A few things you can do to improve your gut health

Probiotic tablets and fermented drinks are often recommended in varying quantities. However, remember that it is still an emerging field of science and there’s still limited evidence to support the amounts recommended. We like to follow it closely and can only say that it helps your gut bacteria to consume fermented drinks daily.

While we would like to suggest drinking lots of our water kefir drinks every day, but the best advice we can give for an overall impact on your gut health is detailed below.

Be gentle with yourself and introduce fermented drinks and foods in small amounts at first. In the short term, water kefir, kombucha, and other fermented drinks and foods will be beneficial. But they may cause discomfort if your system is stressed and not used to them.

The most effective overall improvements are achieved through a close look at a person’s diet. This is for example by eliminating colas, diet colas and other artificially sweetened and sugary soft drinks as an example.

So, without further ado, here are a few things you can do to naturally increase your gut’s healthy bacteria:

Plants should be a priority.

If you want to ensure a diverse diet, you should also consider how much plant food you consume. Plants contain fibres (including prebiotic fibers), phytochemicals, and an array of macro- and micronutrients. These foods nourish good bacteria, starve out bad bacteria, and delivering antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits to the gut and beyond.

Cruciferous vegetables2 like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, specifically, have unique compounds called glucosinolates that are metabolised by bacteria. These compounds promote the growth and balance of good bacteria in your gut.

Pay attention to volume (consuming more plants in general), as well as variety (eating different types of plants regularly Don’t get into a rut where you only eat broccoli and sweet potatoes.

Add fermented foods.

Fermented foods are made with the help of bacteria and yeast. The bacteria and yeast break the food down, creating more good bacteria, boosting the bioavailability of nutrients3, and reducing anti-nutrients, or compounds that interfere with the adequate absorption of vitamins and minerals.

“These probiotic-rich foods help crowd out unfavourable bacteria or yeast,” says board-certified internist Vincent M. Pedre, M.D., and including them in your diet can help support gut balance. Just 2 tablespoons of sauerkraut contain 1 million colony-forming units (or CFUs) of good bacteria, and not only that: A study published in PLOS One4 found that fermented foods like sauerkraut are resistant to lower pH, like stomach acid, so they are able to successfully make the journey from your mouth, through your stomach, and into your small intestine where they colonize and grow.

Here are some fermented foods to try:

· Sauerkraut

· Kimchi

· Kefir (both dairy & water based)

· Yogurt

· Kombucha

· Miso

· Tempeh

· Natto

Have plenty of fibre-rich foods.

You’ll naturally consume more fiber when you increase your plant intake, but include plenty of high-fiber foods in your diet, like beans, chia seeds, flaxseeds, lentils, berries, and psyllium. 

Fibre, especially prebiotic fibre, feeds your gut bacteria, and when it’s metabolised, short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) are produced in the process. According to gastroenterologist and gut health expert Will Bulsiewicz, M.D., MSCI, SCFAs balance your gut (increase good bacteria while pushing out bad), support your immune system, lower cholesterol, regulate blood sugar, and improve brain function. “They are the currency of gut health,” he says. “And we get them exclusively from prebiotic fibre.”

Tip: For those whose diets lack fibre, it’s an excellent idea to gradually introduce high-fibre foods over a few weeks. This gives your gut time to adjust to the change. If you eat too much fibre too quickly, it can cause gas build-up that leads to uncomfortable issues like bloating, stomach discomfort, and flatulence.

Eat polyphenol-rich foods.

Polyphenols are naturally occurring plant compounds that are high in antioxidants. Research1 shows that polyphenols, like those from fruits, vegetables, tea, dark chocolate and wine (don’t overdo it on these two in the name of gut health, though) increase the amount of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus bacteria in your gut. These specific bacteria lay down their “roots” in your gut and have a number of other health benefits from better digestion to more radiant skin.

Some polyphenol-rich foods (and drinks) include:

· Berries

· Plums

· Cherries

· Beans

· Nuts

· Vegetables (artichoke, chicory, and spinach)

· Black and green tea

Watch your sugar intake.

In terms of gut balance, sugar is identified as the greatest offender. Sugar wreaks havoc in your gut5, and research shows it feeds the bad bugs and creates imbalance. Its advised that you avoid all kinds of added sugar as much as possible. Pay extra close attention to packaged items that often have hidden sugars, and liquid forms. For example High fructose corn syrup .

Get enough quality sleep.

Sleep may seem like a passive activity, but it’s really a restorative period that has huge implications for your gut health. Research shows that a lack of sleep contributes to stress, which can lead to an imbalance of good and bad bacteria. On the flip side, getting enough sleep (around seven to nine hours for adults6) can help you manage stress’s physical effects, promoting a healthy gut balance.

A healthy gut is also associated with better sleep quality7. In other words, the more you increase good bacteria in your gut, the better you may sleep.

If you have trouble sleeping, there are plenty of things you can do, like sticking to a sleep routine, avoiding blue light, and ditching caffeine, to improve your sleep quality.

Try to manage stress.

Managing stress is one of the most significant things you can do for your gut health (and health, in general). In its acute stages, stress can cause digestive upset (bubble guts, anyone?), queasiness, and worse, but over time it can disrupt the balance of gut bacteria, decreasing the good and giving the bad an opportunity to thrive.

While you’ll never get rid of stress completely, try to manage it through daily meditation, yoga, exercise, journaling. Avoid overworking, and engage in activities that truly bring you joy. 

Move your body.

Exercise is a no-brainer. Thanks to the endorphins it produces, you get physical benefits, like more strength and better flexibility-plus emotional benefits, such as a boost in mood, better sleep, and increased self-esteem. 

But exercise also supports the number of good bacteria in your gut and contributes to bacterial diversity (or the number of strains).

Aim for 2.5 to five hours of exercise per week, and try to incorporate physical activity into your everyday routine, too. Take the stairs, walk the dog, dance while cooking. Fitness doesn’t always have to be structured.

The bottom line.

Your health depends on having plenty—we’re talking trillions—of good bacteria in your gut. While today’s lifestyle, filled with hardly enough sleep and lots of stress, can make it challenging to support a thriving gut microbiome. However, there are lots of ways to naturally increase the good bacteria in your gut. Focus on diet diversity, increase high-fibre plants you eat, manage stress levels, and regularly move your body.

Hope this is helpful. 

Gerry Scullion


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