Rebuild your gut in 5 easy steps

Your gut health is all about practicality everything A lot of recent research has highlighted the connection between your gut microbiome and your nervous system, immune system, sleep cycle, and even your mental health…so it’s no wonder the health world is heavily focused on controlling gut health. And while some brands suggest you can “heal your gut” with detox programs and fad diets—in fact, the best way to reboot your gut is to follow doctor-approved gut-friendly eating steps and habits that may surprise you with ways they can help your stomach.

Dr. Katie E. Golden, MD, a board-certified physician in Charlotte, North Carolina, explains that each of us is born with a unique microbiome that changes over time and is affected by our lifestyles. To rewire your gut and bring your digestive system into healthy balance, Dr. Golden outlines five easy steps that will help almost anyone.

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Step 1: Eat whole foods rich in fiber

Dr. Golden says that healthy gut bacteria usually start in the kitchen—to be specific: “[…E]Eating a wholesome, high-fiber diet is one of the best ways to heal your gut well. Fiber helps feed the good bacteria in your gut that keep your digestive tract thriving.

The whole foods Dr. Golden recommends for gut health are “vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds, and whole grains.” These can include oats, berries, beans, legumes, cruciferous vegetables and bananas on the greener side of ripeness. In contrast, processed foods have been shown to be a gut punch for good digestive health, as they often tend to lack fiber and are high in saturated fat.

Dr. Golden also suggests adding probiotics to replenish the bacteria in your gut. “There is some evidence to suggest that fermented foods—such as pickles, sauerkraut, kombucha, and yogurt—may support a healthy gut microbiome.”

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Step 2: Get moving

Dr. Golden suggests incorporating daily physical activity to improve gut health—and the science backs it up. A study published in Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity in 2017 concluded that the exercise “[was] able to enrich the diversity of the microflora” in ways that contribute to weight loss and relief of gastrointestinal disorders.

It turns out that this connection between exercise and the gut microbiome also works in the opposite direction. A review published in Nutritional limits noted that when endurance athletes reduced inflammation and gastrointestinal symptoms, their training and athletic performance improved.

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Step 3: Don’t let stress get the better of you

Along with a nutritious diet and plenty of exercise, Dr. Golden says finding ways to reduce stress is key to gut recovery. A 2020 Ohio State University psychiatric analysis suggests that stress and depression negatively affect the composition of gut bacteria. This can further exacerbate these mental symptoms, as depression and gut health share a link.

Participating in activities that can reduce stress is key to improving gut health. This can include meditation and deep breathing, going outside, and even taking a nap.

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Step 4: Limit alcohol

Drinking alcohol can also have a negative impact on gut health. About alcohol, Dr. Golden says, “Many people are familiar with how it can be harmful to your liver, which plays an important role in digestion. But alcohol can also damage the lining of your stomach and intestinal tract and affect how you absorb nutrients.

Research shows that alcohol can lead to leaky gut syndrome, which is associated with an increased risk of developing alcohol-related cancers.

If you want to reset your gut, taking a break from alcohol may be a wise move.

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Step 5: Assess your medications

If you are taking medication, it may be important to talk to your doctor about whether it could be affecting your gut microbiome.

This is especially true when using antibiotics. “Antibiotics get rid of the bad bacteria that make us sick, but they also kill some of the good bacteria,” says Dr. Golden. “That doesn’t mean you should avoid antibiotics when you need them. But make sure you don’t take antibiotics prescribed by someone else or without your provider’s recommendation. And when you need them for an infection, you can support your gut through other factors, like your diet. Some doctors recommend eating fermented foods like yogurt to replace the healthy bacteria that live in the digestive system.

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