When it comes to your gut, the saying “you are what you eat” takes on a whole new meaning!
That’s because inside your gut exists a thriving ecosystem called your microbiome. And this microbiome is packed with trillions of tiny microorganisms and bacteria called your microbiota. Like DNA, each person has their own unique network of microbiota living in their gut. And the health of this mini-ecosystem depends on a wide variety of factors, like the food you put in your body. (1,2,3)
But hold on… bacteria? Aren’t those bad for you?
Nope, not all of them! Your gut needs healthy bacteria to help break down your food, absorb nutrients, create vitamins and amino acids, break down toxic food compounds, manage your weight, provide extra energy, and more. (3)
Not only that, but your gut and brain talk to one another in what’s called the “gut-brain axis”. This connection helps maintain a healthy balance in your immune, metabolic, and cognitive health. (3,4,5) In other words, keeping your gut healthy is pretty important!
But how exactly do you do that? Here are 6 tips for taking better care of your gut so you can keep those friendly bacteria happy (and hard at work keeping you healthy!).
1. Eat More Fiber
If there’s one thing the gut loves most it’s fiber! Fiber is a complex carbohydrate that your body can’t digest. But as fiber passes through your digestive system it stimulates the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut, contributing to the health of your mini-ecosystem. (6,7)
By feeding your healthy bacteria, fiber helps regulate your digestion, lowers your blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and keeps you feeling full for longer. That’s why high fiber foods, like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, are crucial to a gut-healthy diet. (6)
And if you’re on the hunt for a healthy meal replacement shake for your weight loss goals, look for a shake with 5g or more of dietary fiber. Not only does this support your gut health but it keeps you feeling full so you’re less likely to load up on unnecessary calories! Some high-fiber shake options include 310 Nutrition, Garden of Life, and Vega One.
2. Add Probiotics
Probiotic-rich foods are those that contain the live, beneficial microorganisms you’ll find in your gut. By eating probiotics, you’re recruiting new healthy bacteria to move in and get right to work supporting your gut health. (8,9)
Foods high in probiotics include some yogurts, fermented vegetables, kombucha, kefir, kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, and tempeh. (9) Or make it even easier and find a meal replacement shake that contains probiotics (like our top-rated shake 310 Nutrition!).
3. Avoid Foods That Hurt Your Gut Bacteria
While some things (like probiotics and fiber!) help support a healthy gut, others do more harm than good. These include:
- Whey: If you’re sensitive to dairy or you’re lactose intolerant, whey could cause digestive discomfort. Some side effects include bloating, gas, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. Opt for these dairy-free protein shakes instead!
- Added sugars and artificial sweeteners: Diets high in sugar or artificial sweeteners could lead to inflammation and an imbalance in your gut bacteria. (9)
- Fried and high-fat foods: Fried, processed, and high-fat foods (aka junk food!) are often low in fiber and high in trans, saturated, and other unhealthy fats that are difficult to digest. This could leave you feeling bloated or constipated. (10)
- Refined grains: Refined grains (like white bread or white rice) aren’t bad for your gut. But if you’re eating refined grains thinking you’re getting a ton of fiber, it’s time to think again. Most refined grains contain less than a quarter of the fiber found in whole grain options (like brown rice, quinoa, bulgur, barley, or whole wheat bread). For a healthier gut, try swapping more of your refined grains with 100% whole grain options.
4. Add Diversity to Your Diet
The more diverse your diet, the more diverse the bacteria in your gut! And bacteria diversity is important because each species of bacteria have a role or a function in your microbiome. Without this diversity, you’re more at risk of getting sick, feeling fatigued, or struggling with digestive issues. (11)
So if you’re eating the same foods every single day, try switching things up every once in a while. Add new veggies, fruits, or proteins to your diet. When you go grocery shopping, buy foods you’ve never had before that you’re excited to try! And when you blend up a meal replacement shake, change up the ingredients for a new tasty and gut-healthy experience.
5. Stay Hydrated
Your body needs water to function, including your gut! When you’re dehydrated, you’re more likely to struggle with uncomfortable digestive issues like bloating or constipation. When your stools are hard to pass that could be because there’s not enough water to soften and help move things along. (12)
You need around 2500 mL (85 oz) of water each day. (13) That’s the equivalent of around five glasses of water. If you find water boring, try other hydrating beverage options like seltzer water, low-sugar lemonades, tea, or a meal replacement shake using water instead of milk. And avoid drinking too much coffee or alcohol throughout the day, because these beverages contribute to dehydration. (14)
6. Exercise Regularly
Moving your body helps move things along in your digestive system. And some studies show that exercise can even promote healthy bacteria diversity in your gut. (8)
In one study, for example, researchers found that those participating in regular cardiovascular exercise had greater gut diversity and better gut health than those who didn’t, even after adjusting for diet. (8) Turns out that your gut likes to work out too!
So give your body (and your gut) the exercise it needs to stay healthy and happy. Even if you have a busy schedule, getting up and moving your body for a 5 or 15-minute workout or walk around the block is better than no workout at all!
Looking for more healthy eating tips? Head to our MRS Blog for more!