4 Simple Ways to Improve Your Gut Health
Whether you have a wheat intolerance or you constantly struggle with digestive issues, an unhappy gut can really put a dampener on your day or even cause continuous discomfort.
Thankfully, the good news is that there are plenty of ways you can improve your gut health naturally. With just a few small lifestyle changes, you can minimise those uncomfortable stomach symptoms and get on with your day undeterred.
From regular exercise to getting your forty winks every night, read on for four simple ways to improve your gut health.
1. Exercise regularly
While scientists are still yet to fully understand everything about gut health, recent research has indicated that exercise plays its part – and it’s all to do with our gut microbiome.
As a quick explainer, your gut microbiome refers to the system of bacteria, fungi, and viruses that make up your digestive system. There’s a lot of technical, very scientific jargon about how these organisms work, but simply put, improving your gut microbiome leads to regular bowel movements and healthier digestion, as well as better moods and wellbeing.
So, coming back to how the benefits of exercise improve gut health, the increased oxygen in your bloodstream and rise in body temperature are exactly the conditions your good gut bacteria thrive on. By heading out for a run or going to the gym multiple times a week, you are actually contributing to a healthy gut!
If you’re not sure where to start, read our fitness for beginners article that breaks down workouts into five easy steps. You might also want to check out our 10 ways to burn 100 calories or outdoor fitness ideas once you feel more comfortable with your exercise routine.
2. Eat a healthy gut diet
A diverse array of foods doesn't just look nice on a plate - it's an effective way to improve your gut health.
As tasty as they may be, you’ll want to be careful of consuming too many processed foods, sugary snacks, and saturated fats. These are the types of foods that cause an imbalance between the bad and good gut bacteria in your stomach, leading to the uncomfortable symptoms we know all too well.
Instead, if you don’t suffer with any intolerances, you want to focus on foods that are high in fibre and micronutrients, which will help stimulate your digestive system. We’re talking about adding gut health foods, such as yoghurts, almonds, olive oils, bananas, and even Brussels sprouts (just trust us), to your weekly shopping list.
For the greatest impact, you want to find the right balance between prebiotic and probiotic foods. Probiotics, such as yoghurts and fermented foods, are the good gut bacteria that help your digestive system, while the prebiotics (the likes of onions and garlic) help stimulate the growth of that gut-friendly bacteria. You need both to improve your gut microbiome. Latest study from Zoe researchers at Kings College London found that prebiotic foods improved cognition, ageing and frailty in older people.
You can also improve gut health naturally by eating a generally more balanced diet – which we know is easier said than done. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with our 7 easy steps towards a healthy diet guide!
3. Get a sound night’s sleep
Anyone who only got six hours of snoozing, instead of their usual eight, will know the huge impact that sleep has on our health – and gut health is no different.
In fact, it’s more of a two-way street. Problems with your gut contribute to sleepless nights, with the uncomfortable symptoms keeping you wide awake, which leads to more issues with your gut health. To break this cycle and improve gut bacteria, you need to find ways to get your forty winks, even when your stomach is giving you trouble.
Start by avoiding eating late at night as your body starts to wind down, as well as minimising your caffeine intake, which inflames your gut. There are also specific foods that can either upset or encourage sleep.
For example, the high level of caffeine in dark chocolate makes for a poor midnight snack choice, while the muscle-relaxing properties of high magnesium bananas could be just what you need to drop off. For more information, take a look at our best and worst foods for sleep post.
4. Reduce your daily stress
Mental health and physical health are closely linked, with high stress levels being one of the biggest causes of poor gut health.
What’s more, the effect of stress on gut health can differ from person to person. For some, stress can cause constipation, while other people lose their appetite altogether.
But while the reactions might be different, the cause is often the same. So, to improve your gut health naturally, you need to find ways to reduce your daily stress levels. This could be eating a more balanced diet, exercising more, stopping smoking, or talking to someone about your mental health – anything that helps you feel more zen and can contribute to good gut health.
If your stress is circumstantial, such as worries about the cost of living, read our seven tips on how to deal with financial stress.
Whether you’re struggling with your gut health or want to know more about the best foods for gut health, you’ll find the support you need with Benenden Health. Visit our gut health page to learn the ins and outs of your digestive system, including fascinating facts and understanding your stomach problems.
Medically reviewed by Llinos Connolly on February 2023. Next review date: February 2024.