How To Improve Your Gut Health (2023)

You’ve probably heard the term “gut health” and know that “good” gut health is desirable. But what does it really mean to have a healthy gut? It means having the right balance of tiny bacteria and other microbes in your digestive tract. Researchers are increasingly discovering ways these microorganisms contribute to overall health.

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“A healthy gut means you have a stronger immune system, a better mood, effective digestion that’s free of discomfort and a healthy brain and heart,” says Sabine Hazan, M.D., a gastroenterologist, founder of Ventura Clinical Trials in Ventura, California, and author of “Let’s Talk S—.

5 Science-Backed Ways to Restore Gut Health

Certain foods and healthy lifestyle habits can improve your gut health naturally.

(Video) 5 tips to keep your gut microbiome healthy | UCLA Health Newsroom

1. Eat Fiber-Rich and Probiotic-Packed Foods

Fiber is a plant-based nutrient that reduces the risk of metabolic diseases by stimulating the growth and diversity of good bacteria in the gut, research suggests. Sweet potatoes, spinach, beets, carrots and fennel are full of naturally gut-enhancing fiber. Besides fruits and vegetables, whole grains are a rich source of fiber, too.

Fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha are also prized for their gut-boosting abilities, thanks to the presence of probiotics. Yogurt specifically may help calm gastrointestinal conditions like diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease and constipation. One study found people who eat yogurt regularly have more lactobacilli, a gut-benefitting bacteria, in their intestines, as well as fewer enterobacterium, a type of bacteria linked with inflammation.

2. Consider a Supplement

Probiotic supplements have become increasingly popular as word of the importance of gut health continues to spread. While probiotic supplements aren’t a panacea for gut health, there’s some evidence they can give the microbiota a boost and restore gut health under certain conditions.

Your doctor may also recommend a probiotic supplement if you’re prescribed an antibiotic. Evidence suggests this may help prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea.

If you’re interested in a probiotic supplement, talk to your doctor. While such supplements have a history of apparently safe use, especially in healthy people, the risk of harmful effects is greater in people with compromised immune systems.

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3. Exercise Often

Movement is medicine for so many parts of the human body, including the microbiome. In both animal and human studies, researchers have found that exercise promotes an increase in diversity of healthy bacteria in the gut.

While several studies highlight the roles exercise and diet can play together in positively impacting gut health, a 2019 review specifically reported that exercise has the potential to alter gut bacteria composition and functionality independently of diet. Researchers found longer workouts and high-intensity aerobic training, in particular, contributed most to gut bacteria diversity and function in relation to overall wellness. They also observed that lean people are more likely to reap the gut health benefits of exercise than individuals with overweight or obesity.

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4. Limit Your Alcohol Intake

Drinking too much may negatively affect your microbiome, too. Repeated alcohol use is linked to gastritis, an irritation of the gut in which it becomes inflamed. Such inflammation can lead to heartburn, chronic discomfort, ulcers and bacterial infections.

Drinking too much is also associated with intestinal inflammation, which is a sign of an unhealthy gut. Research suggests that this kind of inflammation alters the microbiota—including how well it works—and can throw it off balance.

5. Reduce Stress Levels

Stress isn’t just mental: Think about those butterflies you feel when you’re excited or anxious. Experts in gut health often cite the “gut-brain connection” and refer to the gut as “the second brain.” While we don’t know everything about their relationship, we do know that mental health and the gut are intimately connected.

Research suggests anxiety and depression are affected by the gut and vice versa—they can increase the risk of IBS, and people with IBS are more likely to experience these mental health disorders.

Finding ways to manage your mental health and stress levels may help reduce uncomfortable GI symptoms and get your body back in balance. Don’t know where to start? Try adding some physical activity to your day. Something as simple as a daily walk might improve gut health, as research suggests exercise can increase the quality and quantity of health-boosting gut microbes.

(Video) Your Gut Microbiome: The Most Important Organ You’ve Never Heard Of | Erika Ebbel Angle | TEDxFargo

Why Gut Health Matters

Your gut—otherwise known as your digestive system or your gastrointestinal (GI) system— digests the foods you eat, absorbs nutrients from it and uses those nutrients to fuel and maintain your body.

“The gut plays a huge role in the health and well-being of our bodies,” says Alicia Romano, a specialized clinical dietitian at Tufts Medical Center in Boston and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In addition to digesting food and absorbing nutrients, “the gut is in tight communication with the brain, playing a constant game of telephone and influencing a number of factors, including immune activity, GI muscle contractions and fluid secretion. And the gut is a key player in the body’s immune system—over 70% of your immune cells reside in the gut.”

