3 Research-Backed Ways To Support Your Gut Microbiome Today
Gut health research is in a weird place: Experts know more than ever before, but there's still so much to learn—in terms of what a healthy gut even looks like, how to test it, and the best type of probiotic to take.
"We don't have yet a complete understanding of what a true healthy gut microbiome is for a person because that could actually mean different things for different people," says Vincent Pedre, M.D.
Four targeted strains to beat bloating and help reduce abdominal fat.*
There's also more to discover about probiotics, but experts do know a good amount, Pedre says. Studies have shown associations between certain types of probiotics and improvements in eczema and traveler's diarrhea, among many other researched health benefits.* If you want to take probiotics for general wellness, Pedre typically recommends a multistrain probiotic with at least 30 billion CFUs.*
Probiotics are one important piece of the puzzle when it comes to supporting gut health, but there are other diet and lifestyle choices to keep in mind, as well.* So, considering the info experts do know, what are some of the best ways to protect your gut microbiome?
1. Ramp up your intake of plants; be mindful about meat; ditch sugar.
Based on compelling data about diet and the gut microbiome, scaling back on refined carbs and sugars, eating animal products in moderation, and loading up on plants are some of the smartest moves you can make for gut health—but variety is key. According to data from the American Gut Project, "No matter the diet they subscribed to, participants who ate more than 30 different plant types per week had gut microbiomes that were more diverse than those who ate 10 or fewer types of plants per week."
Here's what Pedre recommends eating for gut health, in a nutshell (more details here): healthy fats; nuts and seeds; high-fiber, low-glycemic carbs like leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables; slow carbs, like sweet potatoes and butternut squash; hypoallergenic proteins (pea, rice, hemp, chia); and clean and lean proteins like free-range poultry, wild-caught fish, and grass-fed meats.
2. Support your body during and after a course of antibiotics.
3. Move your body every day—and get outside when you're doing it.
In addition to myriad other benefits, exercise can improve gut health as well. "A 2018 study showed that endurance exercise training for 30 to 60 minutes three times a week for six weeks led to increased abundance of SCFA-producing microbes, increased levels of short-chain fatty acids in the stool, and that these changes were correlated with gains in lean mass and loss of body fat," says Bulsiewicz.
In case you forgot, SCFAs are healing anti-inflammatory compounds produced by good gut bacteria that help heal gut damage and regulate the immune system. Want to hit two birds with one stone? Exercise outdoors—go on a hike or jog off the beaten path, touch some trees and plants, get dirty—to help foster biodiversity.
Gut experts emphasize that, even though we still have much to learn about the intricacies of what constitutes a "healthy gut" for every person, there's still plenty that everyone can do right now to take care of gut health.