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9 Ways to Restore Gut Health

If gut bacteria becomes imbalanced, distress, autoimmune and neuromuscular diseases, nutrient deficiencies, and other health concerns become a risk. Luckily, there are a number of modifiable lifestyle habits one can make to restore gut health.


While the cultivation of bacteria in the gut seems harmful, the housing of these microorganisms is essential for digestive, immune, and mental health.

And if the gut bacteria become imbalanced, gastrointestinal distress, autoimmune and neuromuscular diseases, nutrient deficiencies, and other health concerns become at risk.

Luckily, there are a number of modifiable lifestyle habits one can make to restore gut health.

9 Ways to Restore Gut Health

1. Increasing probiotic-rich foods in the diet is essential for restoring gut flora.
2. Complementing probiotics with prebiotics cultivates healthy gut bacteria.
3. Staying hydrated keeps bowels regular and reduces constipation risk.
4. Reducing alcohol intake lessens the risk of digestive distress and leaky gut syndrome.
5. Identifying food aversions allows the opportunity to eliminate gastrointestinal triggers and restore gut health.
6. Limiting highly processed foods lowers the risk of inflammation and inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria.
7. Using antibiotics can deplete the healthy bacteria in the gut and should be used with caution and as directed.
8. Exercising has shown to positively impact gut health and its integrity.
9. Managing stress can deter digestive consequences of constipation or bowel urgency.

How to Heal Your Gut Explained

1. Increase Probiotics

Probiotics are live bacteria cultures that support a healthy gut by controlling the growth of harmful bacteria and balancing the microbiome, which encompasses trillions of microorganisms living in the body.

Exposing the bacteria in the gut has shown to alleviate associated symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease and reduce acute diarrhea in children and prevent foodborne illnesses by inhibiting Salmonella and Helicobacter pylori and exerting an anti-inflammatory response.

Common probiotics to look for on ingredient labels are lactobacillus and bifidobacteria and often found in these probiotic-filled foods, including yogurt, kefir, cultured cottage cheese, kimchi, miso, and sauerkraut.

2. Complement Probiotics with Prebiotics

Often confused with probiotics, prebiotics are indigestible carbohydrates and fibers obtained from plants. Prebiotics can be thought as fertilizer in the gut, acting as a food source for probiotics.

The prebiotic and fiber content of asparagus, bananas, oatmeal, legumes, and other plant-based foods are beneficial for gut health.

3. Stay Hydrated

Water plays a large role in the absorption and digestion of nutrients obtained from foods. And especially in conjuction with adequate fiber, adequate water intake helps to keep bowels regular and reduce constipation risk.

As a general rule of reference, consume at least 64 ounces of water on a daily basis. Consuming fruits and veggies with a high water content, including watermelon and cucumber, can simultaneously increase both fluid and fiber intake.

4. Moderate Alcohol Intake

Too much alcohol can wreak havoc on the entire body, the gut included.

Initial consequences of a nightly bender can lead to dehydration and digestive distress, while regular alcohol abuse can cause disequilibrium of the gut flora and intestinal environment.

Alcohol may also be a trigger of leaky gut, a condition in which tight junctions lining the intestinal wall do not work properly. While much more is still to be known about leaky gut, individuals often experience digestive-related symptoms, including abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea, along with skin issues, migraines, anxiety, depression, joint pain, fatigue, and insomnia.

Although alcohol can fit into a balanced diet, men are advised to moderate alcohol intake to two servings a day while women are limited to one to lower negative health risks.

5. Identify Food Aversions

People with food aversions or sensitivities are encouraged to identify and pinpoint their triggers, as their detection helps tailor dietary needs and restore gut health.

For instance, individuals with lactose intolerance are deficient in the enzyme lactase, which is required to breakdown lactose in milk and other dairy products. Eliminating lactose is endorsed for those with lactose intolerance to reduce gastrointestinal distress, including gas, bloating, and diarrhea.

6. Limit Highly Processed Foods

Highly processed foods tend to be laden in sugar, salt, saturated and trans fats, all of which can cause inflammation in the body and promote the growth of harmful bacteria.

Limiting sweet treats, salty chips, and other fried and convenient snack foods is groundwork for naturally restoring gut health.

7. Use Antibiotics with Caution

Antibiotics fight against bacterial infections by killing off bacteria or preventing them from reproducing and invading the body even further.

Whereas antibiotics can be lifesaving, they can also harm and kill beneficial gut bacteria and take a year's time to replenish. It is important to use antibiotics with caution and only take them as advised by your primary care provider and pharmacist.

8. Exercise

While the benefits of exercise for overall health are well-known, there is ongoing evidence it can positively impact gut health and its integrity.

But as the exploration of exercise and gut health continues, general guidelines encourage healthy adults to include a minimum of 150 minutes of cardio activities each week, along with the inclusion of at least two strength training sessions.

9. Manage Stress

Stress can either cause digestive processes to slow down or become heightened, subsequently leading to constipation or bowel urgency related to the respective gastrointestinal response. Furthermore, dealing with gastrointestinal issues can further increase stress and only exacerbate these digestive consequences.

While some may experience the repercussions of stress more than others, managing stress can help promote a healthy gut. Reduce aggravated symptoms with stress-reduction strategies, including practicing yoga, exercising, dancing, listening to music, and getting out in nature.

Written By Sydney Lappe, MS, RDN. Published on June 28, 2018. Updated on October 22, 2019.


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