When it comes to immunity, the gut is the body’s heavy hitter. You may not realize it, but the complex and important digestive system holds the bulk of the body’s immune cells — 70% to 80%. For this reason, improving digestion and promoting a healthy gut is about more than preventing stomach aches; it’s about building a foundation for overall health.
If you’re interested in building a gut microbiome — the term that describes the 300 to 500 species of bacteria living in the digestive tract — you’re in the right place. Here’s a quick look at what you’ll want to know.
Common Causes of Poor Gut Health
Many people don’t realize they are living in a way that harms gut health, even with everyday lifestyle choices. High stress, excess alcohol, poor nutrition and food intolerances are just some of the factors that chip away at a healthy gut. Over time, they contribute to weakened immunity, a higher risk of disease, the likelihood of weight gain and decreased brain function.
Warning Signs of an Unhealthy Gut
One way you know your gut is struggling is when you’re dealing with symptoms such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, an upset stomach, acne, weight fluctuations, or other digestive red flags. These issues signal there’s a good chance you have microbial imbalance. The good news? There are numerous lifestyle changes that can help improve the diversity of your gut microbiome and avoid gut distress.
Ways to Foster a Healthy Gut
Given that digestive health is so significant, it’s important to know what you can do to nourish and strengthen your gut. This includes eating a balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains. You’ll especially want lots of prebiotic, high-fiber foods, such as onions, garlic, bananas, apples, oats, asparagus and artichokes — as well as probiotic-rich foods, such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, kombucha and sauerkraut.
It’s just as important to avoid what harms the gut, such as stress, processed foods, sugar, trans fats and deli meats. Through a nutritious, non-processed diet, regular exercise and elimination protocols that help you identify food intolerances, a lot can be done to improve your gut.
To learn more about identifying problems, improving your digestion and boosting immune through the gut, take a look at the accompanying resource.
Author bio: Kara Kash, RD, LDN, is a registered dietitian at Factor — a premium weekly meal delivery service that fuses world-class culinary dishes with the latest in nutrition science to produce fully prepared meals that are as delicious as they are nutritious.