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How to improve your gut health: 3 steps in 3 minutes

Maurice Beer M.D.
August 24th, 2021 · 4 min read

In this article:

  • Why should I care so much about gut health?
  • Step 1: Feed your microbiome properly
  • Step 2: Exercise regularly
  • Step 3: Test for hormone imbalances related to gut health
Even if you’re not suffering from digestive problems, your gut microbiome is something you should be thinking about. Follow our three steps to improve your gut health.

Takeaways:

  • Your gut microbiome affects not only your digestive health but also mood, aging, and more.
  • You can support gut health by feeding your gut microbiome properly and exercising regularly.
  • Testing for hormone imbalances can give you insight into the health of your gut.
Why should I care so much about gut health?
The obvious reason is that life is not very fun when your gut is upset. Even when it’s not severe enough to double you over in pain or send you running to the toilet, we all know how unpleasant it is to have persistent gas and bloating or to feel somewhat constipated.
What you may not know is that gut health is also related to so much more than just how your actual tummy feels. The gut communicates with the brain (the “gut-brain axis”) and so digestive health can impact your mood and emotions, and the trillions of microbes in your gut even produce serotonin and dopamine. Your gut along with what you eat also contribute to factors like blood sugar that have a cascading impact on a host of bodily matters from skin health to diabetes risk to women’s health issues. There is even evidence that the make-up of your gut microbiome is related to aging and how long you will live.
So it’s even more important than you may have thought to keep that gut of yours happy. Follow our three steps to learn how to be a gracious host for those trillions of tenants living in your microbiome.

Step 1: Feed your microbiome properly

It sounds obvious, but all those living organisms in your gut need to eat. Think about it like throwing a daily party for trillions of guests. Not only do you need to make sure you have food, but you better make sure it’s good stuff that’s easy to access or else you’ll have trillions of hangry partygoers waiting in long lines at the buffet.
There are tons of factors that go into choosing the diet that’s best for you, but here are some tips that can help make any diet more palatable for your gut.
  • Chew your food: Your mom was on to something when she always scolded you to chew your food. Turns out that inhaling large chunks of burrito is not only poor manners but it also makes digestion more difficult for your body. By chewing adequately you’ll break the food into small pieces mixed with saliva that will be primed for doing their job of delivering nutrients to your gut.
  • Blend a smoothie: Much like chewing, blending food upfront makes the nutrients available and also cuts down on the amount of energy your digestive system needs to spend on physical breakdown. A lot of people also find that smoothies are a great way to add nutritious foods to their diet. Load up on those fruits and veggies because a recent study showed they can actually increase your happiness. (They also make for colorful Instagram-worthy photo ops.)
  • Make sure you’re getting fiber: You probably already know that fiber is a superfood with many benefits including promoting bowel movement health. Well, the partygoers in your microbiome love plant fiber too because it delivers prebiotics (the food that gut bacteria eat) all the way to your gut without getting hijacked earlier in your digestive tract.
  • Choose fermented foods: If you love kimchi or sauerkraut, it’s your gut’s lucky day because fermented foods like those help foster a diverse microbiome. You can find tons of tasty recipes like spicy pickled garlic on TikTok.
  • Consider probiotic supplements: In order to maintain a balanced gut microbiome, you may want to take supplements that directly add “good” bacteria into your gut. There are many different kinds on the market in capsule and powder form (hello, smoothie).

Step 2: Exercise regularly

Believe it or not, the composition of your gut microbiome is affected by more than just the usual suspects of diet, illness, and medications. In one six-week study, researchers found that exercise caused positive changes to subjects’ gut microbiomes without any change in diet. There were increases in certain microbes that are believed to help reduce inflammation in the body. That’s a good thing, because inflammation is the culprit behind many ailments.
Not all of us have Maggie Q levels of action movie motivation, but working out doesn’t have to be an impossible mission. Boosting your gut health is something you can think about if you’re looking for extra incentive to lace up for a brisk walk or start that virtual spin class. If you’re a yogi, there are even yoga poses that aid in digestion. When you’re done and you make that satisfying tick mark on your habit tracker, you can feel good about having positively impacted not only your physique, but your sleep, your mood, and your gut health too.
Step 3: Test for hormone imbalances related to gut health
Anyone who has suffered chronic digestive problems knows how frustrating it is to not even understand what’s causing your symptoms. At-home lab testing to measure various biomarkers related to your diet and digestion is an easy way to get concrete information about your gut health. Having actionable knowledge can help motivate you to make the changes in your diet that are needed to help you feel better.
Remember also that your gut impacts multiple facets of health, so detecting hormone imbalances in areas such as sleep, stress, and mood might lead you to examine what’s going on in your microbiome. Your gut hosts the hottest party in your body, after all.

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