Our gut is the queen of our health. When our gut is doing well, we are well. But unfortunately, when it is suffering, so will we.
Our gut (gastrointestinal tract) is the tube that goes from the back of our mouth to our anus and is completely responsible for the breaking down, processing, and absorption of the nutrients we get from food.
More than just being responsible for the digestion of our food, the gut is full of good bacteria which are responsible for our overall health and wellness. However, as we age, the ratio of good to bad bacteria changes. This is expedited by unhealthy living practices or factors such as consuming processed foods, environmental toxins, and stress.
Having a healthy gut is vital to our health and below are 7 simple ways to improve and maintain gut health, boosting your overall vitality.
1. Taking a probiotic
The easiest and perhaps the most popular approach to optimum gut health is the use of probiotics.
Antibiotics have been a welcomed addition to modern society because they allow us to treat a variety of infections so we can lead healthier lives, and though they are very effective, one downside is that they sometimes (especially with prolonged use) also kill the good bacteria in our system while trying to get rid of the bad (1).
Probiotics are the opposite of antibiotics. They build up and supplement the healthy bacteria and microbes that our bodies need to keep us healthy. They also help to restore our microbiota following disease, antibiotic use, and other disruptive events.
Having a healthy level of gut bacteria not only keeps our digestive tract in good shape, but it helps us to fight off viruses, infections, and even depression (2) (3).
2. Up your prebiotic intake
We’ve talked about antibiotics and probiotics but a third stakeholder in our gut health is prebiotics. Prebiotics (also called prebiotic fiber) are essentially food for the friendly bacteria in our digestive system. They cannot be digested by the human body itself but they feed our beneficial bacteria, helping with their growth and replication.
Foods known to be high in prebiotic fiber include: bananas, oats, onions, garlic, asparagus, chicory root, and Jerusalem artichoke.
3. Eating more raw, organic foods
Over the past few decades, foods have become so processed that they have lost their dense nutrients and do not properly nourish us. On top of that, the pesticides and antibiotics that most of our foods are treated with are inflammatories, which cause bloating and negatively affects the gut.
Raw and organic foods contain all the nutrients we are designed to take in, and they are free of antibiotics, herbicides, and pesticides that negatively affect our gut by killing off our healthy bacteria.
Several decades of consistently mistreating our good bacteria add up and leave our digestive system begging for help. Eating organic, unprocessed food is an awesome way to provide that help and steer your long-term gut health in the right direction.
4. Having a collagen-rich diet
Our bodies are made up of 30% collagen and 70% of that is tissues in our body, including our gut lining. Collagen is a protein that is essential for the rebuilding, firming, and tightening of our skin, bones, and body tissues. Collagen is meant to help heal the gut lining and tighten it up, which makes less room for toxins to exit our gut and enter our bloodstream.
Just like our skin breaks down and thins as we age, so does the lining of our gut. Collagen is essential for rebuilding our skin and gut lining alike and is easy to consume by using supplements or having a diet with collagen rich foods.
5. Add more fermented foods to your diet
Fermented foods contain microflora, which helps to build the protective lining in our gut. Fermented foods are also a good swap for traditional condiments. Ketchup is high in sugar and other highly processed ingredients (remember what we said about those in #3?).
Swapping ketchup for fermented tomatoes is not only a more tasty option to traditional condiments, but it also adds a healthy dose of probiotics to your meal. Fermented produce is an easy way to add more fermented foods into your diet, but some other top contenders are kombucha, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi, and yogurt.
6. Avoiding Stress
Your mental state also has an impact on your gut health. Chronic stress is one of the underrated and underreported contributors to a compromised gastrointestinal tract.
Stress causes harm in several ways, ranging from changing the permeability of the walls of the tract to affecting the composition of good to bad bacteria.
Unfortunately, avoiding stress is easier said than done. However, a good place to start is by identifying stressors in your life and removing them, if possible. You can also incorporate more fun or relaxing activities in your life to counter the negatives of the stressors, especially if they cannot be removed (for example, your job).
You may think of exercise as a way to get a flat stomach, but it is so much more than that. Regular exercise has been shown to positively alter the composition of gut bacteria.
In one particular study, regular exercise over a six week period increased gut microbes that help to produce short chain fatty acids which reduce the risk of inflammatory diseases (4).
Gut health is one of the often overlooked aspects of overall wellness. It also doesn’t help that as we get older, it gets harder to maintain a good gut microbiome which is necessary for delaying, preventing or alleviating a variety of diseases and their negative symptoms.
However, by making these 7 simple changes, you can put your gut in the best position to work efficiently and have you feeling your best in the second half of your life.
This guest post was graciously provided by Trysh Sutton, founder of Pure Path, a community focused on improving health and living life with more happiness and abundance.