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About Your Microbiome

The microbiome is all of the bacteria, viruses and fungi that inhabit the human body, says Dr. Hazan.

These bacteria are everywhere, including the skin, mouth, throat, stomach, colon, uterus, ovarian follicles, prostate, lungs, ears and eyes. “You name it, and there are microorganisms nearby,” Dr. Hazan says, adding that research has identified around 10,000 different microbial species in the human body.

Microbiologists divide bacteria into two categories: aerobic, meaning they require oxygen, and anaerobic, meaning they don’t require oxygen. “Bacteria that live on the skin are aerobic while those that thrive in the gut are usually anaerobic,” Dr. Hazan explains. “The microbiome is the key; it influences all sorts of health conditions from cancer to COVID-19.”

Signs and Symptoms of an Unhealthy Gut

One less-than-pleasant sign something’s up with your gut? Unfamiliar changes in your poop.

“If you notice abrupt changes to your stool length, color or consistency, this may be cause for concern,” Dr. Hazan says. “Normal stool should be brown and never include blood.”

Because so much of the population experiences issues with their bowels during certain points of their lives, doctors developed the Meyers Scale (aka Bristol Scale) to help patients describe their poop “without bringing in colored photos,” Dr. Hazan says. Different numbers on the scale are associated with different bowel movement issues, so consider checking out the scale to help communicate your concerns to your physician.

Still, it’s important to remember what’s considered normal to you. “If your poop has looked like Silly Putty your whole life and you don’t experience any pain, this could be your normal,” says Dr. Hazan, explaining that describing something as “normal” is all relative.

Beyond the status of your bowel movements, there are other signs your gut could use some attention. While everyone needs to be concerned about their gut health, Dr. Hazan says, the following symptoms may signal that your gut health could use some attention. Schedule some time with your physician if you experience:

(Video) 7 Ways to Improve GUT HEALTH

  • Abnormal weight loss
  • Anemia diagnosed by your doctor
  • Change/pain in bowel habits
  • Rectal bleeding

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Myhrstad MC, Tunsjø H, Charnock C, Telle-Hansen VH. Dietary Fiber, Gut Microbiota, and Metabolic Regulation—Current Status in Human Randomized Trials. Nutrients. 2020;12(3):859.

Klinder A, Shen Q, Heppel S, Lovegrove JA, Rowland I, Tuohy KM. Impact of increasing fruit and vegetables and flavonoid intake on the human gut microbiota. Food & Function. 2016;7(4):1788-1796.

Vitamin K. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. Accessed 5/12/2021.

Grizotte-Lake M, Zhong G, Duncan K, et al. Commensals Suppress Intestinal Epithelial Cell Retinoic Acid Synthesis to Regulate Interleukin-22 Activity and Prevent Microbial Dysbiosis. Immunity. 2018;49(6).

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Fiber in Whole Grains. Oldways Whole Grains Council. Accessed 5/11/2021.

Short-term study suggests vegan diet can boost gut microbes related to body weight, body composition and blood sugar control. Science Daily. Accessed 5/11/2021.

(Video) How can I drastically improve gut health?

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The whole truth about whole grains. Mayo Clinic. Accessed 5/5/2021.

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Probiotics: What You Need To Know. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Accessed 5/12/2021.

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Alcohol and Gut-Derived Inflammation. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Accessed 5/12/2021.

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How can I improve my gut health fast? ›

Eating a plant-based diet that includes fermented foods and fiber from colorful fruits and vegetables, having healthy sleep habits and managing stress levels are other ways to support a healthy gut. If you want to adopt a healthier lifestyle, start easy with small diet changes and build from there.

What foods are good for gut repair? ›

Gut Health Foods - 15 Foods For Good Gut Health
  • Yoghurt. Live yoghurt is an excellent source of so-called friendly bacteria, also known as probiotics. ...
  • Kefir. ...
  • Miso. ...
  • Sauerkraut. ...
  • Kimchi. ...
  • Sourdough. ...
  • Almonds. ...
  • Olive oil.
4 Apr 2022

How do I detox my gut? ›

Drinking lukewarm water has been shown to be good for digestion as well. Also, try eating plenty of foods high in water content. This includes fruits and vegetables like watermelons, tomatoes, lettuce, and celery. In fact, there are lots of foods that help cleanse the colon naturally through diet.

