8 Changes You Can Make Today To Improve Your Gut Health
by Jelena Vulevic on Mar 01, 2023
Are you looking to optimise your overall health and well-being? If, like nearly everyone out there, you would answer this question with a resounding 'yes', then it's time to get serious about the subject of gut health.
Gut health encompasses various positive aspects, including effective digestion and absorption of food, the absence of GI illness, a normal and stable microbiota, and an effective immune status. Taking care of your gut can have a significant impact on your holistic health, and you would likely be surprised to learn how many of the undesirable symptoms you experience all over your body are caused by issues stemming from your belly.
From lifestyle tips to supplement recommendations, in this guide, we aim to offer you the knowledge that will make the task of improving your gut health a lot more manageable. Whether you are currently experiencing digestive issues and looking for practical solutions, or simply interested in taking preventative measures towards better overall health, you don't want to miss out on the insights below.
Why is gut health so important?
Digestive health is so critical to our overall health and well-being, essentially because the gut has pathways which directly connect it to different organs, giving it the possibility to constantly and strongly impact other bodily functions. Additionally, the gut is responsible for absorbing essential nutrients and significantly impacting the immune function, so successfully fighting or preventing disease will depend on how well the bacteria living in our GI tract are performing their tasks.
All of this should make it easy to understand why it's virtually impossible to be truly healthy without looking at our digestive function, and that's not to mention the potential impacts that poor gut health can have on our body's external appearance.
How do you know if you have an unhealthy gut?
Digestive issues, such as bloating, constipation and diarrhoea are of course tell-tale signs of an unhealthy GI tract, but the signs of an unhealthy gut go way beyond the obvious.
Some of the lesser-known signs of poor digestive health include things like acne, accelerated skin ageing and several other skin issues, as well as chronic fatigue, brain fog, and even mood swings. A weakened immune system or frequent infections could also be experienced by someone with a compromised gut function.
Because the range of issues stemming from your gut is so wide, a good way to check your gut health is actually to keep a diary of your symptoms and discuss them with a trusted physician. Even the most common problems, such as constipation, abdominal distention or irregular bowel movements, if persistent, should be the subject of a talk with your doctor.
How long does it really take to improve gut health?
So, how long does it take to improve gut health? As much as we would like to give you a clear time frame in which you can expect to see improvements in your digestive health once you start implementing positive changes, the truth of the matter is that it's not really possible to know for sure, because every person is different. Especially when it comes to diet and supplementation, each body's reaction will be unique in intensity and speed, so try not to worry too much about it during the first three to four weeks. Patience is key, and to truly assess the impact of diet, lifestyle or supplement changes, a 3-6 month timeframe is what most people should aim for, especially if you’re starting from a place of poor lifestyle, diet or many health issues.
The best thing you can do to know if your gut function is getting better is actually to monitor the reduction of common undesirable symptoms of poor digestion, such as bloating, for example. Eventually, you should start seeing more notable improvements, such as a more regular bowel schedule, better sleep and overall higher energy levels.
Not every change will pay off immediately, and finding what works best for your digestive system might even require some trial and error, but through improved and consistent habits you can be sure that the results will come.
8 things you can do today to improve your gut health
While an unbalanced GI tract can certainly lead to a variety of health problems, the good news is that there are also several relatively simple lifestyle adjustments you can make to improve your gut health. If you are ready to commit to positive change, we recommend that you check your current habits against the list below and get to work on those which are not yet part of your routine.
An important note: the points mentioned below are highly relevant but general recommendations, and any significant change, such as a radical shift in your diet or exercise levels, should be discussed with a doctor to ensure that they are safe and appropriate to your specific needs.
1. Eat gut-friendly foods
The quality of our diet is not only important because of the nutrients it provides the body with, but also because it heavily impacts how well the bacteria responsible for our gut function can develop and perform.
You have probably heard time and time again that processed foods are bad for you and that fibre is among the best foods for gut health, which is absolutely true. However, apart from making sure you cut down on highly-processed meals and ingest plenty of fibre-rich foods, such as whole grains, vegetables and legumes, you should also look into adding some fermented goods to your grocery list. That is because, although you do already have a lot of bacteria working in your belly, boosting the diversity of that microbiome can do wonders for your gut function. Ingredients like kimchi, kefir, yoghurt, sauerkraut and kombucha can all be useful in getting some good bacteria into your system, but check for the options with live microorganisms in them. These should be refrigerated and are the ones which can actually bring you the results you want. Also, remember that more is not always better. Be it with fermented foods or any other type of ingredient, a moderate intake is what you should be aiming for, as excessive or radical changes could in fact do more harm than good to your gut microbiome.
2. Control stress levels
Stress impacts the gut much more than most people realise. One example is that, when we experience stress, our bodies kick off a chain of reactions that put it in a type of ‘emergency mode’. In this state, it chooses to focus only on its most critical internal activities, with digestion being one of the bodily functions which will be reduced or even shut down in the process. So, while it can seem like a difficult factor to control, we should definitely prioritise lowering the stress levels in our lives to both improve and maintain optimal digestive health.
