12 Easy Ways to Improve Gut Health

By Alexandra Caspero on November 2, 2023

Having a healthy gut is essential to overall well-being and proper digestion. An unhealthy gut can contribute to issues like inflammation, autoimmune diseases, and poor nutrient absorption. The good news is that making simple adjustments to your diet and lifestyle can go a long way toward supporting gut health.

Here are twelve easy ways to improve your gut health.

Manage Stress Levels

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Chronic stress can negatively affect gut health by altering the composition of gut bacteria and impairing digestive function. Implement stress management techniques such as regular exercise, mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, and engaging in activities that you enjoy.

Limit Artificial Sweeteners

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The research on artificial sweeteners is varied and mixed, but animal models show that high levels of artificial sweeteners may alter the gut microbiome. If you already have gut issues, it’s likely a good idea to see if avoiding artificial sweeteners is helpful.

Stay Hydrated

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Drinking an adequate amount of water throughout the day is crucial for maintaining optimal gut health. Water helps soften stool, prevents constipation, and supports overall digestive function. Aim to drink at least 8 cups (64 ounces) of water daily, or more if you engage in intense physical activity or live in a hot climate.

Exercise Often

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Engaging in regular physical activity offers numerous benefits for gut health. Exercise helps stimulate the muscles in the digestive tract, promoting better digestion and reducing the risk of constipation.

Get Sufficient Sleep

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Quality sleep is essential for a healthy gut. Lack of sleep can disrupt the gut microbiome and lead to imbalances in gut bacteria. To help promote sleep, establish a regular sleep routine, create a comfortable sleep environment, and limit exposure to electronic devices before bedtime.

Eat More Whole Grains

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Whole grains, like barley, oats, quinoa, bulger, and others have fiber that we need to bulk up our intestines and help things to move through.

Whole grains then become a type of food for the bacteria living in our microbiome. Eating more whole grains has been shown to increase the types and numbers of bacteria in our gut. The same is true of nuts, so pick up a variety of walnuts, pecans, pistachios or almonds, remembering that a serving is what fits into the palm of your hand.

Enjoy Fermented Foods Often

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We’ve all heard about eating more yogurt for good gut health, but the same is true for other fermented foods. Sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, kombucha and tempeh are all fermented foods good for gut health.

Diversify Your Diet

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Focus on incorporating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts into your meals. These foods are abundant in dietary fiber, which nourish beneficial gut bacteria. By diversifying your diet, you encourage the growth of a diverse microbiome associated with better gut health.

Eat more Dark Chocolate, Blueberries and Polyphenol-rich foods

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Does anyone actually need a reason to eat more chocolate? Polyphenol-rich foods, such as dark chocolate and blueberries, have anti-inflammatory properties and are helpful for overall gut health.

Other polyphenol-rich foods include almonds, onions, green tea, broccoli, and cacao.

Manage Food Intolerances and Allergies

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Identifying and managing food intolerances and allergies can significantly improve gut health. Certain foods, such as gluten, lactose, and certain FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols), can cause digestive symptoms in individuals with intolerances. Work with a healthcare professional to determine if you have any food sensitivities and develop a suitable dietary plan to alleviate symptoms and support gut health.

Eat a High Fiber Diet

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The vast majority of Americans, about 90%, don’t consume enough fiber, according to the latest CDC numbers. A rough estimate should be at least 14 g of fiber per 1000 calories or at least 25 g per day. Most Americans eat roughly half that.

Fiber affects the function of our gut, the digestion and absorption of nutrients, how quickly or slowly things move through, and the quality of our stools.

Limit Ultra-processed Foods

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While almost all foods have had some kind of processing, it is best to eat foods that are minimally processed. These foods retain their nutritional value and do not usually have added sugar, salt, unhealthy fats or additives such as emulsifiers and artificial sweeteners, all of which may impact your gut health.

Unprocessed foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, eggs, seafood, poultry and lean red meat. Ultra-processed foods include deli meats such as ham and salami, many breakfast cereals, ready-made meals, sweet desserts, and many packaged snacks such as chips.

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Meet Alex Caspero

Alex Caspero is a Registered Dietitian, New York Times Bestselling Plant-Based Chef and mom of two. She aims to cut through the nutrition noise by providing real-life, nourishing tips for body and mind. Learn more about Alex.

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