Do you like honey? Don’t eat too much, or it will make you sick! Proverbs 25:16 NLT 

 Digestive discomfort has existed as long as we humans have been eating. The focus on “gut health” has become increasingly trending in today’s modern times. With the rise of reflux, IBS, fatigue, and other illnesses, this week’s Thrive in 5 will focus on what gut health is and how to improve it. 

 Gut health refers more broadly to the term gut microbiome. The gut microbiome are the microorganisms that live in the intestine. Many different species of bacteria, viruses, and fungi are found in the digestive track and research is indicating that many of these are beneficial and necessary to our health. Scientific investigation is finding that gut health impacts or is linked to gastrointestinal disorders, autoimmune diseases, endocrine conditions, cardiovascular health, cancer, and other chronic health problems. It is also finding a likely connection between a healthy gut (more good bacteria in the intestines) and improved physical and mental health.  

 Here are 5 ways to improve your gut health: 

 Include a diet with high fiber foods. Having enough fiber in your diet improves digestion and decreases gastrointestinal upset and constipation. Studies are also showing that fiber positively affects the gut microbiome. High fiber foods include legumes, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and nuts. For more high fiber foods you can review this list from Mayo Clinic. 

  1. Decrease the amount of sugar and processed foods you eat. Foods that are highly processed with added sugars can decrease the good bacteria in your gut and increase the inflammation in your body. Strive to put foods in your body that are closer to their natural state.  
  2. Drink plenty of water. People who drink more water often have less “bad” bacteria in their gut. Water intake also prevents constipation and is overall good for you. Aim to drink around half your body weight in ounces. Some sources recommend 9 cups for women and 13 cups for men (2- 3 liters respectively). 
  3. Introduce fermented foods in your diet. Fermented foods have good bacteria in them and eating them may improve gut health. Some examples of fermented foods are sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi, and kefir.  
  4. Consider supplements. Probiotics are beneficial live microbes similar to what is naturally found in the gut. Probiotic supplements have been shown in some studies to increase the good bacteria in the gut. As with all supplements, you should talk to your provider about whether taking a probiotic is right for you. They can refer you to high-quality probiotic options. Please note that this may be contraindicated for those who have compromised immune systems.   


Additional resources on gut health: 

Dix, M. (2024). Signs of an unhealthy gut and what to do about it. Healthline.  

National Institute of Health (2017). Keeping your gut in check: Health options to stay on track. NIH News in Health. 

Singh, R. K (2017) Influence of diet on the gut microbiome and implications for human health. Journal of Translational Medine. DOI 10.1186/s12967-017-1175-y 

Physical contributor: Dr. Rosa Ketchum, DNP, RN, NC-BC currently the Associate Dean of Nursing at Oklahoma Wesleyan

Executive Editor: Johanna Chacon Rugh

Curator of content: Carla Working