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5 Essentials For Optimal Gut Health, According To Functional MDs

Eliza Sullivan
Food Writer
By Eliza Sullivan
Food Writer
Eliza Sullivan is a food writer and SEO editor at mindbodygreen. She writes about food, recipes, and nutrition—among other things. She studied journalism at Boston University.
Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN
Expert review by
Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN
mbg Vice President of Scientific Affairs
Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN is Vice President of Scientific Affairs at mindbodygreen. She received her bachelor's degree in Biological Basis of Behavior from the University of Pennsylvania and Ph.D. in Foods and Nutrition from the University of Georgia.
Image by mbg Creative x Alex Tan / Death to the Stock Photo + iStock
October 22, 2021

Gut health is at the heart of many other components of our well-being, from energy levels to memory, and can seem daunting to optimize. But supporting gut health starts with many of the same practices we know and love for overall well-being. Here are some of the ultimate essentials for supporting optimal gut health from the real experts: functional internists and gastroenterologists:

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1.

Get enough sleep.

Let's start with a basic: Getting enough sleep is crucial for health in many ways, gut included. "Sleepless nights throw off your gut rhythm by adversely affecting the balance of favorable and unfavorable bacteria and compromising the gut wall," says board-certified internist Vincent Pedre, M.D.

2.

Adopt a mindfulness practice.

Among things that are bad for gut health, stress rates fairly high. "Stress can alter the composition of the gut microbiome and can actually cause certain bacteria that are 'good guys' to turn into 'bad guys' by a process called quorum-sensing," writes integrative gastroenterologist Marvin Singh, M.D. That's where a regular mindfulness practice can come in—be it meditation, breathwork, or something else—it can help you keep calm and help keep your gut in check.

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3.

Focus on plant-based eating.

No, that doesn't mean you have to go totally vegan—just prioritize plant foods as often as possible. "A plant-based diet means more fiber and—let me tell you—we need it," shares gastroenterologist Will Bulsiewicz, M.D., MSCI. "Prebiotic fiber is food for your gut microbes. When they feast on it, they release postbiotic short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that have healing effects throughout the body."

4.

Take the right supplements.

Supplements can help support health overall, but there are some in particular that can benefit the gut.* If there's one supplement that's associated with gut health, it's probiotics.* The key is picking one with strains that have been clinically shown to support gut health and maintain key, daily functions of the digestive system.* "Think of probiotics as your little helpers that restore order and help maintain harmony in your gut ecosystem,"* says Pedre.

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5.

Keep moving.

Your regular workout is good for overall health—and that includes the gut. "It's been proved that people who exercise tend to have a more diverse gut microbiome," shares Singh. It doesn't have to be a HIIT workout or run, either—a yoga flow can do wonders.

The bottom line.

When it comes to the essentials for gut health, the experts recommend a lot of lifestyle-based behaviors—ones that will have benefits beyond just supporting your gut. For more gut-focused advice, functional medicine expert Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, D.C., shares his gut health routine here—complete with a timed-out schedule.

Eliza Sullivan
Eliza Sullivan
Food Writer

Eliza Sullivan is an SEO Editor at mindbodygreen, where she writes about food, recipes, and nutrition—among other things. She received a B.S. in journalism and B.A. in english literature with honors from Boston University, and she has previously written for Boston Magazine, TheTaste.ie, and SUITCASE magazine.