Before we discuss ways to improve your gut microbiome, we need to delve into the microbiome itself. The human microbiome is a vital piece of the overall health puzzle. Within the digestive tract, there are trillions of microorganisms, like bacteria – each of which has its own respective job to do to keep the body healthy. While each job may be subtle (such as helping millions or trillions of other microorganisms break down food), together, the organisms work symbiotically to create a healthy gut.
The gut microbiome also relies on balance. For example, there are good gut organisms and harmful gut organisms. The bad and the good must be balanced for everything to work. However, it can be easy for harmful gut bacteria to grow out of control. Eating unhealthy foods or taking antibiotics, for example, can inhibit the growth of good bacteria and allow the harmful bacteria to take over completely.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of an overgrowth of bad gut bacteria, such as fatigue, digestive issues, or infections, that’s a sign that you need to rebalance everything for optimal health. But are there effective ways to improve your gut microbiome yourself? And if so, how can you do it?
Is it possible to improve gut microbiome?
Resetting your gut health to restore it to previously healthy levels is possible. As long as you can make the necessary changes, restoring overall health to your own collection of microorganisms is definitely achievable.
How long does it take to improve gut microbiome?
Every person is different, and everyone’s microbiomes differ slightly too. The same species of bacteria may be found in higher amounts in one person and lower amounts in another. That said, the microbiome is a general blueprint for gut health and can be fixed with the right actions.
The time it takes will depend on the person and their current state of health. Generally speaking, it can take as long as six months to restore gut health when a person does all the right things, like:
- Eating specific foods to heal gut microbiome health
- Getting enough sleep
- Exercising regularly
- Managing their stress levels
What are the best ways to heal your gut microbiome?
The best ways to improve your gut health rely on your lifestyle. If you eat heavily processed foods, live a sedentary lifestyle, and are regularly stressed, you cannot heal your gut. That’s why, when you focus on the following aspects of overall health, you may see a vast improvement in how your stomach works.
1. The Gut Health Diet
Diet is the number one factor associated with gut health. What you put into your body makes a huge difference in balancing good and bad gut bacteria. You want to focus on foods that heal your body and avoid foods that inflame it.
The first step is getting rid of anything that can cause gut dysbiosis, or the imbalance of gut bacteria, such as:
- Fast food or highly processed foods
- Foods high in added sugars
- Artificial sweeteners
- High levels of alcohol
After eliminating these foods, you’ll want to start introducing new whole foods rich in nutrients. Some specific nutrients you should aim to get enough of include:
- Foods rich in prebiotics, such as whole grains, resistant starches, or certain vegetables
- Foods rich in polyphenols (plant compounds that provide antioxidant benefits), such as dark chocolate, red wine, grapes, green tea, almonds, and blueberries
- Supplements to improve gut health, such as probiotics
Some specific foods that have been shown to help improve gut bacteria imbalances include:
- Fermented foods such as kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut, and yogurt
- Whole grains, such as barley, farro, quinoa, and brown rice
- Lots of fruits, beans, legumes, and vegetables, including raspberries, artichokes, green peas, broccoli, chickpeas, lentils, beans, bananas, and apples
It’s important to remember when redefining your diet that diversity is critical. You don’t want to eat a narrow diet of the same foods, because that won’t balance gut bacteria. It’s important to add variety to your foods because research shows that diversity in foods can equal diversity in the gut – and that’s a good thing.
2. Get Proper Sleep
Sleep is vital for many reasons, but many people don’t realize how much of an influence it can have on their microbiome. Sleep disruptions and insufficient quality shut-eye can hinder symbiosis in the gut, leading to an imbalance. While people and their sleep needs differ, you should generally aim to get between seven and nine hours of good quality sleep per night for optimal gut health.
3. Prioritize Exercise
Research has shown that people who exercise regularly have healthier microbiomes than those who don’t. This is because exercise can help to increase the number of good bacteria within the gut while enriching the diversity. It can also help to improve the body’s ability to develop commensal bacteria. When these three benefits are combined, it shows that exercise and gut health go hand-in-hand.
4. Explore Self-Care
Stress can wreak havoc on all bodily systems, including the microbiome. To ensure that stressful situations don’t become health issues, you can explore self-care routines to help you manage difficult situations.
Try managing your stress levels by:
- Meditating daily
- Practicing holistic exercises such as yoga or Tai Chi
- Creating a good work-life balance
- Engaging in activities that help reduce your stress levels, such as painting, writing, singing, or dancing
When it comes to self-care and stress management, knowing what calms you is the best thing you can do to avoid gut imbalances driven by an excess of stress hormones.
While the road towards optimal gut health isn’t always easy, with the right approach, it is possible to improve your gut health and, in turn, the health of your entire body.