Your gastrointestinal system is home to trillions of bacteria, viruses and fungi, collectively known as your gut microbiome. This complex community of microorganisms plays a critical role in your overall health. An imbalance in your gut can contribute to issues like inflammation, autoimmunity, metabolic disorders, and even anxiety and depression. The good news is there are natural, effective ways to support a healthy gut microbiome.
Here are a few simple yet powerful tips to improve your gut health, Naturopath approved:
Simple ways to improve your gut health:
Load up on prebiotic fibres.
Prebiotic fibres act as fertilizer for the good bacteria in your gut. Focus on getting more prebiotic foods like garlic, onion, leeks, asparagus, bananas, apples, flaxseeds and chia seeds. Aim for 25-40 grams of fibre per day minimum. Start slowly if increasing fibre intake to avoid gas and bloating. More diverse fibres nourish more diverse gut microbes. Your Naturopathic Doctor can help customize your prebiotic fibre intake depending on your lifestyle needs and find solutions for you that don’t worsen pre-existing gas and bloating.
Eat fermented foods regularly
Fermented foods are a source of natural probiotics, meaning they contain beneficial microorganisms to build diversity in your gut. Try incorporating fermented options like kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, cultured yogurt, kombucha (watch for sugar), miso, tempeh, and pickles. Choose raw, unpasteurized versions when possible (note: all yogurt in Canada is pasteurized, so you need to look for sources that are recultured with probiotics). The more variety of fermented foods, the better for your gut diversity.
Take a high-quality probiotic
While diet provides probiotics, a supplement can deliver a therapeutic, concentrated dose. Look for a broad spectrum with multiple strains, at least 20-50 billion CFUs, and strains like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. A naturopath can advise the optimal probiotic and dosage based on your health goals, and help specify which strains might be ideal for more specific health needs.
We’re fortunate to now have numerous studies that appreciate the connection between the gut and the brain, known as the gut-brain axis. Research repeatedly shows that chronically elevated stress levels lead to negative impacts on your gut microbiome balance, amongst other things like the vagus nerve communication, gut hormone signalling, the immune system, tryptophan metabolism, and microbial metabolites such as short-chain fatty acids. Make time for stress-relieving activities like meditation, yoga, deep breathing, nature walks and hobbies. Get enough sleep, reduce caffeine, and avoid alcohol excess. Learning to manage stress effectively promotes a healthy gut (and, therefore, mind).
Avoid unnecessary antibiotics
Antibiotics are crucial when truly needed, but they also indiscriminately kill off good bacteria. Only take antibiotics for bacterial infections when prescribed by your doctor. Always finish the entire course. Trying to avoid them when unnecessary earlier on in life can have a significantly positive impact on not only how your microbiome develops but also your stress responses, immune system, and gastrointestinal and nervous system (lowering the possibility of IBS). Taking a high-quality probiotic during and after antibiotic use can also help to prevent dysbiosis.
Regular exercise helps increase microbial diversity and the growth of beneficial bacteria species. Aim for 30-60 minutes of moderate activity most days. Mix up your workouts to get the greatest microbiome benefit. Movement keeps your gut microbes happy.
Drink Bone Broth
Warm, savoury bone broth made from chicken, beef, or fish bones provides gut-healing compounds like collagen, glutamine and glycine. Sip bone broth as a snack or light meal. You can also use bone broth as the base for soups and stews. This nourishing beverage soothes and seals your gut lining.
Optimizing your gut health provides a foundation for overall well-being. Support your microbiome by feeding gut bacteria with prebiotic fibres and probiotics. Limit gut-disrupting factors like stress, antibiotics and inactivity. Heal and seal your gut lining with bone broth. A flourishing, diverse microbiome equates to better health. Consulting with a naturopathic doctor can provide individualized guidance on how to improve your gut health through nutrition and lifestyle changes, but also on how to implement these suggestions to reduce risk and side effects.
Book an appointment with Dr. Courtney Holmberg, ND, to learn more about improving your gut health. Dr. Holmberg is a leading naturopathic doctor in Toronto with a clinical focus on evidence-based protocols to optimize digestive health and microbiome balance.
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