When it comes to our overall well-being, we often overlook the true powerhouse within us: the gut! The gut, often referred to as the second brain, plays a role in digestion, immune function, metabolism, weight management, mood and more. Taking care of your gut is essential for maintaining overall health and wellbeing. Here are some practical and effective gut health tips that will help you cultivate a thriving inner ecosystem.
1. Variety is the spice of life Incorporating a variety of foods is essential for gut health because it helps support a diverse and thriving gut microbiome. Different types of foods contain various nutrients and fibers that serve as nourishment for various types of beneficial gut bacteria. A diverse diet provides a broader range of nutrients that can support the growth of various microbial species, leading to a more diverse and balanced gut microbiota.
2. Focus on fiber Fiber is the ultimate companion for a happy gut. This indigestible component found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes acts as food for the good bacteria in your gut. The more fiber you consume, the more your beneficial gut bacteria thrive, supporting smooth digestion and promoting gut health. The 2020–2025 USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans estimate that a shocking 97% of men and 90% of women do not meet their recommended intakes for dietary fiber. The recommended average daily intake for dietary fiber is 22-28 grams for adult women and 28-34 grams for adult men. These recommendations are based on levels observed to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
3. Prioritize prebiotics Prebiotics are non-digestible dietary fibers that serve as a source of nutrition for beneficial gut bacteria (probiotics). Unlike probiotics, which are live microorganisms, prebiotics are non-living substances found in certain foods. These substances are not broken down or absorbed in the upper gastrointestinal tract but instead reach the colon intact, where they can selectively stimulate the growth and activity of specific beneficial bacteria helping them exert their positive effects on the gut and overall health. Think of prebiotics as the fertilizer that helps your gut garden bloom! Common sources of prebiotics include garlic, onions, bananas, asparagus, and oats.
4. Fermented foods are your friends Probiotics are the superheroes of gut health. When you eat probiotics, you are consuming live microorganisms, mainly beneficial bacteria and some yeast strains, that can confer health benefits when ingested in sufficient quantities. They are often referred to as "friendly bacteria" because of their positive effects on our health. The primary function of probiotics is to help maintain a balanced and healthy gut microbiome. The gut microbiome is a complex ecosystem of microorganisms that live in the digestive tract and play a crucial role in digestion, nutrient absorption, immune function and overall health. These friendly bacteria can be found in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut. Chobani Daily Probiotics Drinks contain billions of probiotics and are a convenient and delicious way to start your day. You can also add a serving of sauerkraut or kimchi to your egg scramble.
5. Consider a high-quality probiotic supplement Probiotic supplements can be a valuable addition to your wellness toolkit, especially if you don't consume fermented foods regularly. Probiotic supplements offer a convenient and reliable way to help ensure we maintain a healthy balance of beneficial gut bacteria to support digestion, immunity and overall gut health. When it comes to probiotics supplements, it’s all about the strain. I recommend TruBiotics probiotics because the brand uses clinically studied types of good bacteria – Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus, and B subtilis which have been proven to help with digestive health. I personally like TruBiotics Daily Probiotic Vegetarian Capsules because it uses a blend of Bifidobacterium animalis BB-12® and Lactobacillus acidophilus LA-5®, which have been proven to be one of the most clinically studied probiotic combinations to supporting digestive and immune health. Furthermore, BB-12 has one of the best survivability rates in the gastrointestinal tract among all probiotic strains.
10. Manage stress: Stress can significantly impact gut health due to the complex bidirectional communication between the gut and the brain, known as the gut-brain axis. When we experience stress, it can manifest in various ways that negatively affect the gut. For one, stress alters the composition and diversity of the gut microbiome. The delicate balance of beneficial and harmful bacteria can be disrupted, potentially leading to gut dysbiosis. Chronic stress can also weaken the gut lining, making it more permeable. Increased permeability allows harmful substances, toxins and undigested food particles to leak into the bloodstream, triggering inflammation and potentially contributing to various gut- related disorders. Meditation, yoga, exercise and spending time in nature can help with stress management and ultimately promote a healthier gut-brain connection. Your gut health is far more than just digestion; It's the foundation of overall well-being. Taking care of your gut involves incorporating simple yet powerful practices into your daily routine. From enjoying a diverse diet filled with colorful fruits and vegetables to savoring probiotic-rich fermented foods, each step you take nourishes your gut microbiome and contributes to a healthier you.
Mia Syn is a nationally recognized nutrition expert and host of Good Food Friday on ABC 4. She holds a master of science in human nutrition from Columbia University and has been featured by dozens of major media outlets including Women's Health Magazine, Cosmopolitan and BuzzFeed. As one of the most recognized and trusted young dietitians in the country, she has helped hundreds of clients and millions of readers and viewers lose weight, improve their health, and adopt healthier eating habits.