HCA East Florida - June 14, 2021
by Bana Jobe

A young woman eats yogurt to help heal her gut.

If your belly feels unsettled regularly, it could be a sign that something's not right. From inflammation to stomach bugs, gastrointestinal problems can lead to all sorts of troubles, including bloating, gas, diarrhea, rumbling and pain.

While you should always see a doctor to rule out serious conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, you may be able to keep unwelcome symptoms at bay through your habits and choices. Here are some ideas to consider if you're wondering how to heal your gut daily.

1. Eat more fruits and vegetables

Your microbiome is the living world inside your gut, home to trillions of beneficial bacteria that help to keep your intestinal lining healthy so you can feel your best. Nutrition directly affects your microbiome, as healthy foods often contain prebiotics, or compounds that help favorable bacteria grow and stay alive. The more diverse those healthy bacteria are, the better.

Fruits, vegetables and high-fiber foods like oatmeal and beans can help give your gut what it needs to keep healthy bacteria, known as probiotics, in balance. In particular, garlic, onions, asparagus, bananas and leeks are all good choices for a healthy microbiome, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

2. Limit your gut triggers

Not everyone responds to foods in the same way. That's why it's important to watch your body's reaction to certain foods and limit the "gut triggers" that cause you to experience stomach discomfort or gas. Caffeine, sugar, junk food and fizzy drinks are all common gut triggers, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Even some healthy picks like beans and broccoli can cause stomach problems for some people, but don't let that stop you from eating fiber-rich legumes and veggies. Just try different options to find out what works for you.

3. Try probiotic foods

You already have living probiotics inside your gut, but you can also get them from certain foods. Fermented products like yogurt or kefir often contain healthy bacteria that can support your gut's microbiome. Just be aware that pasteurization can kill off beneficial bacteria during food processing, so look for a label that says the product contains live cultures.

4. Quit smoking

You likely know some of the benefits of quitting smoking, like improving heart health and reducing the risk of developing certain cancers, but cessation can also help your microbiome restore its mix of healthy bacteria. According to studies reported by the American Heart Association, smoking may lower the amount of microbial diversity in your gut's microbiome, which could impact gastrointestinal health and cardiovascular health. For this reason, quitting smoking is a great idea for anyone aiming to improve their overall health and especially their gut health.

5. Make time for physical activity

Research from Experimental Physiology suggests that the more you get your heart pumping, the more diverse your microbiome becomes and translates into positive gut bacteria for your system. Along with boosting your heart health and reducing your risk of developing certain chronic diseases.

6. Speak with your healthcare provider

Different medications can have different impacts on your gastrointestinal health, so if you take a medication and experience gut troubles, let your doctor know, as there may be a relationship between the two. For example, the Food and Drug Administration advises that an upset stomach is a common side effect of some medications. Your provider may want to try switching your meds to see if something else would work better.

Some medications, such as antibiotics, can also impact your gut bacteria. For that reason, some clinicians suggest that their patients take probiotic supplements in addition to certain drugs to help reestablish those living organisms in the gut. Just make sure to talk to your doctor before you make any changes to your medication routine.

7. Get a good night's sleep

While there's still a lot to learn about the links between the gut and the brain, Nova Southeastern University research suggests that poor sleep may lead to poor diversity of gut bacteria, and some scientists predict this may lead to us intentionally adjusting gut microbiome to impact sleep quality. Fortunately, that's a long way off, and you can still aim for at least seven hours of sleep every night based off the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation for average adults.

Your gut does a lot of good — not just in digesting food, but also in regulating immune responses and supporting other critical bodily functions. So take care of it, and if you think something may be wrong, see your doctor. In addition to helping you diagnose any possible underlying problems, they can also give you some tips on how to heal your gut in the long term.

tags: newsletter