthy Gut

The health of your gut can have an impact on many different aspects of your health and well-being. However, it’s often difficult to know that your gut is the ultimate cause.

Some signs that your gut might not be in full health include:

  • Bloating: It’s when your belly feels all swollen. While it usually happens after eating, it can happen at other times too. It can be a sign of excess gas or a disturbance of your gut microbiome, the collection of bacteria in your gut.
  • Constipation or diarrhoea: Changes to your poo can be a sign of poor gut health. Diarrhoea is more noticeable, but any strain or any feeling that you’re not quite finished can signal something is up. Let’s not be squeamish about it, guys. Keeping an eye on your stool is vitally important.
  • Skin problems: One of those symptoms you may not have expected, skin conditions can result from poor gut health. Eczema can be linked to a damaged gut, while excessively oily, irritated, or spotty skin can be too.
  • Sleep interruptions: If you feel regularly tired or wake up without reason during the night, your digestive health may be to blame. Unfortunately, getting enough sleep is a crucial way to help gut health, but it can be hard if it feels out of your control.
  • Low energy: Conditions like chronic fatigue have been linked to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). That’s because your gut plays a crucial role in your ability to produce energy.
  • Weight changes: Unexplained weight loss or gain may be down to changes in your gut health.

How to Improve Gut Health: Some Starting Points

Let’s take a look at some effective ways to manage your gut health. These are the fundamentals for a healthy digestive system – and good health overall.

If you still have symptoms of an unhealthy gut after working these changes into your lifestyle, talk to a doctor. They’ll be able to help you rule out any illnesses or intolerances.

1. Stay Hydrated

Your gut needs water to be able to do its thing. If you’re dehydrated, it’s much more difficult for food to pass. Usually, constipation is the result.

The NHS suggests we drink 6 to 8 glasses of water a day. That’s about 1.5 litres. It’ll help everything move as it should.

2. Keep Alcohol to a Minimum – Cigarettes Too

Studies have found that alcohol consumption can negatively affect the balance of gut bacteria, inflame the digestive system, and in some cases, cause the gut lining to become thinner. This can have potentially serious effects on your overall gut health.

While in small doses, alcohol won’t do much harm – particularly if you have small quantities of red wine, which is rich in antioxidant polyphenols – excessive drinking should be avoided.

By the way, smoking has been found to have a significant effect on your gut microbiome too.

3. Exercise

Exercise is one of those wonder drugs that can improve many aspects of our health, from our mental health to our heart. Recent studies have found it can promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut, reducing inflammation and the risk of inflammatory bowel disease and type-2 diabetes.

If you can, aiming for 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week is recommended.

4. Find Ways to Destress

Stress can affect many parts of our bodies. Gut health can suffer due to stress in several ways:

  • It can disrupt the way your brain and gut communicate, making bloating, pain, and discomfort more likely.
  • When stressed, people tend to eat less healthily, opting for easy, palatable foods more often. These tend to be high in fats and sugars, which can irritate the gut.
  • High stress levels cause you to rush eating. This makes it more difficult for your gut to digest your food.

Strategies like mindfulness and meditation – or simply exercising or doing what you love – can help you manage stress better.

5. Try to Improve Your Sleep

An unhealthy gut can interrupt your sleep, and poor sleep can affect your gut health. It’s a vicious cycle in which your gut microbiome can become imbalanced, and you feel low on energy. At some point, this cycle needs to be interrupted.

Exercise can make sleep easier while finding ways to improve your bedtime routine can help you wind down and relax.

Read more: How much sleep should you have?

6. Maintain a Balanced Diet

You are what you eat and all that. More concretely, what you eat has a huge impact on the health of your gut.

Try to eat a diet rich in a wide variety of food groups while keeping foods high in processed fats and sugars to a minimum. Your food choices affect which microbes grow in your gut. Finding a balance is key.

To start, try to eat more of the following:

  • Fruit and vegetables: They tend to be high in fibre, which helps promote healthy bacteria in your gut. It also keeps things moving smoothly.
  • Legumes: These guys – lentils, pulses, and beans – are famous whole foods rich in fibres, vitamins, and other essential nutrients.
  • Fermented foods: There’s a lot of hype about the benefits of fermented foods like yoghurt, sauerkraut, kefir, and tempeh for your stomach – and rightly so. Studies have found that they improve the health of your intestines.
  • Prebiotic foods: Prebiotics are nutrients that you can’t digest, but they’re highly digestible for the good bacteria in your gut. Whole grains, fruits, and veg tend to be prebiotic.

7. Try Gut Health Supplements

Supplements for gut health can give you both the prebiotics and probiotics you need to maintain a balanced gut. These help support the cultures of microorganisms like lactobacillus and bifidobacteria that make up important parts of your microbiome.

Studies have shown that the right probiotics can help your immune system and your mental health and may help you tackle obesity. Try Manual’s gut care supplements today

Remember, though, supplements are just supplements. Take them as part of a balanced diet.

Do You Still Have Symptoms? Check for Intolerances or Illness

Finally, if you still have problems with your gut health, take yourself to a doctor. They’ll help you establish whether you have a more specific problem, such as food intolerance or an allergy.

There’s no need for you to suffer by yourself. A doctor can help.

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Key Takeaways

Gut health is something that’s often neglected by many. It shouldn’t be. Your gut has a significant impact on sleep, your mood, and the health of your skin, heart, and insulin levels, among other things.

How to improve gut health? Try exercising, staying hydrated, and ensuring you get enough sleep. Changing up your diet to include all the prebiotic and probiotic foods you need will be crucial too.

FAQs

What does your gut do?

Your gut not only breaks down the food and drink you consume and converts it into energy, it’s also the first line of defence against disease.

How do I know if my gut’s unhealthy?

Signs that you’ve got an unhealthy gut include bloating, skin problems, constipation or diarrhea, trouble sleeping, low energy, and weight changes.

What should I do if I have symptoms of an unhealthy gut?

The best way to help improve the health of your gut is to drink more water, eat a healthy diet, exercise more, try to get a better sleep, cut down on alcohol and cigarettes, and destress, if possible.

What can cause an unhealthy gut?

If your gut’s health is not improved by changing your lifestyle, it may be that you are suffering from food intolerances, allergies, or some other illness.

While we've ensured that everything you read on the Health Centre is medically reviewed and approved, information presented here is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.

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