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How to Improve Gut Health

longevity nutrition Jun 30, 2023
How to Improve Your Gut Health | Joseph Arangio

Every time you turn around these days, someone's talking about gut health.

It's become more popular than a clown at a kids' birthday party.

I couldn't help but wonder why in the world gut health suddenly got so famous.

So I did some digging, and have a story to tell.

It's a sunny day, and I'm in the car, on my way to pick up groceries, when I spot this fancy health-food store.

You know the type—the one with more supplements than a NASA space shuttle.

Curiosity got the best of me, and I walked in, and what do I see?

Shelves lined with jars of pickles, sauerkraut, and all things fermented.

Now, the storeowner must've been an undercover hypnotist because, before I knew it, I found myself asking, "What's the deal with all these fermented goodies? Is it some kind of hipster fad or what?"

That's when the owner, who was sporting a man bun the size of a softball, gave me this look like he just solved world peace.

He said, "My friend, it's all about the gut!"

The gut? I thought he was talking about belly buttons or something.

But no, apparently, our guts are these magical powerhouses inside us that determine everything from our mood to our energy levels.

Who knew?

It's like having a second brain down there—mini Albert Einstein in your tummy.

So, I'm like, "Alright, alright, tell me more about this gut business."

He goes on this whole spiel about how our guts have billions of little buddies called gut bacteria.

And these guys are essential to keeping everything in check. They help us digest food, fight off bad stuff, and apparently, they even influence our emotions.

Who knew our gut buddies were like tiny therapists? Forget talk therapy; give me some yogurt!

Then the owner starts telling me about the importance of probiotics. Apparently, those are like the superheroes of gut health.

They swoop in and save the day, keeping the balance between good and bad bacteria just right.

It's like a gut battleground in there, and these probiotics are the generals leading the charge.

Now, I'm thinking, "Okay, I get it. The gut is important. But why all the hype now?"

The owner looks at me with the intensity of a courtroom drama and says, "Because people finally realized that their guts have been crying for help!"

He goes on to explain how our modern diets, full of processed junk and fast food, have thrown our gut bacteria out of whack. 

And people are tired of feeling sluggish, moody, and just downright yucky.

So, they turned to gut health like it's the latest episode of a binge-worthy TV series.

They're drinking kombucha like it's the fountain of youth, munching on kimchi like it's popcorn at the movies, and loading up on yogurt like they're training for a dairy marathon.

Really, it's a crazy world we're living in when our bellies are calling the shots.

But hey, if it means feeling better, count me in.

Your gut is a bustling hub of microscopic organisms that impact digestion, immunity, and even mental health.

If you've been struggling with bloating, irregular bowel movements, or low energy levels, it's time to prioritize your gut health.

In this lesson, you'll learn practical strategies to optimize the trillions of microscopic organisms that promote a thriving digestive system.

How to Improve Gut Health

Your gut is like the boss of your body, calling the shots on digestion, your immune system, and even your mood.

A happy gut means a happy you. So, take care of it.

Feed it good stuff, like real food, fiber, and fermented goodies (more on that in a minute).

Here are 10 proven strategies to prioritize gut health.

1. Nourish your gut with real food

The first step towards a healthy gut is fueling it with nutrient-dense, whole foods.

Opt for a variety of vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, healthy fats, and fermented foods.

Pick up these gut-friendly options at your next grocery-store visit.

Oats

I don't trust oatmeal. It's too quiet. I mean, it doesn't even have a crunch. How can something be a cereal if it doesn't make any noise?

Seriously, what's not to love about these humble grains? They're like the superheroes of the breakfast world, packed with health benefits that can make your gut go from zero to hero. 

First things first, oats are loaded with beta-glucans. Now, don't let the fancy name scare you off. Beta-glucans are a type of soluble fiber that does wonders for your digestive system.

They form a gel-like substance in your digestive tract, moving slowly and helping you feel fuller for longer. It's like having a secret agent that keeps your energy levels stable and those hunger pangs at bay. 

Beta-glucans also play a crucial role in stabilizing blood sugar levels. You see, an unhealthy or imbalanced gut can wreak havoc on your blood sugars, and nobody wants that.

Luckily, foods rich in beta-glucans, like oats, can come to the rescue.

They help regulate your blood sugars, reducing the risk of insulin resistance.

So, start your day with a hearty bowl of oatmeal topped with your favorite fruits and nuts, blend oats into a wholesome smoothie, or whip up some breakfast oat muffins for a gut-friendly treat.

