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Want to know the simplest ways to optimise yours? Look no further.
You’ll all likely have heard that good gut health is important for pretty much everything, from skin, to digestion, to energy, to overall wellbeing. But, question: how do you know if you have good gut health, and what are the easiest gut health hacks to incorporate into your day-to-day to optimise yours?
Both good questions, which is why we’ve asked two pros to break it down for you. But first – why is gut health such a buzz-term right now?
“The interest in gut health has markedly increased over the past couple of decades,” shares nutritional therapist and gut health specialist for KALLA, Eve Kalinik. “I believe this is mostly because, through increasing scientific research, we’re beginning to understand just how much of an influence it has over our entire wellbeing.”
Chief nutrition scientist for Indi Supplements, doctor Federica Amati, agrees, adding: “There is increasing insight into how the microbiome and gut health impacts you. The link between fibre consumption and improved health is now well established, and since we know fibre can only be digested by our microbiome, it is clear that the benefits of fibre are thanks to these microbes,” she shares.
More recently, there has even been an association of probiotic supplementation with COVID outcome, she adds, providing another strong indication that placing value on your gut health is worth the hype. Piqued your interest yet? Keep scrolling as they impart their expert wisdom on how to optimise yours. Good gut health – here you come.
Gut health hacks: your guide
So, what is gut health?
According to Amati, gut health is defined as the absence of gastrointestinal symptoms – aka abdominal pain, bloating, or diarrhoea, and diseases like inflammatory bowel disease or colon cancer. “It’s also the presence of microflora in your gut to support healthy function,” she shares.
Think of it this way – the gut is essentially one long tube that starts at the mouth and runs all the way to the point of exit, or so shares Kalinik. “However often “gut health” refers to your gut microbiome, which is a collective of all of the microbes that live in your gut, predominantly in the large intestine.”
Did you know? The composition of your gut microbiome is completely unique – a bit like a fingerprint – and consists of around a trillion microbes.
“In fact, current stats suggest that these microbes outnumber our own human cells, so you are actually more microbe than human!”, shares Kalinik.
Why is good gut health important?
And in short, how does this affect you? Well, research shows that the more diverse your gut microbiome, the healthier and the stronger it is, and this impacts all kinds of other things, including skin, digestion and so on.
“The gut microbiome is now being considered an organ in its own right, due to the far-reaching influence it has over a myriad of different systems in the body,” shares Kalinik. This includes:
- The absorption of nutrients from our food
- The functioning of our immune system
- Regulation of our mood
- Ability to manage inflammation
- Ability to balance hormones.
11 gut health hacks to optimise your microbiome
1. Up your fibre
Fun fact: dietary fibre is king for the gut microbiome, as it essentially feeds the microbes in our gut, explains Kalinik. “Fibre is found in all plant-based foods including whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, but the key is diversity from these sources, as this cultivates a healthier and stronger gut microbiome.”
Try this: consider some simple hacks, such as making vegetable-rich soups and stews or adding nut and seed mixes to your plate. “This allows you to really pack in a variety of sources,” she shares.
2. Eat the rainbow
It’s a bit of a cliché, sure, but it means that you take in plenty of polyphenols (aka special plant chemicals).
“These (yep, you guessed it) nourish the gut microbiome,” shares Kalinik. “So it can be a helpful analogy to keep in mind.”
Read our guides to what causes bloating and what to eat after a workout, while you’re here.
3. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
Sure, the food’s important, but so too is drinking lots – and lots – of water.
“Stay hydrated, as dehydration alone can lead to constipation or slower motility through the gut – it’s a very thirsty organ!,” shares Kalinik.
4. Rest and digest
Not sure what this means? Simply put, take more time over meals and chew your food thoroughly.
“This can help to alleviate some of the most common gut symptoms such as indigestion, excessive gas and bloating,” shares the expert.
5. Be mindful
You’ll have heard of meditation, mindful movement, and breathwork – but how are they on a list of gut health hacks?
“Some forms of mindfulness, such as meditation, some types of yoga, and breathwork training, are vital in helping support the gut-brain connection – it’s incredibly powerful and bi-directional,” shares Kalinik. “Remember that it’s the things with cumulative effects that have the greatest impact.:
6. Take a probiotic
Consider taking a clinically researched probiotic, both experts share – our guide to the best probiotics for women might help.
7. Or eat a probiotic
Another simple way to improve gut microbiome diversity? Aim to consume more probiotic foods, recommends Amati.
“Probiotics foods are foods that contain helpful bacterial strains,” she explains. “These include kefir, sauerkraut and fermented miso.”
Try this: Try to introduce fermented foods into your diet every day, whether you buy kefir at the supermarket or experiment with making your own kimchi – and don’t miss our guide to the foods to boost mood, while you’re here.
8. Keep note of the different types of fruit and veg you’re eating
By increasing the number of plants you eat every day – Amati recommends aiming to eat 30 different types per week – we’re ticking a gut health hack off the list.
Try this: She advises making a mental note, list on your phone or on your fridge of all the different vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and herbs you use. “It’s an easy way to encourage you to hit your diversity target,” she shares.
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9. Mix things up
We all know variety is key, but by that, the experts mean eating meals that offer different combinations of nutrients.
“Ditch repetitive meal plans and get creative with dried spices, seeds, nuts and whole grains, as well as lots of seasonal vegetables,” shares Amati. “Using a veg box service can be a helpful way to try new recipes.”
10. Get your steps in
Did you know? Taking a 10-minute walk after your lunch will help both improve your transit time and help your body to process starches and lipids from your meals, explains Amati.
11. Leave a break between dinner and breakfast
And finally, leaving 14 hours between your dinner and your breakfast – say, having dinner at 7pm and eating breakfast at 9am – can be a great way to rest, repair and enhance your overall gut health, shares Amati.
This won’t be for everyone – don’t try this if you require more frequent mealtimes, are pregnant, or have a medical condition that dictates more regular eating – but it can work for some.