What are signs of poor gut health? ›

Signs of poor gut health
  • Autoimmune problems, such as thyroid issues, rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes.
  • Digestive issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn or bloating.
  • Sleep issues.
  • Skin rashes and allergies.
  • Sugar cravings.
  • Unexplained fatigue or sluggishness.

What are the 3 Superfoods for your gut? ›

The Best Superfoods For Gut Health
  • Leafy Greens. Leafy greens are a powerful prebiotic and are high in vitamins C, K, B complex, folic acid, beta carotene, iron, iodine, calcium, potassium, magnesium, sulphur and chlorophyll. ...
  • Asparagus. ...
  • Oats. ...
  • Leeks. ...
  • Greek Yoghurt. ...
  • Apples. ...
  • Ginger.

How can I detox my gut in 3 days? ›

What is a 3-day gut reset?
  1. removing foods that feed harmful bacteria and cause inflammation.
  2. introducing plenty of prebiotic foods, which feed beneficial bacteria.
  3. encouraging healthful practices, such as getting enough sleep and exercise and staying hydrated.
26 Oct 2020

How do you reverse poor gut health? ›

A healthy, low stress lifestyle with an emphasis on sleep, exercise, and plant-based foods is the best way to support a healthy gut. But if you're only going to stick with one thing: Change your diet to include more whole foods and fresh vegetables. This will have the single biggest impact.

Are eggs good for gut health? ›

As part of a balanced diet, eggs contribute to a healthy digestive tract and can be helpful during acute digestive problems. In addition to being packed with nutrients, eggs are usually easy to digest compared to some other high-protein foods, such as meat and legumes.

What foods to avoid if you have a gut problem? ›

5 Foods to Avoid When Digestive Troubles Arise
  • Spoiled or unwashed foods. Bacteria from old or raw foods can cause food poisoning, cramps, or other issues if it gets into your system. ...
  • Spicy and hot foods. Foods with a bit of a kick can trigger problems like heartburn. ...
  • Dairy products. ...
  • Acidic foods. ...
  • Alcohol.
22 Jan 2020

Does fasting reset your gut? ›

Fasting during prolonged periods gives the gut the time it needs to restore its integrity. This is especially important for those with “leaky gut”, also called intestinal permeability, where the gut lining is weakened thereby allowing toxins, partially digested foods and pathogens to enter the bloodstream.

How do you know if your gut needs to be cleaned? ›

Signs of An Unhealthy Gut
  1. Frequent Digestive Discomfort. No one likes to deal with bloating, gas, cramping, heartburn, and other uncomfortable gut situations. ...
  2. Mood Swings. ...
  3. Unexpected Weight Changes. ...
  4. Bathroom Routine Changes. ...
  5. Non-Allergic Food Reactions. ...
  6. A Sweet Tooth Takeover. ...
  7. Chronic Fatigue. ...
  8. Go Natural.
19 Apr 2019

How do I empty my gut in a day? ›

Drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated is a great way to regulate digestion. People who support a water flush for colon cleansing recommend drinking six to eight glasses of lukewarm water per day. Also try eating plenty of foods high in fiber & water content.

How do you test if your gut is healthy? ›

If you're wondering whether your digestive tract may be performing at its best, look for the following signs of a healthy gut:
  1. Regular and pain-free bowel movements.
  2. Consistent energy.
  3. Normal amount of gas and bloating.
  4. Healthy bowel transit time.
  5. Mental clarity.
  6. Healthy reactions to food and stress.
16 Jun 2022

How long does it take to improve gut health? ›

Building a healthy microbiome can take up to 6 months if the correct healthy habits are adopted (diet, exercise, sleep and stress management - and also supplements if needed) however it really is a lifelong journey because you need to continue these habits to maintain a healthy microbiome.

What foods are hardest on the gut? ›

Worst Foods for Digestion
  • Fried Foods. 1/10. They're high in fat and can bring on diarrhea. ...
  • Citrus Fruits. 2/10. Because they're high in fiber and they are acidic, they can give some folks an upset stomach. ...
  • Artificial Sugar. 3/10. ...
  • Too Much Fiber. 4/10. ...
  • Beans. 5/10. ...
  • Cabbage and Its Cousins. 6/10. ...
  • Fructose. 7/10. ...
  • Spicy Foods. 8/10.
30 Aug 2021

Are bananas good for your gut? ›

Bananas are another low-fructose fruit that are fiber-rich and contain inulin, a substance that stimulates the growth of good bacteria in the gut.

