3 Stellar Gut Health Rules You Shouldn't Ignore, From An MD
Gut health routines are entirely personal—your gut microbiome, after all, is made up of trillions of bacteria specific to your own body. So what works wonders for someone else might not have the same miraculous effects.
Vincent Pedre, M.D., board-certified internist and author of The GutSMART Protocol, would agree: "No two guts are the same. So how can their diets be the same?" he shares on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast. It's crucial to find the gut-supporting habits that work best for your body and lifestyle—but of course, we had to ask Pedre his personal favorite interventions.
Everyone's guts are different, but if Pedre had to come up with three general "rules," he would encourage the below. Follow along for a happier, healthier gut:
Eat more fermented foods
Yes, you likely know that fermented foods are superb for gut health—we aren't exactly reinventing the wheel here. However, Pedre says that you might want to start prioritizing fermented foods over fiber foods if you have an unhealthy gut.
He references a study1 in which researchers measured microbial diversity in folks who ate five to eight servings of fiber per day, versus those who ate six cups of fermented foods per day. "What [they found] is that a high-fermented-foods diet increased microbial diversity in that group and lowered 19 inflammatory markers," he explains. The fiber-rich group did see positive effects on microbial function and immune response, but it's interesting that the fermented foods had such a significant effect on inflammation.
For the record, this doesn't mean you should kick fiber to the curb. "I hate that they pitted fiber-rich [foods] against high-fermented [foods]. I think there should have been a third group where there was no diet intervention so we could see these two against that as well," says Pedre. "But it starts to drop some really great questions here because I don't think it's about fiber versus fermented. It's really about the combination of the two."
Moral of the story? You might want to up your intake of fermented foods before you load up on fiber so that you can reduce inflammation and increase microbial diversity before actually feeding those healthy gut bugs—just remember that both food groups are ultimately important for overall gut health.
If you can tolerate dairy, eat it seasonally
Some people simply cannot tolerate any dairy, no questions asked. But have you ever noticed that you can handle—or even crave—dairy products during certain times of the year?
According to Pedre, it's totally common: "I've become a seasonal dairy eater," he notes. "I avoid dairy [in the] fall, winter, and spring." Why? After years of experimentation, he has found that dairy revs up his inflammation levels during those seasons—but in the summer he feels totally fine.
Now, the research on dairy and inflammation is mixed. Some report that dairy foods do not 2increase biomarkers of chronic inflammation2, while others have linked milk consumption to an increase in IGF-1 levels3 and acne.
That being said, always listen to your own body. Do you feel congested or bloated after having dairy? "It's so important to start to see those patterns because they can be super subtle," Pedre notes. "Dairy could work for you at certain times of the year, and at other times of the year, it's not going to work for you as well." Our bodies are dynamic and pretty adaptable—we just have to listen to them.
Poop every single day
How often do you poop? If you have a healthy gut, you likely empty once a day, says Pedre. And if you have a very strong gastrocolic reflex, he adds, you may even poop three times a day—once after each meal.
"And it's got to be a satisfying, full poop because you could be going daily but not emptying completely," he shares. Note: You can still poop every single day and be constipated—it has to be a complete bowel movement.
"Pooping is essential to detoxing the body, and the longer you retain your poop, the more likely that toxins that have been packaged ready to be moved out of your body are going to have more time to recirculate and get reabsorbed back into your body," Pedre adds.
Need help getting things moving? Make sure to eat more fiber, load up on probiotics, and drink plenty of water. You can also read these natural tips to become a better pooper.
Gut-healthy habits differ for everyone, but most people can benefit from Pedre's top tips. Your gut is connected to virtually every function of your body, so it's important to keep it in tiptop shape. Looking for more gut-supporting tips? Check out our complete gut health guide.
We hope you enjoy this episode! And don't forget to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or Amazon Music!
Jason Wachob is the Founder and Co-CEO of mindbodygreen and the author of Wellth. He has been featured in the New York Times, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, and Vogue, and has a B.A. in history from Columbia University, where he played varsity basketball for four years.