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Looking to heal your gut? Do these simple steps first

Looking to heal your gut? Do these simple steps first

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Think of your gut as a carefully balanced machine with connections to other aspects of your overall health. The gut microbiome, in particular, is a hot topic in the wellness world as researchers continue to uncover its connection to digestive function. mental health and more.

The microbiome refers to the trillions of microorganisms (also called microbes) living in your body, such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi. The gut microbiome refers specifically to the microbes in your gut, specifically your colon. 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 Kresky, a microbiome researcher and registered dietitian in the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition at the Cleveland Clinic.

Cresci told CNET that you should think of the gut microbiome as “little pets living in your intestinal tract.” What we eat feeds them, which can affect our own health.

Here are some tips on how to keep your gut healthy and how to recognize someone who might be unhappy.

Signs of an unhealthy gut

“If you’re bloated or have a lot of gas, you may have an impaired composition and function of your gut microbiome,” Kresky said, adding that the only way to know for sure is to have it measured.

Other signs of an unhealthy gut can include vomiting or stomach upset, fatigue, sleep problems, skin irritation, food intolerances 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 can 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 a perfectly healthy gut microbiome, Cresci said, because everyone’s makeup is so different.

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1. Eat these gut-friendly foods

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The gut microbiome prefers foods we can’t digest. This includes high-fiber foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, seeds, and nuts—foods we already know we should be eating for their nutritional properties.

According to Cresci, foods to eliminate from your gut or eat in smaller amounts include foods high in sugar and fat and low in fiber.

“They are all associated with eating a Western diet, which is also associated with a disrupted microbiome,” she said.

Beyond a gut-healthy diet that not-so-coincidentally coincides with a a heart-healthy diet, eating fermented foods can help replace the good microbes and their metabolites. Cresci lists yogurt, kombucha and kefir as examples.

2. Note the medications you are taking

It is a well-known fact that taking antibiotics destroys, at least temporarily, the family of “good” bacteria thrives in your body. some common side effects taking antibiotics include nausea, diarrhea and the development of fungal infections. If you’ve been prescribed an antibiotic or have recurring infections that cause you to take antibiotics frequently, 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 change the pH of the stomach and take 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 without a prescription.

By keeping track of the medications you take, you can help determine the cause of your symptoms and take the appropriate steps to improve your gut health.

3. Find exactly probiotics or supplements

In addition to including more yogurt or fermented foods in their diet, some people can look for a probiotic in hopes of balancing their guts as they were created mimic intact microbiota. If you’re considering taking a supplement including probiotics, Cresci told CNET it’s important to know that probiotics are specific to each strain and “each strain has its own method of action.”

For example, some probiotics are designed to help people with antibiotic-induced diarrhea, but it won’t work for someone taking them for bowel regularity.

“You want to get the one that’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 eating a bad diet, but you want to improve your microbiome, a probiotic is not going to help you,” Creschi said. “You have to do the other part as well.”

Sketch of intestines surrounded by healthy foods

Whole grains, fruits and vegetables are great food choices if you want to start healing your gut.

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4. Get more sleep and move your body

“Sleep better” or “exercise more” may sound like tired advice, but improving your sleep hygiene and pushing for more physical activity are tried and true ways to improve your health, including gut health.

Getting good sleep is another common wellness tip directly related to our gut health. Specifically, according to Cresci, our microbiome adheres to circadian rhythm, too. And if we eat when our gut microbiome isn’t ready, we won’t be set up to properly process the nutrients from our food.

Lack of sleep also causes the stress and cortisol they have to rise negative mental and physical impacts.

“There’s a lot going on in the gut-brain interaction, so it signals back to the microbiome and vice versa,” Kresky said.

Perhaps the most basic is the fact that when we’re exhausted, we don’t have the energy to check off many of the things that keep us healthy, including exercise or finding nutritious food – both impact our gut health.

“When you’re sleepy, tired, exhausted, you tend not to do the things that we know are good for the microbiome,” Creschi said. “So it kind 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 physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.


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