Bulgur wheat

Popular in Middle Eastern cuisine, bulgur is not only delicious but also a high-resistant starch that acts as a prebiotic. What's a prebiotic, you ask?

Well, it's like food for the good bacteria in your gut microbiome. It nourishes those little helpers and keeps them happy, promoting a healthy gut. The best part?

Bulgur is a fantastic alternative to quinoa or rice. It's packed with more fiber, lower in carbohydrates, and adds a nutty flavor to any grain salad or side dish.

Give bulgur a try and boost your fiber intake with a tasty grain pilaf or a refreshing summer salad.

Bananas

These yellow wonders are not just a tasty snack; they're also known as one of the best foods for digestion.

Bananas contain a type of soluble fiber called inulin, which acts as a prebiotic. In other words, it's like a buffet for the good bacteria in your gut, keeping them well-fed and happy.

So, if you're dealing with uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms like constipation or diarrhea, adding more bananas to your diet might just bring you some sweet relief.

Plus, that overly ripe banana in your fruit basket? Don't toss it! Peel it, freeze it, and save it for some delicious banana pancakes or a dairy-free banana-chocolate smoothie.

Lentils

These tiny legumes are bursting with key nutrients like folate, iron, and B vitamins, and they're also rich in gut-boosting resistant starches. Resistant starches are like the VIPs of carbohydrates.

They ferment in the large intestines and act as prebiotics, fueling those good bacteria and keeping your gut microbiome in tip-top shape.

But lentils don't stop there—they also keep you feeling full longer, improve bowel regularity, and support heart health.

They truly are nutrition powerhouses. So, whip up a hearty lentil soup or pair them with rice for a nourishing and comforting meal that will make your gut sing with joy.

Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries

Berries are like the Avengers of the fruit world, here to save your gut. These colorful delights are not only packed with antioxidants that fight inflammation in the gut, but they're also rich in prebiotics.

These prebiotics work wonders for your gut barrier, enhance nutrient absorption, and even offer protection from certain toxins.

Start your day with a refreshing berry smoothie (baby spinach, blueberries, a frozen banana, chocolate protein powder, ice, and almond milk) or freeze them for a delightful and nutrient-dense dessert.

Your gut will thank you.

Yogurt

Probiotics, those live microorganisms that keep your gut microbiome happy and healthy, are abundant in yogurt.

If you're experiencing symptoms like bloating, gas, or irregular bowel movements, probiotics can bring some quick relief. But here's the catch—not all yogurts contain live probiotics.

You need to read those labels. Look for yogurts that contain active or live cultures to reap the full benefits.

Choose high-protein yogurts with minimal added sugars and simple ingredients.

Whether you enjoy it as is or add it to your favorite recipes, yogurt is a gut-friendly choice that's sure to put a smile on your face and a healthy buzz in your belly.

Sauerkraut

This fermented cabbage is like a party for your gut.

During the fermentation process, friendly microorganisms break down the cabbage's natural sugars and convert them into carbon dioxide and organic acids. It's like a symphony of digestion.

These helpful bacteria make nutrients in food easier to digest, promoting a healthy gut. If sauerkraut isn't your thing, fear not.

Kimchi and miso are equally fantastic options. So, level up your dishes with a dollop of sauerkraut, a spoonful of kimchi, or a drizzle of miso, and let your taste buds and your gut rejoice.

Pears

These nutrient-dense fruits are high in antioxidants, vitamins C and K, and, most importantly, fiber.

Insoluble and soluble fiber work together to keep your bowels moving regularly and maintain healthy digestion. They provide bulk to your stool, making it easier for everything to, well, flow smoothly.

So, don't underestimate the power of a juicy pear. 

Simply dice a ripe pear and add to your salad for a creative and delicious way to incorporate this gut-friendly fruit into your meals.

Beans

Beans are good for your gut—and for a good reason.

Black beans, in particular, are a gut-friendly powerhouse loaded with protein and fiber. In just one cup of cooked black beans, you'll get a whopping 15 grams of fiber.

But the magic doesn't stop there. Black beans are high in resistant starch, acting as prebiotics and nourishing those beneficial bacteria in your gut.

So, whether you enjoy them in a soup, as a dip, or as a side dish, black beans are a fantastic choice for gut health.

Just remember to soak them overnight if you have trouble digesting them, and you'll be reaping all the benefits.

