Stomach secrets

6 actions to boost your microbiome for a healthier life

It won’t just be your stomach that thanks you.

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Your gut is basically your body’s second brain.

That’s thanks to the living group of organisms housed there, called the microbiome.

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And strangely (or not so strangely), that ecosystem seems to be linked with mental performance and wellness as a whole — a mysterious gut-brain connection that scientists are still trying to understand.

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Improving your gut health may help boost other physical and mental aspects of your wellbeing. But where’s the best place to start?

Here are 6 science-backed ways to improve gut health:

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6. Eat your fruits and veggies

Your microbiome thrives when it’s fed a wide variety of nutrients. Fruits and vegetables rich in different vitamins and minerals can help protect the gut lining and reduce inflammation.

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The Mediterranean diet, which centers on vegetables, fish, legumes, and nuts, has also been linked to a lower risk of gut-related conditions like irritable bowel syndrome.

5. Add fermented foods to your diet

Eating fermented dairy products, like yogurt, kefir, and sour cream, is shown to decrease harmful inflammation in the gut.

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Non-dairy products, like kimchi and sauerkraut, also host probiotics that can keep your microbiome in tip-top shape.

4. Avoid processed foods

Highly processed foods can create pro-inflammatory bacteria in the gut — so your favorite junk snacks might be best in moderation.

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More specifically: Soft drinks, fries, and other snacks high in fat and sugar can create bacteria that feed on fiber — and erode the gut lining when there isn’t enough to consume.

3. Reduce stress

It’s no secret that stress is bad for the body. But for your microbiome, stress can kick off a vicious cycle of dysregulation.

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On a biochemical level, stress hormones and inflammation can alter the microbiome’s composition.

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Stress-related behaviors, like poor eating habits or lack of sleep, can also perpetuate bad gut health over the long term.

2. Only take antibiotics when necessary

Antibiotics are overprescribed in the U.S. These kinds of drugs can have a negative effect on the microbiome.

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Of course, there will be times when we need the help of these medications to fight infection.

But one study from 2018 found that antibiotics inhibited the body’s ability to replenish certain types of microorganisms after an infection.

1. Get more sleep

Less sleep = more stress. More stress = inflammation in the gut. But it’s not just you that needs to rest — your gut may also determine if you can get proper shut-eye.

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One study found that gut health can influence the quality of your sleep.

So it’s not just a one-way street — if you keep your gut healthy, it will reward you in surprising ways.

Read more stories about health here.

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