We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission Here’s our process.
Healthline only shows you brands and products that we stand behind.Our team thoroughly researches and evaluates the recommendations we make on our site. To establish that the product manufacturers addressed safety and efficacy standards, we:
- Evaluate ingredients and composition: Do they have the potential to cause harm?
- Fact-check all health claims: Do they align with the current body of scientific evidence?
- Assess the brand: Does it operate with integrity and adhere to industry best practices?
If you notice signs of poor gut health, lifestyle factors may help improve your gut microbiome and benefit your overall health.
The term “gut microbiome” refers to the microorganisms living in your intestines. Each person has about
Some microorganisms are harmful to our health, but many are incredibly beneficial and even necessary for a healthy body.
The incredible complexity of the gut and its importance to our overall health is a topic of increasing research in the medical community.
- the immune system
- mental health
- autoimmune diseases
- endocrine disorders
- gastrointestinal disorders
- cardiovascular disease
A higher level of diversity in gut bacteria may be associated with improved health. While research is ongoing, it appears clear that your gut health plays a role in many areas of your health and well-being.
Many parts of modern life can affect your gut microbiome, including:
- high stress levels
- too little sleep
- eating a Western diet high in processed and high sugar foods
- taking antibiotics
This in turn may affect other aspects of your health, such as:
- immune function
- hormone levels
- development of diseases
You may notice a few symptoms if you have reduced gut health. Here are seven of the most common signs:
1. Upset stomach
Stomach disturbances can all be signs of an unhealthy gut. They include:
A balanced gut will have less difficulty processing food and eliminating waste, likely leading to fewer symptoms.
2. A high sugar diet
A diet high in processed foods and added sugars can decrease the amount of “good” bacteria and diversity in your gut.
3. Unintentional weight changes
Gaining or losing weight without changing your diet or exercise habits may be a sign of an unhealthy gut. An imbalanced gut can impair your body’s ability to absorb nutrients, regulate blood sugar, and store fat.
Weight loss may be caused by malabsorption because of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). On the other hand, weight gain may be caused by insulin resistance or increased inflammation.
4. Sleep disturbances or constant fatigue
While the cause remains
5. Skin irritation
Skin conditions like psoriasis may be related to types of bacteria present in the gut. Lower concentrations of beneficial bacteria may impact the body’s immune system.
This, in turn, may lead to conditions that affect the organs, including the skin.
6. Autoimmune conditions
Many studies have found connections between the gut and the immune system. An unhealthy gut may increase systemic inflammation and alter the proper functioning of the immune system.
This can lead to autoimmune diseases, where the body attacks itself rather than harmful invaders.
7. Food intolerances
Food intolerances are the result of difficulty digesting certain foods. This is different than a food allergy, which is caused by an immune system reaction to certain foods.
Research indicates that food intolerances, like lactose intolerance, may be caused by poor quality of bacteria in the gut. This can lead to trouble digesting the trigger foods and symptoms like:
- abdominal pain
There is also some research indicating that food allergies may be related to gut health.
You may be able to improve your gut health through lifestyle and diet changes. Consider trying one or more of the following:
1. Lower your stress levels
Chronic high levels of stress are hard on your whole body, including your gut. A few ways to lower stress may include:
- getting a massage
- spending time with friends or family
- diffusing essential oils
- limiting alcohol intake
- practicing yoga
- spending time with a pet
2. Get enough sleep
Not getting enough or sufficient quality of sleep may have serious impacts on your gut health, which can in turn contribute to more sleep issues.
Try to prioritize getting at least
3. Eat slowly
Chewing your food thoroughly and eating your meals more slowly may lower your chances of developing obesity and diabetes while also helping you make better food choices.
This may help you reduce digestive discomfort and maintain a healthy gut.
4. Stay hydrated
Drinking plenty of water may be linked to increased diversity of bacteria in the gut, though the source of the water also matters. One
Staying hydrated benefits your health overall and can help prevent constipation. It may also be a simple way to promote a healthy gut.
5. Take a prebiotic or probiotic
People who have a severe illness or weakened immune system should not take probiotics. Also, not all probiotic supplements are high quality or beneficial for your health.
It’s best to speak with a healthcare professional when choosing a probiotic or prebiotic supplement to help improve your health.
You can shop for a probiotic or prebiotic supplement online.
6. Check for food intolerances
You may have a food intolerance if you have symptoms such as:
- abdominal pain
- acid reflux
You can try eliminating common trigger foods to see if your symptoms improve. If you’re able to identify and avoid a food or foods that are contributing to your symptoms, you may see a positive change in your digestive health.
7. Change your diet
Reducing the amount of processed, high sugar, and high fat foods that you eat may lead to better gut health.
Eating a diet high in fiber likely contributes to a healthy gut microbiome as well. You may also positively impact your gut by eating foods high in micronutrients called polyphenols, like:
Diet and gut health appear to be very closely linked. Avoiding processed foods, high fat foods, and foods high in refined sugars is likely important for maintaining a healthy microbiome, as these foods may promote the growth of damaging bacteria.
There are also foods you can eat that actively promote the growth of beneficial bacteria, contributing to your overall health. These foods include:
1. High fiber foods
- legumes, like black beans and chickpeas
- whole grains, like oats and quinoa
- vegetables, like broccoli and asparagus
- nuts, like almonds and pistachios
- fruits, like apples and peaches
According to a
3. Fermented foods
Fermented foods are great dietary sources of probiotics. Examples include:
4. Collagen-boosting foods
Collagen-rich foods such as bone broth and salmon skin may be beneficial for both overall health and gut health.
You could also try to boost your body’s collagen production through your diet. To help your body make collagen, try eating more:
- citrus fruits
Why does the gut microbiome vary in individuals?
The gut microbiome is affected by many factors, including:
- antibiotic use
Each of these elements vary in different people, influencing their gut microbiomes in different ways. This variation results in individuals having unique gut microbiomes.
How does the gut microbiome respond to fasting?
Fasting seems to benefit the gut microbiome, though more research in humans needs to be done.
According to one small 2019 study of 16 people, fasting was linked to lower levels of a bacteria that promotes colorectal cancer.
Research in animals also shows benefits of fasting. A
Does eating probiotics actually change your gut microbiome?
Some studies have found no impact of probiotics on the gut microbiome. Still, other
Studies are still being done in this area.
The human gut is complex. While research is ongoing, it seems clear that the gut microbiome impacts whole-body health. A healthy gut contributes to:
- a strong immune system
- heart health
- brain health
- improved mood
- healthy sleep
- effective digestion
- potential prevention of some cancers and autoimmune diseases
Lifestyle and dietary changes may positively affect not only your gut health but your overall health.