Even if you have an inherently stressful job or routine, you can try to prevent chronic stress by adjusting other aspects of your life which you can control. Getting enough sleep is probably the number one thing you can do to lower your stress levels, along with adopting a mindfulness practice. Meditation is obviously a great option for that, but if even thinking of sitting perfectly still for some time makes you jittery, activities like Kinhin (walking meditation) and Hatha Yoga could provide an ideal combination of mindfulness and movement. Finally, for those living in a busy city, scheduling some time away from the hustle and bustle could be a really good idea. Spending time in nature, apart from being a fun activity for many of us, has also been found to have stress-reducing effects on the body, as well as the mind.
3. Keep moving
As another well-known and powerful tool for lowering stress levels, physical exercise will certainly have a positive impact on our digestive health, but that’s not the only way in which it benefits our gut. Beyond its ability to make our minds calmer and our muscles stronger, exercising regularly will increase blood flow to the digestive system, facilitating the absorption of key nutrients present in the food we ingest and helping our bowels flush out potentially harmful substances.
4. Stay hydrated
Keeping our bodies well-hydrated is essential for maintaining optimal overall health, and that is especially true when it comes to gut health. In simple terms, the water we drink plays a key role in softening and breaking down food, which eventually facilitates its transit through the GI tract and enhances nutrient absorption. In that sense, drinking plenty of water is an excellent way to prevent issues like constipation and bloating, although a recent study even suggests that individuals with a higher water intake often have less of a certain species of bacteria commonly responsible for digestive infections.
5. Adopt an appropriate sleep schedule
Although staying active is paramount to boosting our gut health, an appropriate level of rest is just as important. Often overlooked due to our increasingly busy schedules, the quality and the amount of sleep we are able to get on a regular basis can be the difference between a well-functioning digestive system and a significantly disrupted one. As a matter of fact, studies show that gut health and sleep health interact as a two-way street. Good sleep has been found to support both the diversity and the performance of the trillions of microorganisms that make up our digestive system, and a healthy microbiota will contribute to better sleep. On the other hand, sleep deprivation has proved to be an important cause of unbalance within the digestive system, reducing the diversity of the bacteria present in the GI tract and triggering inflammation processes which are detrimental not only to our sleep patterns but to many other important bodily functions.
6. Eliminate tobacco and limit your alcohol consumption
Reducing your alcohol intake will reap many benefits to the entire body, and your gut will certainly also thank you for it. Alcohol is a substance which acts as an irritant on the gut lining and has the potential to severely disrupt the fine balance of our digestive microbiome when consumed in large quantities. Similarly to the effects of sleep deprivation, excessive alcohol intake will often lead to inflammation, ultimately producing negative symptoms across many different organs. It is also important to note that, while the jury is still out on how much alcohol is actually safe for men and women to consume on a regular basis, comprehensive studies have suggested that abstention might actually be the best option for our health. Regarding tobacco, there are absolutely no doubts about its harmful effects on our gut and body, so the recommendation here is very straightforward: cut out tobacco from your life for good, and if you feel like you can't do it alone, seek out professional medical assistance.
7. Don’t forget to brush and floss regularly
As odd as it may seem, your oral health can significantly influence your gut microbiota. In this instance, maintaining good oral hygiene is important essentially because the mouth is the first organ of your digestive system. When we regularly skip our brushing or flossing routine we create an environment that can foster an overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the mouth, which can travel further down to the GI tract and disrupt the gut function, eventually generating a number of digestive issues, such as abdominal distention, diarrhoea, cramping and constipation.
8. Find the right gut supplements for you
Achieving the fine balance your GI tract requires to work effectively is not always easy, and that's exactly where supplements can come in handy. But which supplements will actually help improve gut health?
Although it can be hard to find the ideal fit for you among the sea of options offered online and in stores, all the best gut health supplements have one thing in common: they have been thoroughly tested for safety and efficiency, and are entirely backed by science. This means that any product for which you can't easily find the scientific information that supported its development is essentially a shot in the dark and not worth your money.
After checking the science behind it, the next step is to assess the supplement's ingredients list. Many options on the market don't actually deliver on their promises of boosting your digestive health simply because they either lack one or more of the three key elements that your gut requires to thrive or they don't contain it in the appropriate amount. Look for products that, on top of the more popular probiotic ingredients, also contain prebiotics and postbiotics, such as galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) and cell wall components of bifidobacteria. But don't worry. If this is all starting to sound a little too sciency and complicated, just have a look at Y GUT sensitive, for an example of what a high-quality gut health supplement should include.
As far as supplements go, Y GUT sensitive is a complete science-backed solution which, among other benefits, helps you develop an exceptionally strong and stress-resistant gut lining, capable of sustaining optimal digestive function and of repairing itself when needed. It is also the only supplement available on the market that addresses both the gut microbiota and the host response as a way to achieve gut health, so it's certainly an option worth discussing with your physician for taking your digestive function to where it should be.
As you can see, habits and behaviours from nearly all areas of your life have the potential to impact the performance of your digestive system and, it's by taking a comprehensive approach towards gut health that you can truly support your overall wellness. Be open to implementing the suggestions above which are currently not featured in your self-care routine, as the vibrant health you have always wished for could come precisely from the habit changes that you have been afraid to try or commit to up until now. Finally, remember that each person's body and needs are completely unique and that a medical professional is ultimately the best source of advice on the most adequate and safe options for your digestive health.
Gut health is the key to overall health, and small lifestyle changes can make a big difference. Find out how Y GUT sensitive can help.