What is the best fruit for gut health? ›

Incorporating these fruits into your diet is a tasty and healthy way to keep your gut flora happy and thriving!
  1. Pears. As you may know, fibre plays a huge role in supporting gut health. ...
  2. Bananas. ...
  3. Apples. ...
  4. Blueberries. ...
  5. Kiwis. ...
  6. Peaches. ...
  7. Grapefruit. ...
  8. Pomegranate.
22 Jul 2022

How can I restore my gut naturally? ›

9 Ways to Improve Your Gut Bacteria, Based on Science
  1. Eat a diverse range of foods. ...
  2. Eat lots of vegetables, legumes, beans, and fruit. ...
  3. Eat fermented foods. ...
  4. Eat prebiotic foods. ...
  5. If you can, breastfeed for at least 6 months. ...
  6. Eat whole grains. ...
  7. Eat a plant-based diet. ...
  8. Eat foods rich in polyphenols.

What causes an unhealthy gut? ›

Diet and lifestyle factors, including poor sleep quality, alcohol consumption and inactivity, can harm your gut bacteria. Alternatively, living a healthy lifestyle characterized by regular physical activity, low stress and a variety of whole foods is the best way to ensure a healthy gut flora.

What does leaky gut feel like? ›

"Leaky gut syndrome" is said to have symptoms including bloating, gas, cramps, food sensitivities, and aches and pains. But it's something of a medical mystery. “From an MD's standpoint, it's a very gray area,” says gastroenterologist Donald Kirby, MD, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the Cleveland Clinic.

Is coffee good for gut health? ›

Coffee also contains phytochemicals that are helpful to the gut and promote the growth of good bacteria, he notes. While the research is still preliminary, Rezaie says it's important to watch.

What is the healthiest breakfast for gut health? ›

10 breakfast ideas for a healthy gut
  1. Kefir, banana, almond and frozen berry smoothie. ...
  2. Spring greens shakshuka. ...
  3. Vegan overnight oats. ...
  4. Figs on toast with goat's yogurt labneh. ...
  5. Miso chickpeas and avocado on toast. ...
  6. Healthy banana pancakes. ...
  7. Blueberry smoothie bowl. ...
  8. Coconut overnight oats.
23 Feb 2022

What is the number 1 vegetable to avoid? ›

Nightshade vegetables, like peppers, potatoes, and eggplant, are are controversial, because many claim they can cause inflammation, according to Cynthia Sass, a registered dietician. This can lead to some pretty serious complications down the line: heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, to name a few.

How can I cleanse my stomach and intestines naturally? ›

How to Clean Stomach?
  1. Drink Plenty Of Water. Water flushes out toxins from your stomach. ...
  2. Saltwater Flush. ...
  3. Fiber-Rich Diet. ...
  4. Honey And Lemon Water. ...
  5. Juices And Smoothies. ...
  6. Organic And Herbal Teas. ...
  7. Ginger. ...
  8. Resistant Starches.
29 Nov 2021

What vegetable is toxic to your gut? ›

If you're wondering what vegetable is bad for your gut, you should know that Brussels sprouts contain high levels of fructans. Your gut bacteria can ferment fructans after consumption. Often, this could result in severe abdominal discomfort. Many people opt to eliminate Brussels sprouts.

What does a 72 hour fast do to your body? ›

The lack of food intake during a long time, like 72 hours without any food, could result in an irregular heartbeat that can cause serious heart problems. People who suffer from any of these listed conditions or illnesses should not fast for 72 hours: Alzheimer's disease. Chronic fatigue syndrome.

What is the fastest way to heal gut microbiome? ›

Here's how to improve your microbiome and increase the beneficial bacteria while getting rid of the bad guys.
  1. Avoid sugar and processed foods. ...
  2. Eat naturally fermented foods. ...
  3. Supplement with probiotics. ...
  4. Ditch the antacids. ...
  5. Avoid artificial sweeteners. ...
  6. Eat plenty of fiber. ...
  7. Eat a diverse diet. ...
  8. Eat organic and local.
28 Nov 2018

What is a leaky gut? ›

When someone has a 'leaky gut', it means that the gut lining is damaged and cannot optimally function as a barrier any longer. The smaller holes become larger and allow harmful substances like gluten, bad bacteria, and undigested food particles to enter your system and cause considerable damage to health.

