The microbiome — A.K.A. “gut gut” — is one of the most fascinating organs in the body.
Many people think their gut is just their stomach, but it also includes the small intestines, the large intestine, and even the esophagus. The microbiome is home to trillions of bacteria, co-existing (mostly) peacefully with your own organism and carrying out all sorts of functions in the body.
It’s true: The gut is important for processing the food we eat. However, it’s also important for creating neurotransmitters, regulating our immune system, and balancing all sorts of hormones.
Despite having such an important role in our health and wellness, the gut is very sensitive to changes in diet and other lifestyle factors. So, if it goes off-balance, you’ll feel it.
Fortunately, there are ways to restore your gut health and get it working how it should. This guide from Sweetkick explains how.
What Leads to a Gut Imbalance?
Basically, anything that’s bad for your health can throw your gut off balance. The usual culprits are poor diet, emotional stress, too much exercise (and not enough recovery), getting sick, and taking certain medications, like antibiotics (which target all gut bacteria — good or bad).
Some other causes of a gut imbalance include hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle, bloating and constipation, high alcohol consumption, and low production of certain stomach acids.
In some cases, simply getting older can throw off the microbiome.
What Are the Symptoms of a Gut Imbalance?
This one is tricky because the gut impacts so many different organs and organ systems. So, you can expect a gut imbalance to show itself in many ways, which may look different for everyone.
There’s no better way to check for a gut imbalance than to speak with a holistic healthcare practitioner. But some symptoms are very common indicators that something’s off with the gut.
- Changes to bowel movements
- Acid reflux (A.K.A. heartburn)
- Skin problems
- Dull hair
- Brittle nails
- Junk food cravings
- Brain “fog”
- Low energy
- Poor mood
Down the line, poor gut health can show up as a chronic disease, including obesity, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or colorectal cancer — amongst many others.
While the connection between gut health and chronic illness is very complex, recent research is closing in on the connection between the two.
8 Ways To Restore Gut Health
To say that gut health is important is an understatement.
If you’re experiencing the signs and symptoms of poor gut health, there are (fortunately) a few ways to get things back to how they should be.
Consider these eight tips for improving your microbiome:
1. Reduce Added Sugar
When it comes to gut health, we can’t think of anything worse than a diet high in sugar. Eating too much sugar — whether refined, natural, or artificial — can feed the “bad” bacteria in the gut while providing little nourishment for beneficial strains of bacteria.
Plus, sugar can increase inflammation, another culprit of poor gut health. And the more sugar we eat, the less varied our diets become. This means less of the colorful fruits and veggies our guts thrive on.
So, quitting sugar should be your #1 priority for restoring gut health.
Have a serious sweet tooth? Our Sugar Reset can help you kick your sugar habit in just 14 days.
2. Introduce Probiotics
If you have gut issues, chances are that your gut is lacking in healthy strains of bacteria.
Similar to a vitamin deficiency, the answer lies in introducing more of the good stuff. In this case, this means consuming probiotics — healthy bacteria found in some foods and supplements.
You can consider taking a high-quality probiotic. However, many products on the market aren’t all that effective, either containing the wrong strains or quantities of healthy bacteria.
However, whole foods are a sure way to get some probiotics into your gut.
Here are some probiotic-rich foods to consider:
- Fermented soy products (e.g., tofu, tempeh, and miso)
- Kombucha (as long as it’s low in sugar)
Whatever you consume, make sure it’s raw. Cooking probiotic-rich foods can kill off some healthy bacteria, decreasing the benefits you get from them.
3. Load Up on Prebiotics
Okay, so you introduced healthy gut bacteria to your microbiome. Now, it’s time to make sure they’re well-nourished with prebiotics. These are essentially food — not only for you but for your gut.
Prebiotics are mostly carbohydrates that are rich in fiber. There are tons of fiber types, which you can ensure by eating a varied diet. Essentially, the more colors you can get on your plate, the better.
Here are some rich sources of prebiotics to add to your diet today:
- Butternut squash
- Sweet potatoes
- White potatoes
- Under-ripe bananas
4. Eat More Healthy Fats
Healthy fats can lower inflammation in the body, which can improve gut health.
If you’re not taking a supplement, try to eat plenty of whole foods that are high in healthy fats. (This doesn’t include highly-processed seed oils like canola, soybean, or sunflower.)
Instead, focus on getting plenty of fatty fish (like salmon), avocadoes, coconut oil, olive oil, flaxseeds, and chia seeds.
As always, Sweetkick has your back. To help you up your healthy fat intake, we created our delicious Clusters with nuts, seeds, and other superfoods — for guilt-free snacking and optimal nourishment.
5. Chew Your Food
Digestion begins in the mouth. When you chew something, you release saliva full of digestive enzymes. The more you chew, the easier it is for your body to break down your food and extract nutrients.
But if you swallow things quickly, your gut may not be able to get the essential vitamins and minerals that it needs — a big downer for your microbiome.
So, before you swallow your food, make sure it’s reached a liquid-like consistency after lots of thorough chewing.
6. Check in With Your Emotions
The gut is connected to your brain via the vagus nerve.
If we feel sad, angry, or stressed out, the gut can feel these effects. That’s why we often feel our emotions in the body, too.
After all, think of that nauseating feeling you get when you get some bad news or the digestive upset you experience during times of stress.
So, take note of your emotions (they’re super important) and address them before they wreak havoc on the gut.
7. Filter Your Water
If you live in the industrialized world, the water from your sink is very likely chlorinated.
Chlorine is a great disinfectant — meaning it kills bad bacteria. But it can kill off good bacteria, as well, wrecking your gut. So, make sure your water is filtered before you drink it.
8. Check for Food Sensitivities
Food sensitivities can make your gut more permeable — a condition referred to as “leaky gut.”
Talk to your doctor about checking for food sensitivities. Some common culprits are gluten, dairy, and yeast. But we’re all unique, so it’s better to work with your organism and discover what works (and what doesn’t).
Restoring Gut Health With Sweetkick
Gut health is super important for all aspects of your health and wellness. We recommend getting more probiotics and prebiotics, eating more healthy fats, and optimizing your emotional wellness to restore gut health. Our Body Balance Powder and Shakes both contain prebiotic fiber so you can support your gut health.
But most importantly, reducing your sugar intake is a must. To help you, Sweetkick has a line of products that can help you manage cravings, support healthy blood sugar, and get nourished from head to toe.