Healthy Gut Goals for 2023
5 Healthy Gut Goals For 2023
Over two millennia ago, Hippocrates supposedly said that “all disease begins in the gut.” Today, gut microbiome research shows this to be quite true, to an extent .
While not every disease is caused by problems in the gut, many ailments plaguing us today can be traced back to an imbalanced microbiome. From obesity and type 2 diabetes to fatty liver and even cancer, problems in the gut can lead to problems elsewhere in the body according to findings from the Human Microbiome Project and other research [1, 2].
Because we now know that gut health impacts overall health, why not make this year the year of the gut? A healthy gut can help you achieve whatever goals you have in store this year by supporting your health and well-being. Here’s more on the great importance of gut health and habits to build for a gut-healthy 2023.
What Is Gut Health?
When we talk about gut health, what is usually meant by this is the balance of bacteria in your intestines called the gut microbiome. Your gut is home to trillions of microorganisms as well as their genes that have a profound influence on your health . Researchers believe the gut is sterile before birth, only to be colonized with countless microorganisms through vaginal birth and feeding.
The bacteria that colonize your gut interact with your immune system to train it to react to real threats (e.g. infectious disease) and ignore beneficial invaders (e.g. health-boosting gut bacteria). These microorganisms also ferment fiber to aid digestion and produce fatty acids that protect the intestinal lining and support metabolic and cardiovascular health.
A healthy gut is abundant in good bacteria such as Bifidobacterium and Akkermansia and low in facultative anaerobes like E. coli, pro-inflammatory Ruminococcus, or nonbacterial microbes . A bad diet, inflammation, excess bile or stomach acids, and reduced bowel movements are all things that can affect the balance of your gut bacteria. Research also shows that changing diet and lifestyle can help you maintain good gut health .
5 Goals for a Healthy Gut in 2023
To start and end 2023 with a bang, make good gut health your goal for 2023. But how exactly do you take care of your microbiome? A sure way is by sticking to these science-backed goals to support a healthy gut.
1. Change your diet
According to a recently published international review, switching from a Westernized diet high in processed ingredients, saturated fats, and low in fiber to a high-fiber, low-fat one improves gut and overall health . More specifically, the researchers noted a 15–30% lower rate of early death from cardiovascular disease, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
Because good gut bacteria need fiber to multiply and survive, boosting your fiber intake by eating more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains can make a difference. Reducing your intake of animal fats can help lower the presence of disease-causing bacteria and dysbiosis by reducing the production of bile acids.
2. Add probiotics and prebiotics
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can improve gut and overall health, and prebiotics are indigestible carbohydrates that support the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Studies have found that certain strains of probiotics, notably Bifidobacterium longum, can colonize the gut and exert a positive influence . Others have a positive impact on gut health, but they tend to pass through the digestive tract relatively quickly.
When consumed with the prebiotic inulin-type fructans (ITF), this benefit is even greater since it was found to increase the numbers of Bifidobacterium. Yellow pea fiber is another prebiotic that has a good track record, with studies noting improvements in body fat and glucose tolerance along with weight loss .
3. Pay attention to stress management
A troubled mind sends signals to the gut and vice versa via the gut-brain axis (GBA), and your gut microbiome plays a big role in this communication system. Similarly, exposure to stress results in changes in the GBA and gut .
When you’re stressed, your digestive system changes gut physiology. More specifically, it changes the frequency of bowel movements, changes the secretion of digestive juices, increases gut leakiness, and reduces the gut’s capacity to regenerate. All this then leads to alterations in your gut microbiome.
Unmanaged stress can ultimately lead to the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and other digestive disorders.
To prevent this worst-case scenario, try to manage your stress levels this year for a healthier and happier gut. While easier said than done, there are ways to effectively keep stress levels under control. Speaking to a therapist, practicing mindfulness, staying physically active, connecting with others, and better time management are some examples.
4. Check for food intolerances
Food intolerances are estimated to affect up to 20% of the population . The problem with food intolerance is that it leads to gastrointestinal symptoms that can signal problems with gut health. Common food intolerances include FODMAPs sensitivity, non-celiac wheat sensitivity, histamine sensitivity, lactose intolerance, and sensitivity to food additives.
Because food intolerances are not allergies, there are no tests to confirm you have one. Instead, you can try an elimination diet where you remove the suspect offending food and see if your symptoms improve. While this can be difficult since it’s not easy to tell which ingredient may be triggering your symptoms, it is the only way to test for food intolerance.
5. Get enough sleep
We already talked about how stress affects your gut via the GBA. Well, this link also becomes evident if you’re sleep deprived. Studies have found that the gut microbiome shows daily rhythms and that disruptions in these daily rhythms lead to gut dysbiosis . Given that sleep deprivation is known to increase stress hormone levels and given that these impact the microbiome, it’s easy to see why poor sleep can lead to poor gut health.
To get the recommended 7 or more hours of sleep, stress management and good sleep hygiene are essential. Good sleep hygiene includes practices and habits that promote sleep, like daily exercising, avoiding alcohol and caffeine before bed, sticking to a sleep schedule, avoiding screens in the evening, and creating a comfortable sleep environment.
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- The Integrative HMP (iHMP) Research Network Consortium. The Integrative Human Microbiome Project. Nature 569, 641–648 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-019-1238-8
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