In This Article
In This Article
We all know that the gastrointestinal tract is essential to maintaining good health. Its job is to digest the food and convert it into nutrients that your body can absorb.
It’s a simple process. And if your body fails to absorb these nutrients, you’ll lack the energy and nutrition it needs to function properly.
Your gut influences many aspects of your health, including those you may think have nothing to do with digestion. For example, it can affect your immune system and mental health.1,2
Experts established the connection between healthy gut flora and your overall health. A healthy gut will have beneficial bacteria to support your wellness.
Balance is vital to your gut health. A healthy balance should be maintained in the microbiome to prevent dysbiosis.
Gut dysbiosis happens when too many harmful bacteria invade your gut flora, and there aren’t enough beneficial gut bacteria to balance it out. It can lead to an unhealthy gut.
Health experts have found that dysbiosis may cause leaky gut syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and other medical conditions.3
Some of the things that can upset your gut balance are:
However, there are other factors that you may not have much control over. Research shows that how you were born influences your gut flora.
Babies delivered vaginally have a more diverse microbiome than those born via C-section. It's because they were exposed to different bacteria as they passed through their mother's birth canal.4
The environment you grew up in may also contribute to your gut microbiome. Growing up in very clean surroundings has its downsides.
Studies show that exposure to reasonable amounts of germs and bacteria can help strengthen your gut flora.
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A healthy digestive system functions properly. Here are some signs you have a healthy gut.
Gut transit time is how long it takes for your gastrointestinal tract to digest your meals and pass food through your gut. It is an important marker of good gut health.
One study shows that gut bacteria produce more harmful byproducts the longer it takes for food to pass through your colon.6 Meanwhile, a shorter transit time is a sign of a healthy intestinal wall.
The gut transit time varies widely among people. But it shouldn't be too short or too long.
A bowel transit time of 72 hours is still considered normal. However, women's transit time may extend up to 100 hours.7
The appearance of your stool is also essential. Any changes in its color, shape, and texture may reveal signs of digestive issues or other health problems.
A healthy stool may be soft or firm. It should be well-formed and have a medium to dark brown color. You must pass it easily in a single large go — with only a few smaller pieces.
According to the Bristol Stool Chart, a healthy stool is shaped like a sausage or a snake. It must remain intact when being flushed.8
Another sign of a healthy gut is when you can comfortably move your bowels. You should be able to poop without feeling pain or straining yourself.
When you experience pain or discomfort, or if you have to push too hard when pooping, these could be signs of digestive issues, including:
Other signs of a healthy gut include having minimal digestive symptoms, such as bloating and gas. When gut bacteria digest the food you eat, they naturally produce gas as a byproduct.
Farting 10 to 20 times a day shows healthy gut activity. It’s normal, so don’t hold back the gas as it can have negative effects. You may experience bloating from the trapped gas.
A little bloatedness and gas are also normal after a huge meal. People who experience these symptoms more after eating certain foods may have a food intolerance.
Other signs of a healthy gut include not having these digestive health issues:
There are two ways for you to know about the status of your gut.
First, listen to what your body is telling you. Take note of unusual signs and symptoms that may suggest digestive diseases.
An unhealthy gut will almost always have digestive symptoms. If you think something is wrong, talk to your doctor about it.
Second, there are gut microbiome kits available. You can use them to test your gut health from the comfort of your home.
A gut test can tell you about the bacteria present in your gut microbiome. It can also reveal where your symptoms are coming from.
Depending on the gut testing company, you can get customized dietary and probiotic recommendations for your needs.
You can improve gut health by following these helpful tips:
Having a diverse diet means eating a variety of nutritious foods. It can help increase your gut microbiome diversity.
Don’t forget to add prebiotics and probiotics to your diet.
Prebiotics are dietary fibers that act as food sources for your intestinal bacteria. Some examples of prebiotic foods are:
Meanwhile, probiotic foods increase the number of healthy bacteria in your gut. Sources of probiotics are fermented foods, such as:
You should also eat polyphenol-rich foods. They can feed the Bifidobacteria in your gut. Some examples of this are:
Avoid unhealthy foods such as processed foods, fried foods, artificial sugars, and fructose-rich foods.
A healthy diet is well-balanced. If you’re having difficulty putting up a meal plan in place, talk to a qualified nutritionist for dietary support.
If you feel that you’re not getting enough probiotics, prebiotics, and fibers from foods, you can try taking dietary supplements.
You can buy preformulated blends or customized supplements based on your gut needs.
Many fiber supplements are also available over the counter and can help with some digestive problems like constipation and diarrhea.
Just like your body’s sleep-wake cycle, your gut has its rhythm, too. Disrupting this rhythm may have damaging effects on the bacteria in your gut.
A study conducted in 2016 revealed that sleep deprivation causes changes in the gut microbiome. There was an increase in the number of bacteria linked with:
The length and quality of your sleep are important to keep your gut bacteria healthy and happy. Sleep deprivation can affect the bacterial diversity in your gut microbiota.9
Being unable to manage your stress levels can have detrimental effects on the body.
Stress alters the normal balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut microbiome. It also reduces blood flow and may cause gut inflammation.
Stress can set off or worsen your digestive symptoms.
You can reduce stress by doing the following:
The gut-brain connection explains why stress and other psychological factors affect your digestive tract.2
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