Think of your gut as a carefully balanced machine with connections to other aspects of your overall health. The gut microbiome, in particular, has been a hot topic in the wellness world as researchers continue to unravel its link to digestive function, mental health and more.
The microbiome refers to the trillions of microorganisms (also called microbes) that live in your body, such as bacteria, viruses and fungi. The gut microbiome specifically refers to the microbes in the gut, especially the large intestine. These microbes help us metabolize food we can’t digest, boost our immune function, and control inflammation. They also generate metabolites (substances our bodies use to break down food), including vitamins, enzymes and hormones, according to Gail Cresci, a microbiome researcher and registered dietitian in the Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition.
Cresci told CNET that you should think of the gut microbiome as “little pets that live in the intestinal tract.” What we eat feeds them, which can affect our health.
Here are some tips for keeping your gut healthy and how to spot one that might be unhappy.
Signs of intestinal discomfort
“If you’re bloated or have a lot of gas, you may have disrupted gut microbiome composition and function,” Cresci said, adding that the only way to know for sure is to measure it.
Other signs of an unhealthy gut can include vomiting or stomach pain, fatigue, trouble sleeping, skin irritation, food intolerance, and other symptoms. While it’s important to see a doctor to get to the root cause of your health concern and rule out other conditions, making changes to your diet or routine that could improve your gut and overall health is a good first step.
But it’s also important to keep in mind that there’s no exact standard for the perfectly healthy gut microbiome, Cresci said, since everyone’s makeup is so different.
1. Eat these gut-friendly foods
The gut microbiome prefers foods we can’t digest. This includes foods high in fiber, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, seeds and nuts, foods that we already know we should be eating for their nutritional properties.
According to Cresci, foods to remove from the gut, or to eat in smaller quantities, include foods high in sugar and fat and low in fiber.
“These are all associated with eating a Western diet, which is also associated with a disrupted microbiome,” she said.
Beyond a healthy diet for the intestine, which not coincidentally coincides with a heart healthy diet, eating fermented foods can help replace good microbes and their metabolites. Cresci lists yogurt, kombucha, and kefir as examples.
2. Take note of the medications you are taking
Taking antibiotics has been known to disrupt, at least temporarily, the family of “good” bacteria that thrive in your body. Some common side effects of taking antibiotics include nausea, diarrhea, and developing yeast infections. If you’re prescribed an antibiotic or have recurring infections that make you take antibiotics often, ask your doctor what you can do to minimize disruption to your microbiome.
Other drugs that can disrupt our microbiomes, Cresci says, include those that alter the PH of the stomach and strip away acid. Examples include proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and histamine H2-receptor antagonists (H2 blockers), which are used to reduce acid reflux symptoms and may be available over-the-counter.
By keeping track of the medications you’re taking, you can help pinpoint the cause of your symptoms and take appropriate steps to improve your gut health.
3. Find the Right probiotics or supplements
In addition to incorporating more yogurt or fermented foods into their diet, some people can look for a probiotic in hopes of balancing their instincts, as they are designed to mimic an intact microbiota. If you’re considering taking a supplement, including probiotics, Cresci told CNET that it’s important to know that probiotics are strain-specific and “each strain has its own method of action.”
For example, some probiotics are designed to help people with antibiotic-induced diarrhea, but that won’t work for a person taking it for bowel regularity.
“You want to take what’s been researched for whatever your problem is,” she said.
Also, unfortunately, keep in mind that probiotics won’t completely replace what you eat.
“If you have a bad diet and you want to continue that bad diet but you want to improve your microbiome, a probiotic isn’t going to help you,” Cresci said. “You have to do the other side too.”
4. Get more sleep and move your body
“Sleep better” or “exercise more” might sound like tired advice, but improving your sleep hygiene and squeeze in more physical activity they are tried-and-true ways to improve your health, including your gut health.
Sleeping well is another general well-being tip directly linked to the health of our intestines. Specifically, according to Cresci our microbiome adheres to the circadian rhythm, mashed potato. And if we eat when our gut microbiome isn’t ready, we won’t be able to process the nutrients in our food properly.
Lack of sleep also triggers an increase in stress and cortisol, which they have negative mindset and physical impacts.
“There’s a lot going on with the gut-brain interaction, so the signals go back to the microbiome and vice versa,” Cresci said.
Perhaps most fundamental is the fact that when we are exhausted, we don’t have the energy to control many of the things that keep us healthy, including exercising or finding a nutritious meal, both of which impact our health. intestinal.
“When you’re sleepy, tired, exhausted, you tend not to do the things that we know are good for the microbiome,” Cresci said. “So it sort of perpetuates itself.”
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a doctor or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.