The Ultimate Gut Health Guide
Your digestive system has millions of bacteria to help break down the food you eat. This bacteria can throw your entire digestive system into chaos when it becomes unbalanced.
Your gut contains important cells from your immune system and can even influence your mood. If you are tired of dealing with indigestion, bloating, extreme fullness, and irregular bowel movements, use this guide to help you. We will discuss all of the ways to improve your gut health so you can enjoy meals again.
Foods for Gut Health
Some foods are easy to digest and don’t cause any issues. Others can wreak havoc on your digestive system. It’s important to know what to eat and avoid for optimal gut health.
Foods with lots of fiber will digest easily, giving you regular bowel movements. However, you need other foods to feed your healthy gut bacteria to maintain a smooth-flowing digestive system.
Foods with a lot of fiber are notorious for helping constipation and bloating. When it comes to maintaining good gut health, you want to make sure you get enough whole sources of fiber. Whole plant-based foods are the best sources of healthy fiber.
Some foods that will increase your fiber intake include:
- Whole-grain products
- Fresh fruits with skin
These are all excellent sources of fiber in your diet. Consider adding a few of these items to your breakfasts, lunches, and dinners throughout the week. These foods are also healthy in general and contain a lot of beneficial vitamins and minerals.
Probiotics are found in certain drinks, yogurts, and sauerkraut. These foods and drinks have large amounts of live bacteria to improve your gut health. Active cultures should always be refrigerated, and shelved items likely do not contain live bacteria. The living microorganisms boost your gut’s bacteria population to aid digestion.
Drinks that contain probiotics include kombucha, kefir, and other fermented beverages. The fermentation process is important for the drinks to maintain live bacteria populations. Always check the label when you buy a probiotic drink.
Similar to probiotics, prebiotics help your gut’s bacteria population thrive. Prebiotics are the “food” for your gut bacteria. When you eat foods with lots of prebiotics, you are feeding these bacteria nutrients that will help them take good care of your gut.
Some foods that contain prebiotics include bananas, asparagus, garlic, and onions. It’s important to eat a variety of different meals to maintain a healthy gut.
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Stress can have a big impact on your digestive system. There are nerves that run from your brain to your gut that communicate back and forth.
If you’re stressed, your gut health can suffer. This is why you often feel “butterflies in your stomach” when you are nervous. Long-term stress can disrupt the essential bacteria balance in your gut as well.
Your mental health is directly tied to your physical health. The human body is one machine with a lot of moving parts. To feel good physically, you must be able to wind down and take care of yourself mentally.
Try to set aside time for yourself each day (or week if you are really busy) to relax and enjoy your favorite activities. Bake, watch your favorite show, take a hot bath, go for a walk, or do anything else that brings you joy.
A little self-care can go a long way. When you manage stress effectively, you’re keeping your gut healthy and balanced — and taking good care of your mental health as well.
Limit Your Alcohol Intake
Alcohol wipes out a lot of beneficial gut bacteria. If you drink a lot over long periods of time, the lining of your stomach can become inflamed. This causes pain, indigestion, and general discomfort. Some people suffer from chronic digestion problems because of alcohol.
If you want to optimize your gut health, avoid alcohol altogether. A good rule of thumb is to only drink alcohol on special occasions. Events like weddings, bonfires, and family reunions often involve a lot of alcohol. After one or two drinks, try to refrain from consuming more. Your gut will thank you for it later.
Physical activity helps keep your gut bacteria in balance. You should aim for moderate-intensity exercise at least three times per week. People who exercise more often have shown better gut bacteria diversity and better overall digestive health outcomes in studies.
Exercise is important for your physical and mental health. This is a healthy way to combat stress, which reduces the disruption to your gut health. If you need to blow off steam after a long day, consider hitting the gym or going for a run around your neighborhood. Over time, your gut health and function will improve.
Whether you are brand-new to gut health or are a seasoned expert, everyone can benefit from these small steps toward better digestion.