Tempeh

Tempeh is the tangy and nutty superhero of the gut. This fermented soybean product is a treasure trove of plant protein, probiotics, and prebiotics.

It's like a triple threat that positively influences your gut microbiome.

Just make sure not to cook tempeh at temperatures above 115 degrees to keep those live cultures intact.

For a quick and tasty lunch option, wrap tempeh in crispy romaine lettuce and let your gut enjoy the flavorful feast.

Ginger

Ginger is the unsung hero of digestion. This mighty root has an abundance of surprising health benefits.

It's been known to provide relief to upset stomachs and help with digestion concerns like nausea.

Thanks to gingerol, a natural substance with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, ginger stimulates the digestive tract and keeps things flowing smoothly.

Indulge in a soothing cup of ginger tea by boiling sliced ginger in water, adding your favorite sweetener, and giving your gut a gentle embrace.

Swiss chard

Packed with vital nutrients like vitamins A, K, and magnesium, Swiss chard is a powerhouse of gut health.

Its fiber content feeds the beneficial bacteria in your gut, while also helping to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

Versatile and delicious, Swiss chard can be incorporated into a variety of dishes, from salads to soups, stews, or sautés with other vegetables.

So, add some vibrant green goodness to your meals and let your gut revel in the nourishment.

All of these foods provide essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, and prebiotics, which feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut.

Remember to limit processed foods, refined sugars, and artificial additives, as they can disrupt the delicate balance of your gut microbiome and lead to something called "leaky gut."

2. Embrace fermented foods

Fermented foods are natural probiotics that help restore and maintain a diverse gut microbiome.

Incorporate foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, yogurt, and kombucha into your diet.

These foods introduce beneficial bacteria and enzymes that aid digestion, improve nutrient absorption, and support a robust immune system.

So, the next time you see someone chugging a bottle of sauerkraut juice, don't be alarmed.

It's just the gut health revolution, and it's here to stay.

3. Prioritize prebiotics

Prebiotics are dietary fibers that nourish the beneficial bacteria in your gut.

Including prebiotic-rich foods like onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, bananas, and chicory root in your meals can help enhance the growth of good gut bacteria.

Try this simple roasted asparagus recipe as well as my go-to banana-infused chocolate smoothie.

4. Optimize digestive enzymes

Sometimes, your gut may struggle to produce sufficient digestive enzymes, leading to discomfort and poor nutrient absorption.

Support your digestion by incorporating enzyme-rich foods such as pineapple, papaya, and fermented vegetables, especially fermented turmeric, into your diet.

Additionally, digestive enzyme supplements can provide relief and aid in efficient digestion.

5. Reduce stress levels

Chronic stress can wreak havoc on your gut health.

The gut-brain connection is a powerful link, and stress can disrupt the balance of gut bacteria and impair digestion.

Incorporate stress-reducing practices like meditation, deep breathing exercises, regular physical activity, and adequate sleep to maintain a healthy gut-brain axis.

6. Stay hydrated

Proper hydration is crucial for optimal gut health.

Water helps regulate bowel movements, maintain mucosal integrity, and support the transport of nutrients through the digestive system.

Aim to drink adequate water throughout the day and limit excessive consumption of dehydrating substances like caffeine and alcohol.

7. Consider a probiotic supplement

While food sources of probiotics are beneficial, certain situations may call for additional support.

If you've recently taken antibiotics, experienced digestive issues, or have a compromised immune system, probiotic supplements can help restore and maintain a diverse microbiome.

A legitimate probiotic will enhance your digestion thereby accelerating your weight loss—all with just one serving, once a day.

Look for a version that includes the following microorganisms:

