Health care

I'm a Doctor, Here's How to Improve Your Gut Health in 4 Steps (& the Emerging Science)

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Take control of your gut health leveraging dietary strategies and emerging science. 

*Affiliate disclosure.

Each day, we eat several times. We often choose our food based on how it tastes, ease of access, and maybe how it impacts our general health. There’s a new criteria to consider—we now know that every bite we take is powerfully shifting the state of trillions of bacteria and immune cells in the gut, and that this may have a profound effect on our health. How we select our foods—looking at their nutrient content, color, and even the quality of the soil they were grown in—may have an effect on these variables. Here’s the emerging science on gut health, and tips on how to leverage dietary strategies to positively impact overall wellbeing.

The Microbiome and the Gut Immune System

Research across a wide range of medical journals has increasingly revealed that the state of our gut matters for everything from our heart function, to our brain state, to our skin health. That’s because our gut is a principal channel by which our food is converted into signals that influence pathways throughout our bodies. Two of the major ways in which these signals are generated and translated across our bodies relate to the population of our gut bacteria (part of the gut microbiome) as well as our gut immune system, as most of our immune cells are located in the gut.

The Gut’s Role in Immune Health

When we understand that inflammation (a sustained imbalance in our immune state) is thought to be at the root of most chronic diseases today, it becomes incredibly important to know how our immune system is being altered by our environment (read more about how to balance your immune system instead of boosting it here). Through changes in our gut immune state and signals that leave the gut and influence immunity in other parts of our body, the gut is thought to significantly affect our body’s overall immunity.

The bacteria that live in the large intestine are changed by the quality of your diet and may improve gut health.

On the topic of the gut microbiome, it’s known that the trillions of bacteria that live in our large intestine are changed by the quality of our diet, and that they additionally have a bidirectional (two-way) connection with the immune cells in our gut. A more diverse gut microbiome is linked to better health outcomes. 

If the gut immune state and gut microbiome each influence our overall health, what are some strategies we can use to help promote their wellness?

Here’s How to Improve Your Gut Health 

Add as many organic foods to your diet as possible. Studies have shown an increase in phytonutrients in organic foods. 

1. Eat organic when possible. 

One interesting correlate relates to the quality of our food production and the use of organic and regenerative methods. For example, research shows that producing certain crops using organic techniques is linked to higher levels of phytonutrients, or plant nutrients, a family of thousands of compounds that are now being linked to benefits across multiple aspects of human health.1 

Why does that matter? Phytonutrient intake is increasingly thought to have positive effects on immune function.2 Eating more of these plant molecules is also linked to better health of the microbiome.3 It’s notable that chemicals in the soil and chemicals sprayed on our produce have been negatively linked with microbiome changes.4

2. Eat a diversity of plant foods, especially colorful fruits and vegetables: 

Eating a diverse diet of bright color fruits and veg can help improve overall health outcomes and gut health.

Consuming a diet rich in a diversity of colorful plant foods is a great way to get more of these phytonutrient compounds. Many colors in our fruits in vegetables are actually created by the plant’s production of phytonutrients. Additionally, plants tend to make more phytonutrients when they need to respond to stress, so incorporating unique stress-adapted plants like Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat may be a good way to increase your phytonutrient intake. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds are great ways to increase fiber intake, which may be key to microbiome health since fiber serves as fuel for our gut microbes. 

Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat is a super nutrition flour that’s loaded with over 100 immune-active nutrients. Translation: that means you’re getting a huge dose of plant-based immune supporting goodness. 

3. Include a spectrum of immune-balancing nutrients in your diet: 

Though phytonutrients are high on the list when it comes to research on diet and immune/gut health, there are a number of other nutrients worthy of our consideration. For example, adequate intake of a number of vitamins and minerals including magnesium, zinc and B vitamins have all been linked to maintenance of balanced immune cell function. 

Eating a diversity of foods from sources like salmon, mackerel, and anchovies can help improve gut health. 

Additionally, certain types of fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids, may be involved in helping our immune system function optimally. Getting all these nutrients in your diet often means deviating from the standard American diet or Western pattern diet that many of us in the US tend to eat, and instead prioritizing consumption of foods like nuts and seeds (high in vitamins and minerals) as well as inclusion of omega-3 fatty acids from sources like salmon, mackerel and anchovies, as well as plant-based sources like chia seeds and again, other nuts and seeds.

4. Avoid ultra-processed foods, especially added sugar:

Unfortunately, the food that many of us consume today is stripped of healthy nutrients and often packed with ingredients that may damage our gut and immune wellness. One of the most pernicious is added sugar, which can be found in upward of 70% of foods you’d buy in an American grocery store.

Lowering intake of added sugar can be challenging, as it’s often hidden in baked goods, drinks, and condiments. A great place to start is to read the ingredient list and nutrition facts on foods and beverages you buy and avoid foods containing added sugar (look out for artificial sugars too! They may have damaging effects on the microbiome in particular). Similarly, it’s thought that a number of other additives and oils that are found in most foods may negatively affect immune wellness, so trying to in general eat foods for which you can identify and vouch for all the ingredients (shoot for single ingredient foods whenever possible!) may be a good strategy for promoting overall health. 



*Affiliate disclosure: Our team researches far and wide to find safe and clean complements to a gut-healthy diet. If you make a purchase after clicking our links, Organic Authority may earn a commission, which goes a long way to support the good work our team does and reduces the number of ads we serve (as well as our Valrhona Chocolate habit.) 

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