What foods empty your bowels in the morning? ›

Fibre-rich foods with a high water content, such as raw carrots, apples with the skin or peel on, and avocados, are all great sources of fibre to help get things moving, says Dr Christine Lee, a gastroenterologist at the Cleveland Clinic.

How often should you poop? ›

You don't need to poop every day to be regular. It's normal and healthy to have a bowel movement anywhere between three times a week to three times a day. If you're producing soft, well-formed logs that aren't hard to push out, your bowels are probably in good shape.

How do you fix gut problems? ›

Diet and lifestyle changes can make a big difference:
  1. Cut back on fatty foods.
  2. Avoid fizzy drinks.
  3. Eat and drink slowly.
  4. Quit smoking.
  5. Don't chew gum.
  6. Exercise more.
  7. Avoid foods that cause gas.
  8. Avoid sweeteners that cause gas such as fructose and sorbitol.
14 Feb 2021

What are the signs you need probiotics? ›

What Are the Signs You Need Probiotics?
  • Brain fog, decline in memory, or cognitive dysfunction.
  • Abdominal pain, stool changes, or excess gas and bloating.
  • Chronic fatigue and sleep disturbances.
  • Mood disturbances, depression, or anxiety.
24 Jan 2022

What are the symptoms of gut bacteria? ›

  • Loss of appetite.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Nausea.
  • Bloating.
  • An uncomfortable feeling of fullness after eating.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Unintentional weight loss.
  • Malnutrition.
6 Jan 2022

How can I add good bacteria to my gut? ›

How can you get healthy gut bacteria?
  1. Eat plenty of fiber-rich foods. When you think about your diet, consider the number of plant-based foods, grains, legumes and beans you're eating. ...
  2. Limit your sugar intake. ...
  3. Add fermented foods. ...
  4. Stay hydrated. ...
  5. Lower stress levels. ...
  6. Get enough sleep.
14 Apr 2022

Can the gut repair itself? ›

The inner lining of the intestines is one of the most-often renewed surfaces in the human body, replenishing itself every 2 to 4 weeks. Lining replacement depends on stem cells stored within indentations called crypts, which are densely scattered across the intestine's inner wall.

How can I improve my gut health in a week? ›

9 Ways to Improve Gut Health by the End of the Week
  1. Add fermented foods to your diet. ...
  2. Reduce artificial sweetener intake (or added sugar in general) ...
  3. Let your body wake up naturally (when you can) and sleep more. ...
  4. Focus on stress management. ...
  5. Sip on bone broth. ...
  6. Eat more (natural) fiber. ...
  7. Swap your cleaning products.
23 Jan 2020

How long does it take to heal your gut? ›

We recommend staying on the diet for at least 3-4 weeks as it will take about that long to “heal the gut.” Some patients may take up to 3 months to reestablish a normal functioning intestinal mucosa.

What causes poor gut health? ›

Diet and lifestyle factors, including poor sleep quality, alcohol consumption and inactivity, can harm your gut bacteria. Alternatively, living a healthy lifestyle characterized by regular physical activity, low stress and a variety of whole foods is the best way to ensure a healthy gut flora.

What foods should be avoided for gut health? ›

Avoiding processed junk foods, alcohol, sugary beverages, refined oils, and artificial sweeteners may aid the growth of healthy gut bacteria. Cutting out foods containing gluten or common stimulants of digestive symptoms may also help.

How do you rebuild a damaged gut? ›

Seven steps to optimal digestive health
  1. Eat whole, unprocessed foods. ...
  2. Eliminate food allergies. ...
  3. Treat any infections or overgrowth of bugs. ...
  4. Replenish your digestive enzymes. ...
  5. Rebuild your rain forest of friendly bacteria. ...
  6. Get good fat. ...
  7. Heal your gut lining.

How do I starve my gut bacteria? ›

Ditch the Western diet

A diet that's high in animal protein, sugar, and fat, and low in fiber — like the diets full of processed foods that are popular in the United States — have been shown to decrease the amount of bacteria in the gut , especially of beneficial Bifidobacterium and Eubacterium species.

What vegetable destroys your gut? ›

Due to their high lectin content, excessive potato consumption could lead to digestive difficulties. Despite being a healthy source of vitamins and minerals, potatoes are actually one of the most problematic lectin-containing foods.

Is fasting good for your gut? ›

Evidence suggests that intermittent fasting may benefit your gut health and boost your gut microbiome, the trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms that live in your gut. Intermittent fasting is an approach to eating where you switch between periods of fasting and eating as normal.


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