The father of medicine, Hippocrates, told us thousands of years ago that all disease begins in the gut. While modern medicine may have found exceptions to this rule, the adage still rings true. A healthy gut contains enough good bacteria to aid digestion and keep the bad bacteria from causing illness. It holds the key to everything from reducing inflammation to increasing energy levels and ensuring heart and brain health.
The good news is that maintaining a healthy gut isn’t especially difficult. Once you understand what’s happening, it’s just a matter of taking simple steps to get your microbiome into shape. Fortunately, the things you need to do to keep your gut healthy are great practices for your total wellness as well. You can begin today by making these five changes in your overall lifestyle.
Of course, the foundation of a healthy gut lies in the foods you feed it. Those good bacteria rely on you to provide high-fiber plants like spinach, broccoli, peas, and squash. Antioxidant-rich foods like blueberries, sweet potatoes, and kale are also excellent additions to a healthy diet. Eating a wide range of fruits and vegetables will promote good digestion, which naturally leads to gut health.
If you struggle to get your seven to 10 recommended servings of fruits and vegetables daily, opt for a supplement like super greens powder. When you remove the guesswork — and the prepwork — you’re more likely to meet your goal. The supplement creates a nutrient baseline to which you can add new fruits and vegetables to increase the amount and diversity of your intake.
Because fiber is so important to gut health, you should also add whole grains and other fiber-rich foods into your diet. More fiber means better digestive health, which means no constipation. You’re aiming for a healthy flow of nutrients in and waste out to create an ideal gut microbiome. Try eating foods like legumes, nuts, and seeds for good gut health and for extra flavor as well.
You can have fun and get creative when adding fiber-packed foods to your diet. Sprinkle almonds or sunflower seeds on your salad. Add beans and other legumes to your soups and stews. Make yourself overnight oats for a quick breakfast in the morning before you rush out the door. Each time you include a new fiber-rich foodstuff in one of your meals, you do your gut a favor.
Another ingredient you can add to those overnight oats is yogurt. Yogurt with live and active cultures is one of the best probiotic foods you can eat for gut health. Probiotics are the good bacteria and yeast you need in your gut. Every time you eat foods rich in probiotics, you boost your microbiome’s health in one of the best ways possible.
For centuries, people have relied on fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, and kombucha to stay healthy. Not only does fermentation safely preserve food, it makes it easier to digest. Fermented foods abound in probiotics and promote the absorption of nutrients. Just be sure that when you buy fermented foods, you check the labels for “live and active cultures.”
To support all this good eating, ensure you get regular exercise. Exercise, particularly of the cardiovascular kind, like walking, running, or swimming, helps food pass through your body. Research has also found that exercise increases healthy bacteria in the gut.
General exercise guidelines recommend that you get 30 to 45 minutes of cardio each day. You can break this time up into three 15-minute rounds of walking after each meal and easily hit your target. And if you’re looking for extra help tracking your fitness goals, try using a free fitness app. The point, in the end, is to move enough that your gut muscles push food and waste through your digestive tract.
When it comes to facilitating digestion, there are few things more important than water. Just as you wouldn’t get far on a water slide without — you guessed it — water, food needs water to keep moving along. In the absence of enough of it, this movement slows down, causing bloating and/or constipation. Water also carries the enzymes and acids that digest food in your small intestine.
Luckily, getting sufficient water isn’t hard. You can take the same break-it-up approach to hydration as you can for exercise. Aim to drink a glass when you wake up, one with each meal, and then one glass before bed. Dividing it up in this way lets you get five glasses of water without even thinking about it. Add a glass in between meals, and you’ve almost met your minimum of eight glasses a day.
Gut health is crucial to your total wellness and longevity. You can turn around a host of health issues just by paying attention to your gut. From eating healthy to getting exercise, most of the steps to a happy microbiome are cheap or even free. They simply require focus and discipline.
Fortunately, you don’t have to take all these steps at once. It is easiest to meet goals in small increments. Start by putting more leafy greens on your plate and then going for a walk after dinner. Or meet a friend for a hike and a fruit-laden smoothie afterward. Not only do you owe it to yourself to maintain a healthy gut, you might have fun doing it.