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Normally, a stool’s color should be brown, with no sign of blood,” suggests Dr. Hazan, a gastroenterologist and founder of Ventura Clinical Trials in Ventura, California. These changes are indicators that the gut needs a certain level of attention. With its contributing roles from digestion of food to absorbing nutrients and maintaining the body’s health, it is a key player in the body’s immune system.

“70% of immune cells are present in the gut,” states Alicia Romano, a clinical dietician, which is believed to be the gut’s microbiome that sums up all the bacteria, fungi, and viruses in the body. They are the ones that determine the health of an individual. Hence, “An imbalance in the microbiome would lead many patients to grow susceptible to infection and allergies,” points out Hecht, the American Gastroenterological Association Center for Gut Microbiome Research & Education chair. With more and more gut irregularities identified, “People can have gut bacteria that aren’t producing enough gas or are directed towards a cancer-associated change,” she adds.

Addressing people’s curiosity about improving gut health, doctors usually don’t have answers on the use of medications or commercial testing kits. Although it is not essential to seek constant updates on gut health, it could still benefit people by taking routine measures that will serve the gut’s microbiome positively.

If the color of your stool appears unusual, it’s time to take gut health seriously by walking through ways to improve Gut Health.

Eating Fibre-Rich Foods

There has been an undeniable association between fiber intake and a lower risk of stroke, type two diabetes, heart disease, and bowel cancer. Fibre also promotes the growth of good bacteria diversity within the gut and reduces the risk of metabolic diseases. Hence, the National Health Society (NHS) suggests every individual must consume fewer added sugars and enhance the intake of fibre within their diets.

As per the government guidelines, each day an individual could increase their fibre intake upto 30 g within their diets. However, adults only consume 20 g of fibre each day, which calls for seeking ways to meet the objective.

Addressing the concern, fibre intake could come from different sources rather than eating one type of food. This could involve the following:

  • Choosing a high-fibre breakfast cereal such as plain shredded whole grains, porridge such as oats, and wholewheat biscuits.
  • Breads such as whole meal or granary, white bread, wholewheat pasta or brown rice
  • Baked or boiled potatoes; pulses like beans, chickpeas, and salads; vegetables in the form of side dishes or sauces.

Gut Health Supplement

Gut health supplements such as probiotics may not be necessary if people are seeking the essential elements they need from their diets. Yet, the health industry makes up to about $60 billion in the probiotic-supplement industry alone, with an expected growth of up to 9% by 2028.

On the other hand, Dr. Alexandra adds that it would be more beneficial to gut health if people consumed a balanced diet with fermented foods. Adults make use of specific gut health supplements that target and kill bad gut bacteria. However, good gut bacteria aren’t safe either. Those are likely to be killed the same way.

Regardless, certain fiber-rich and probiotic-rich alternatives can be useful in maintaining a healthy gut. These may include yogurt, kimchi, sourdough bread, and fermented veggies, further eliminating reliance on gut health supplements.

Frequent Exercise

For the past ten years, researchers have been exploring how beneficial a morning jog be for one’s own mental and physical health. Are such routines sufficient in shaping our gut microbes?

As Jeffrey Woods, a professor of community health at the University of Illinois, points out, “Exercise affects one’s gut microbiome by enhancing the bacterial communities within, especially those that produce short-chain fatty acids.” “These are the acids that contribute to modifying an individual’s immunity, metabolism, and physiological processes,” adds Jacob Allen, an assistant professor of exercise physiology at the University of Illinois.

Moderate to vigorous exercises such as cycling, running, and resistance are potentially effective modes of exercise in improving the diversity of good bacteria within guts, as per a 2022 BBC Report. The report suggests that sparing as little as 18-32 minutes of the day for aerobic exercises for around eight weeks could make a lot of difference.

Aerobic exercises are yet another form of body movement that has been correlated with gut health. For instance, Woods and his colleagues conducted research where participants were made to perform three aerobic exercises for six weeks for 30-60 minutes by running on a treadmill, which was predicted to change the gut microbes within their bodies. The data was tested by collecting blood and stool samples, from which the findings demonstrated that running on a treadmill boosted the production of good bacteria in the gut, suggesting the positive influence of exercise on improving health.

The Gut Microbiome Continues to Remain Unknown

Doctors and researchers, at present, are continuously cautious about alternative diets and supplements that attempt to influence gut health, whether positively or negatively. They are seeking ways to redefine the structure of the gut microbiome for the benefit of individual health.

For instance, introducing a donor stool material that contains healthy bacteria into the intestinal tract of an individual, to treat infections associated with gut health.

As Dr. Robert Hirten, an assistant professor of medicine at Icahn School of Medicine, points out, “We are introducing viruses into people’s bodies just to observe if specific bacteria are treatable.”

Although so many things still remain unknown and beyond our cognition about the gut microbiome, the best strategy is to follow a healthy diet and lifestyle. Not only is it good for you, but also for your gut.

Ways to Get Started

  • Your idea of a healthy gut may not often be the case in reality. Hence, it could be beneficial to consider following a doctor’s suggestions for individual health overall, which would in turn benefit your microbiome.
  • To stay hydrated, following a balanced diet and exercising regularly is the key. Products like dairy, processed meat, and refined sugar must also be limited, replacing them with a recommended level of fibre, i.e., 20 g to 40 g per day.
  • Menon recommends that although it is not always that an adult can succeed in meeting the standards of good gut health, he can still improve the number of fruits and vegetables, followed by seeds and nuts within the diet.
  • Lastly, a food diary can be kept to track fiber intake. While a sudden switch to high-fiber foods may cause bloating sensations, it would be useful to switch gradually and keep track of bodily responses.
  • You may identify a specific food trigger that makes you feel bad after eating it. In such instances, you can always seek alternatives that would work better for you.