Some healthy foods and lifestyle habits can improve your gut health naturally.

1. Eat foods rich in fiber and packaged with probiotics

Fiber is a plant-based nutrient that reduces the risk of metabolic diseases by stimulating the growth and diversity of good bacteria in the gut, research suggests. Sweet potatoes, spinach, beets, carrots and dill are full of natural fiber that enhances the gut. In addition to fruits and vegetables, whole grains are also a rich source of fiber.

Fermented foods such as yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha are also valued for their ability to enhance the gut, thanks to the presence of probiotics. Yogurt can help soothe gastrointestinal conditions like diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease and constipation. One study found that people who ate yogurt regularly had more lactobacilli, a bacterium that benefits the intestines, in their intestines, as well as fewer enterobacteriaceae, a type of bacteria associated with inflammation.

2. Consider an Appendix

Probiotic supplements have become increasingly popular as word of the importance of intestinal health continues to spread. While probiotic supplements are not a cure for intestinal health, there is some evidence that can give the microbiota a boost and restore intestinal health under certain conditions.

Your doctor may also recommend a probiotic supplement if you have been prescribed an antibiotic. Evidence suggests that this may help prevent antibiotic-related diarrhea.

If you are interested in a probiotic supplement, talk to your doctor. While such supplements have a history of seemingly safe use, especially in healthy people, the risk of harmful effects is greater in people with compromised immune systems.

3. Exercise often

Movement is the medicine for so many parts of the human body, including the microbiome. In animal and human studies, researchers have found that exercise promotes an increase in the diversity of healthy bacteria in the gut.

While some studies highlight the roles that exercise and diet can play together in positively impacting intestinal health, a 2019 review specifically reported that exercise has the potential to change the composition and functionality of intestinal bacteria regardless of diet. The researchers found longer workouts and high-intensity aerobic exercise, in particular, contributed the most to the diversity and function of gut bacteria in relation to overall well-being. They also noted that weak people are more likely to reap intestinal health benefits from exercise than overweight or obese individuals.

4. Limit your alcohol intake

Excessive drinking can also negatively affect your microbiome. Repeated use of alcohol is associated with gastritis, an irritation of the intestines in which it becomes inflamed. Such inflammation can lead to heartburn, chronic discomfort, ulcers and bacterial infections.

Excessive drinking is also associated with inflammation of the intestines, which is a sign of an unhealthy gut. Research suggests that this type of inflammation changes the microbiota – including how well it works – and can upset it.

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5. Reduce Stress Levels

Stress is not just mental: Think about those butterflies you feel when you are excited or anxious. Intestinal health experts often cite the “gut-brain connection” and refer to the gut as the “second brain.” While we do not know everything about their relationship, we do know that mental health and gut are closely linked.

Research suggests that anxiety and depression affect the gut and vice versa – they may increase the risk of IBS, and people with IBS are more likely to experience these mental health disorders.

Finding ways to manage your mental health and stress levels can help reduce unpleasant GI symptoms and restore your body to balance. Not sure where to start? Try adding some physical activity to your day. Something as simple as a daily walk can improve gut health, as research suggests that exercise can increase the quality and quantity of gut microbes that enhance health.