Do you take your gut health for granted? Often, it’s something we don’t think about until it’s already too late. It’s easy to miss the signs. When your gut is working well, you feel well. When your gut health is compromised, it manifests in different ways and sometimes we miss it.
If you are ready to work towards restoring your gut health, how long can you expect it to take? This article will explore the role of gut health, factors that impact our gut, and how to restore it.
What is Gut Health?
Our body is comprised of trillion of microbes, namely bacteria, viruses, and fungi, that congregate in large numbers within our lower intestines. Also known as our gut microbiome, these communities of microbes play a variety of roles in our everyday body functions. From helping regulate our immune system and aiding in digestion to preventing autoimmune diseases and improving mental health, we are learning that these good bugs are far more important than we originally thought.
The benefits of a healthy gut microbiome encompass most body functions. If you successfully maintain a variety of healthy communities of microbes, it can beneficially impact your physical and mental health in areas such as immunity, heart health, brain health, mood, sleep, digestion, and disease prevention.
Those that struggle with poor gut health will see impacts in one or more of these areas at some point in their lifetime. Common signs of poor gut health include digestive issues and malabsorption, sleep disturbance, skin conditions such as psoriasis, inflammation, autoimmune conditions, and more.
What Factors Impact Gut Health?
Many lifestyle factors can impact, both positively and negatively, the health of our gut microbiome. The main three factors that impact gut health the most are sleep, stress, and diet.
- Sleep – Studies have found a positive association between a consistent sleep routine of 7-8 hours and an increase in diversity of the gut microbiome. The more diverse the microbiome, the better its impact on overall health. It’s believed that the secret to improving sleep may lie with microbiome diversity and vice versa.
- Stress – Poor sleep quality or an inconsistent sleep schedule can also increase stress on the body. Stress is another factor that can greatly impact gut health. Chronic stress can increase stress hormones and inflammation, both of which can be detrimental to the health of our gut microbes.
- Diet – Another big impact on our gut health is our diet. A diet high in processed foods can increase inflammation within the body while a high intake of probiotic and prebiotic food sources, along with whole foods, is associated with improved gut diversity and function. Similar to sleep deprivation and stress, a diet high in processed foods can increase inflammation in the body, resulting in a disturbance in the communities of microbes in our digestive system.
Aside from sleep, stress, and diet, other lifestyle factors may be negatively impacting the health of your gut. If you are looking to make positive changes to restore your gut, the below factors are a good place to start:
- Alcohol intake
- Frequent antibiotic use
- Sedentary lifestyle
How Long Does It Take to Restore Gut Health?
How long it takes for your gut health to be restored following lifestyle changes depends on the state of your gut prior.
Some challenges with gut health take longer to restore than others. For example, some experts believe it can take up to six months to restore gut health following frequent antibiotic use however, this is just an estimation and results will vary by individual. Other studies show the average allotted time to restore gut health is between two and twelve weeks.
How to Restore Gut Health
Knowing the importance of gut health, many are looking for ways to begin restoring it. Below are some tips on how to best begin restoration of the microbiome and a path to better health through diet, exercise, lifestyle choices, and supplements.
As mentioned earlier, a diet high in processed foods can increase inflammation and cause damage to our gut health. These foods should be moderated to avoid the consequences of chronic inflammation and a poorly functioning microbiome.
To best support and restore your gut, it’s important to choose a diet rich in a variety of foods, preferably whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Probiotic and prebiotic foods should be emphasized if able.
Probiotics are food sources that include beneficial bacteria to help improve the diversity of your gut. These include fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, and more. Prebiotics are fibers that help to feed and support the growth of these healthy microbes and can be found in foods such as garlic, onions, Jerusalem artichoke, dandelion greens, apples, and more.
Some research suggests eating a diet rich in polyphenols can also impart beneficial effects on our gut. Polyphenols are compounds naturally found in plant foods that are associated with a variety of health benefits in humans and are what typically give color to fruits and vegetables.
High polyphenol foods can be considered gut health superfoods. These include berries, dark chocolate, flaxseeds, coffee, and tea. Although the exact mechanism behind polyphenols’ benefits on gut microbes is still being researched, some studies suggest when broken down during digestion, these compounds provide benefits to the microbes in our gut to help them thrive.
Research has found a positive link between exercise and our gut microbiota. In fact, some studies have found a notable improvement in beneficial bacteria in the gut within only 6 weeks of incorporating regular exercise. Although the exact connection is still unclear and more research is needed, exercise provides a myriad of health benefits aside from gut health that may play a role.
Aside from diet and exercise, other lifestyle factors need to be taken into consideration when working to restore gut health. Certain habits, such as alcohol intake, smoking cigarettes, chronic sleep deprivation, and chronic stress, can all impact our microbiome. To successfully restore gut health, these areas need to be addressed. This means alcohol and cigarette cessation, prioritizing sleep with a consistent sleep schedule, and putting stress in check.
Those who have challenges getting adequate probiotic and prebiotic food sources in their diet might want to consider incorporating a supplement to help restore the health of their gut. Although diet is the best route to incorporate these foods, supplements can be helpful to ensure you get what your body needs if you aren’t able to get it through food. Always be sure to talk to your doctor or health care provider about adding a supplement to your routine. Popular gut health supplements include Total Restore buy Gundry MD, KaraMD GutBio Align, and Seed Synbiotic.
Our gut health is linked to our overall health and well-being. Many different things may impact the health of our gut and the amount of time it takes to restore gut health depends on a variety of factors. The best way to restore gut health is to focus on diet, exercise, sleep, and stress. Making small changes in these areas can make a big difference in the way you feel and the way your body functions, all thanks to the little microbes working hard in your gut.