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How to improve your gut health

  • Your digestive system is home to more than 500 different species of bacteria, both friendly and unfriendly.
  • Prebiotics are the food that feeds probiotics and both are important for good gut balance and health.
  • Probiotics are safe and cause few side effects for most of us. However, they could be dangerous for people with a weakened immune system or serious illness.

Your digestive system is home to more than 500 different types of bacteria, both good (friendly) and bad (unfriendly). Your overall health can be negatively impacted when your gut bacteria becomes disturbed or unbalanced. This can happen after an infection or after taking antibiotics. So what can you do to keep your gut healthy and thriving?

What is gut health?

Maintaining a good balance of bacteria in your gut is important to your overall health. Scientists have learned that the microbes that colonize your gut biome can have a positive or negative impact on your digestive, immune and endocrine systems; your skin; your brain; and even your mental health. People with a wide variety of good bacteria in their gut tend to be healthier. And a healthy gut includes a variety of prebiotic and probiotic organisms.

What’s the difference between prebiotics and probiotics?

Think of prebiotics as the food that feeds probiotics. Both are essential for good gut health. Pre- and probiotics are found in many foods and beverages, and can be bought as supplements. Each works in a different way. Prebiotics are found mostly in high-fiber foods, and probiotics abound in fermented foods and beverages.

Foods for good gut health

Research shows that changes that happen during fermentation make some foods healthier for your gut than non-fermented foods. For example, kefir and yogurt may do more to improve your gut health than will drinking unfermented dairy products. Same thing goes for kimchi and sauerkraut versus regular cabbage. While all three are healthy foods, fermentation helps bring different gut bacteria into the mix for a healthier gut biome. Which is yet another reason to eat and drink a wide variety of foods and beverage. It’s also important to drink plenty of water to keep your gut biome healthy.

Examples of prebiotic and probiotic foods:

High fiber foods:

  • Asparagus
  • bananas
  • berries
  • beans, peas and legumes.

Fermented and pickled foods and beverages:

  • kefir and kombucha
  • miso and tempeh
  • ·vegetables such as kimchi and sauerkraut
  • yogurt with live cultures.

Garlic and onions, including:

  • leeks
  • scallions (green onions)
  • shallots.

Whole grains, such as:

  • barley
  • brown rice
  • quinoa
  • ·oats.

And, it’s probably no surprise. The worst foods to eat for your gut health are sugary and highly-processed foods.

Probiotic safety and side effects

For most people, probiotics are safe and cause few side effects. For hundreds of years, people world-wide have been eating foods containing live cultures. However, probiotic supplements and foods could be dangerous for people with weakened immune systems or serious illnesses. As with all nutritional supplements, probiotics should be taken according to the directions and with the guidance of a physician or health care provider.

Other ways to ensure your gut health

In addition to eating a wide variety of good food, you can help maintain your gut health by:

  • cutting down stress
  • exercising
  • getting enough sleep.




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