8 Ways to Have A Healthy Gut, As Backed by Science
Over the years, we have been informed by numerous research that a healthy gut is the key to improving one’s health. Unfortunately, however, many of us are so focused on taking dietary supplements and using quick fixes like surgeries to make certain health problems go away. But nothing compares to taking care of one’s self from the inside. Eventually, all the actions and abuses you’ve done to your body will show on the outside, and that’s nothing a pill could fix. So, if it’s your goal to look after your health and well-being, maintaining a healthy gut should be number one on your list.
Just how important is it to have a healthy gut, anyway? Studies have shown that a healthy proportion of good bacteria in the internal system affects our metabolism and is vital in fighting health risks like obesity, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
Benefits of Gut Health
1. It prevents obesity.
In a 2011 study conducted by Lund University, researchers found that rats which were fed with bacteria called Lactobacillus Plantarum HEAL19 from the time in the uterus up to adult age were shown to have a lower body weight compared to rats that were fed with Escherichia coli, which increased their body fat.
In 2016, researchers from Denmark transferred gut bacteria from a group of human participants – half of which were overweight, the other half of normal weight – into a group of mice. The study found that mice that received gut bacteria from overweight people ended up gaining more body fat compared to the other group, even if they were fed with the same diet.
2. It could alleviate anxiety.
A large analysis of 21 studies was done by researchers from the Shanghai Mental Health Center. They gathered these studies and examined the methods used in regulating the intestinal microbiota to address the symptoms of anxiety. Of these 21 studies, 14 involved using probiotics, while the rest sought other ways, like adjusting one’s diet. Researchers found that a third of probiotic studies showed favorable results, while studies relying on dietary changes were also effective.
3. It could lower your risk of heart disease.
A poor gut could have a link with heart disease. Heart failure patients had lower biodiversity of gut bacteria compared to healthy individuals, according to a 2019 study. Researchers gathered stool samples of 84 patients with chronic heart failures and 266 healthy individuals, studied the composition of their gut microbes and compared them between two groups.
They learned that heart failure patients had lower biodiversity of gut bacteria compared to their healthy counterparts. Additionally, among heart failure patients, they found that those with poor gut bacteria had lower fiber intake. Researchers advise the public to choose food rich in fiber to promote a healthy gut flora.
4. It helps fight inflammation.
Our intestinal gut flora is a community of thousands of bacterial species, which have continued to be a subject of numerous studies for years now. The gut lining is protected by a host of beneficial bacteria, but if it gets exposed to harmful toxins and molecules, leaky gut happens. Moreover, the gut becomes inflamed, which could lead to certain health problems like diabetes, atherosclerosis, and obesity. An inflamed gut is something we should avoid because of the health risks involved, and one way to prevent it is by protecting the gut.
How to improve your gut health
Taking care of your gut is one of the best things you can do for yourself. If you don’t know how to keep it healthy, these are some of the things you can do.
1. Consume food rich in probiotics.
Eating fried foods and those high in animal fat is generally a no-no to our health, since they can cause us so much health problems. But an intake of dietary fiber and fermented dairy products containing probiotics is good for the body and most especially, for the gut. Probiotics are live organisms, which when ingested, offer the host a number of health benefits. It is believed that probiotics protect the intestinal barrier, which could otherwise be “invaded” by disease-causing microorganisms. They also help improve the immune system and increase the gut’s microbial composition while preserving its stability. Examples of foods that are rich in probiotics are sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi, miso and kombucha.
2. Eat walnuts.
In a study done in 2017, researchers from Louisiana State University found that walnuts can help introduce more good bacteria in the intestines, therefore, improving gut health. For their experiment, they used rodents which they divided into two groups. The first group was fed with walnuts. The second group did not consume walnuts. After the study, researchers compared the gut bacteria present in the two groups. Researchers noted significant changes and an increase of bacteria in the intestines, most notably the good bacteria called Lactobacillus. Walnuts are considered a superfood because they are rich in antioxidants, which are good for the heart and the brain. But this study has proven that it also helps promote gut health, which is the key to overall health.
3. Eat a lot of green, leafy vegetables.
Broccoli has been found to help improve one’s gut health. This was the finding of researchers from Penn State. After feeding mice with some broccoli, they exhibited better tolerance towards health problems like leaky gut and colitis, compared to mice that were fed with broccoli supplements. Researchers added that cruciferous vegetables like brussels sprouts and cauliflower help maintain a healthy gut flora. They also contain a chemical compound which aids in preventing toxins from affecting the intestines. A leaky gut could lead to inflammation, which could result in a host of health problems like heart disease and arthritis.
4. Get enough sleep.
As if we haven’t heard enough of the role a good night’s sleep can do to the body, here’s another one: it also has a possible correlation to our gut health. At least that’s what researchers from Nova Southeastern University discovered in a study they did this year. In an experiment, volunteers were made to wear what they called an “Apple Watch on steroids” which tracked the quality of their sleep, as well as their gut microbiome. They learned that those who slept well had a diverse microbiome. A diverse microbiome helps with certain conditions like autoimmune diseases and promotes general health.
5. Lower your stress levels.
Stress impacts not only our emotional health but our physical bodies too. And one of the things that is affected by stress is our gut. In a study done by Ohio State University, researchers said that when subjects were subjected to stress, the gut bacteria in the internal system became less diverse and had more harmful bacteria such as Clostridium. Moreover, there was less balance and their population changed, too. Researchers noted that as the gut flora changed, so did the immune system, which became prone to infection and inflammation in the gut.
6. Don’t overuse antibiotics.
While antibiotics have their own benefits, when overused, they could lead to resistance. Moreover, it could lead to long-term consequences, such as a decrease in microbial diversity and overgrowth of harmful bacteria such as Clostridium difficile (which could cause diarrhea and infect the bowels).
Another study led by researchers from the University of Copenhagen found that repetitive use of antibiotics could eradicate the beneficial bacteria in healthy people. In an experiment, they administered 3 different antibiotics on their volunteers for 4 days, followed by a recovery period of 6 months. After 6 months, however, they found that the volunteers were lacking 9 beneficial bacteria in the gut. This goes to show that while antibiotics can help, sometimes it’s best not to depend on them too much.
7. Stop smoking.
Smoking is said to cause plenty of health risks, and one of them is a poorly managed gut flora. After analyzing various studies that were published from 2000-2016, researchers suggested that smoking could change the composition of the intestinal microbiome. Smoking contributed to the growth of harmful bacteria like Clostridium, Bacteroides and Prevotella, and the decrease of beneficial bacteria such as Bifidobacteria and Lactococcus. These changes could lead to the development of inflammatory bowel diseases.
8. The most important thing is to have a healthy diet.
Not surprisingly, to have a diverse and healthy intestinal bacteria, a daily diet rich in fish, leafy vegetables and nuts is a must. This was the result of a study that was presented by a team of researchers from the University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands at UEG Week 2019 in Barcelona. Researchers recruited four groups of people – healthy individuals, sufferers of IBS, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Research was done by collecting their stool samples and analyzing their gut bacteria profile. They learned that a diet of fish, vegetables, nuts and fiber was linked to a greater diversity of gut bacteria, while sugar and meat lowered levels of good bacteria in the gut.