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus: One of the main bacterial strains found in your intestines, this strain may restore balance to your gut population. This strain is commonly used for treating diarrhea, and other stomach/intestinal issues.
  • Bifidobacterium lactis: This strain of bacteria is commonly used to replenish “good” bacteria in the gut commonly destroyed by radiation, antibiotics, or chemotherapy. It is also a common treatment for conditions such as ulcerative colitis and many others.
  • Bifidobacterium longum: Sometimes called the "king of bacteria," B. longum may elicit the most benefits to your body. Not only does it maintain a normal digestive tract, it fights the growth of bad bacteria, boosts your immune system, lowers cholesterol, and prevents lactose intolerance.
  • Bifidobacterium bifidum: This bacterium is a vigilant fighter in the war against bad bacteria. Its main responsibility is to maintain a healthy gut bacterial population, but it also controls the influx of bad bacteria into your intestines, bolsters your immune system, and aids in the digestive process.
  • Lactobacillus salivarius: This is known for improving digestive health, improving immunity and improving dental health. L. salivarius produces its own antibiotics and they target against invading pathogenic bacteria. Since it also produces lactic acid it creates an ideal environment for other probiotics.
  • Lactobacillus plantarum: This probiotic is extremely hardy and easily survives in stomach acid. Your body temperature is also very close to the ideal temperature that L. plantarum thrives. 
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus: This strain adheres and colonizes to the intestinal wall which gives it longer term benefits. It may also strengthen the gut barrier which reduces IBS symptoms for those that suffer from this. In addition, it helps increase the production of short chain fatty acids. Studies link these type of fatty acids to include protection against colon cancer, weight loss and lower blood sugar levels.
  • Lactobacillus fermentum: L. fermentum has been shown to enhance the immunologic response as well as prevent gastrointestinal and upper respiratory infections. It also assists in lowering your blood-cholesterol levels and to potentially help prevent colorectal cancer.
  • Lactobacillus reuteri: This strain is generally found in low numbers in your digestive tract. It provides anti-inflammatory properties which current research has shown that is may improve levels of testosterone and oxytocin. It may also discourage weight gain.
  • Lactobacillus gasseri: Helps to improve immune response to viral infections. May also help reduce symptoms of ulcerative colitis, IBS, and IBD.
  • Bifidobacterium animalis: May help prevent airway infections such as the common cold as well as long term disorders of the colon such as IBS or IBD.
  • Lactobacillus paracasei: This strain is highly stable and able to survive throughout the gastrointestinal tract. It has good mucosal adherence which may help with reducing potentially harmful bacteria and help with immune system function.
  • Bifidobacterium breve: Beneficial in reducing constipation and diarrhea. It also provides an array of benefits to the health of the gut, brain, and immune systems.

Again, I recommend this high-quality probiotic supplement which includes the strains mentioned above; however, you should always do your own research and consult with your healthcare professional for personalized recommendations.

8. Practice intermittent fasting

Have you heard about this new diet trend called "intermittent fasting"?

Basically, you starve yourself for a certain number of hours, and then you can eat whatever you want.

Most folks have been doing that unintentionally for years. It's called "being too busy to have lunch."

Seriously, intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that can positively impact gut health.

By allowing your digestive system to rest between meals, you promote gut healing and reduce inflammation.

Start with a 12- to 16-hour fasting window, gradually increasing it as your body adjusts.

Remember to break your fast with a nourishing meal that supports gut health.

9. Get regular physical activity

Exercise isn't just beneficial for your cardiovascular health; it also supports a healthy gut.

Regular physical activity, especially resistance training, helps improve gut motility, which aids in regular bowel movements.

Progressive resistance exercise also improves insulin sensitivity and fights muscle loss, both which are important if you are over the age of 40 and trying to stay lean.

Aim for a mix of strength training and cardiovascular-conditioning movements to stimulate your gut and maintain overall fitness.

10. Identify food sensitivities

Food sensitivities can cause inflammation and disrupt your gut health.

Pay attention to how your body responds to certain foods, and consider eliminating common triggers like gluten, dairy, soy, or processed foods.

Many clients are shocked when they learn the truth about milk.

An elimination diet or working with a qualified healthcare practitioner can help you identify specific sensitivities and develop a personalized eating plan.

Taking care of your gut health is a powerful investment in your overall well-being.

By implementing these strategies, nourishing your body with real food, and embracing a gut-friendly lifestyle, you can optimize your digestion, strengthen your immune system, and enhance your vitality.

Everyone's gut is unique, so experiment and find what works best for you.

And remember, take care of your gut, and your gut will take care of you.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to find a yogurt-covered pickle.

Hey, it's for my gut.

Summary:

Your gut is like a little factory inside you, doing all sorts of important stuff. It affects your digestion, your immune system, even your mood. Eat good food, stay hydrated, and keep that factory running smoothly. Your gut will thank you.

To your success,

Coach Joe

 


 

Joseph Arangio helps 40+ men and women get leaner, stronger, and happier. He's delivered over 100,000 transformation programs to satisfied clients around the globe. If you want to lose weight from home, with the best online personal trainer, or you want to visit the best personal trainer in the Lehigh Valley, you can take a free 14-day trial.

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