The average modern diet tends to consist of processed, refined foods, simple sugars and imbalanced nutrients. As a result, your gut health may be suffering. An unhealthy diet, paired with other factors like stress, illness and antibiotics, can ultimately contribute to an imbalanced gut microbiome and, by extension, an unhealthy life.
Fortunately, rebalancing your gut is easier to achieve than you might think! There are a few simple changes you can make in your daily lifestyle to “hack” your way to optimal gut—and total-body—health.
Why gut health matters
Your gut contains a complex ecosystem filled with bacteria, viruses and fungi. Some of these microorganisms are “good,” meaning they contribute positively to your overall health and wellbeing by breaking down food, helping your body absorb nutrients, lining the intestinal walls and keeping bad bacteria in check.
When your diet or external factors are unhealthy, your gut microbiota can suffer. Your naturally occurring good bacteria, called probiotics, can die off while bad bacteria flourish and release by-products that can have harmful consequences for your health.
Gut health has been linked to mental wellness, as well as many potential health problems over time. Your immune system largely resides in the gut, meaning your immunity can take a hit when your gut is imbalanced. Gut health can even affect your energy levels and focus. Thus, good gut health is necessary for overall bodily health.
For these reasons, it’s important to pay attention to the state of your gut health and take measures to improve it throughout your life.
How to tell if you’re experiencing gut dysfunction
Because gut health can ultimately affect your mind and body as a whole, gut imbalances might present themselves in a number of ways. The following are some of the most common symptoms of gut microbiome imbalances:
- Excessive bloating and gas
- Gastrointestinal issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Chronic fatigue
- Food sensitivities
- Brain fog
Easy tips to improve gut health
If you’re experiencing gut dysbiosis, you don’t need to fret! There are a number of easy things you can do to hack your gut health back into shape.
- Reduce sugar intake: Bad bacteria in the gut thrive off high-sugar foods and artificial sweeteners, which can lead to an overgrowth of harmful microorganisms and the death of beneficial ones. If you’re eating a sugar-loaded diet every day, it may be enough to throw your gut balance off and lead to negative consequences.
- Take probiotic supplements: If your gut is imbalanced, an influx of probiotics may help bring it back in balance and right the wrongs occurring in your gut microbiome. Taking a daily probiotic supplement can introduce new beneficial bacteria to the colon and get things back on the right track.
- Eat grab-and-go probiotic items: Probiotics are naturally occurring in many fermented foods, but you don’t have to eat a lot of them to make a difference in your gut health! For a quick serving of probiotics, swap out your soft drink for a bottle of kombucha or grab a cup of Greek yogurt enriched with live probiotics as you head to work each morning.
- Eat more prebiotic fiber: In addition to increasing your probiotic intake through supplements or food items, you should aim to eat foods that are rich in prebiotic fiber—a type of fiber that helps probiotics flourish in the gut. Prebiotic fiber is found in foods like wheat bread, oatmeal and green vegetables.
- Exercise regularly: If you haven’t gotten in the habit of hitting the gym a few times per week, do it for your gut! Exercise is a fantastic way to promote total-body health, as it can make you stronger and reduce your risk for harmful diseases. Exercise is also a great way to relieve stress, which is critical in maintaining proper gut health. Chronic stress can lead to the death of beneficial bacteria, opening the door for imbalances and creating a vicious cycle of poor gut health and poor mental health.
An important thing to note is that if you experience severe symptoms of gut imbalance, such as irritable bowel syndrome, chronic diarrhea or intense digestive pain on a daily basis, you may need to work harder to rebalance your gut microbiome. Taking probiotic supplements or eating probiotic-rich foods may make your condition worse. If this happens to you, discontinue their use and speak to your doctor to see if you suffer from small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or another related condition.
However, for the average person, following these super-easy tips can make a world of a difference in your gut health, your overall health and how you feel every day. Make sure to focus on balance in all aspects of life, and you will be on the path to optimal wellbeing!