Everything you need to know about improving gut health

Everything you need to know about improving gut health
© iStock/Elena Nechaeva

Health Europa outlines everything you need to know about improving gut health, from diet to quitting cigarette smoking.

A healthy gut can lead to a range of benefits, from fewer sick days to a lower risk of allergies1. However, there is no single way to determine whether you have a healthy gut. Fortunately, there are approaches that can improve gut health, benefiting your physical health, mental wellbeing, immunity and much more.

Five ways to support a healthier gut

The famous saying ‘you are what you eat’ applies to your gut too!

Foods derived from plants such as vegetables, fruits and beans contain fibre that microbes found in the gut love1. High fibre foods like broccoli, chickpeas and bananas can stimulate the growth of certain bacteria in the gut, which supports a healthy microbiome.

Regular exercise

A healthy gut can be made in the kitchen and a high-intensity interval class!

Regular exercise can improve gut health by promoting weight loss or weight maintenance which some research2 suggests can lead to a healthier gut.

Consume fermented foods

Naturally fermented foods promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut microbiome, giving the body a healthy dose of probiotics, which are live microorganisms vital for healthy digestion3. Live cultures, found in probiotics, are featured in yoghurts, kimchi and some pickles.

Add prebiotic fibre to your diet

Improving gut health can be as simple as adding prebiotics into your diet. Prebiotics feed the gut good bacteria and are naturally present in certain carbohydrates.

There is an abundance of foods full of prebiotics that are readily available. This includes garlic, leeks, oats and apples4.

Avoid taking unnecessary antibiotics

One study from 2018 provided substantial evidence that the gut microbiota may fluctuate in response to antibiotics5. It found that participants consuming antibiotics decreased their microbial diversity by 25%, which can lead to poorer gut health.

The antibiotic resistance burden is a rapidly growing problem for healthcare systems, however, it is important to continue antibiotic use if necessary.

Quit smoking

The harmful effects of smoking are typically associated with the lungs, mouth and skin. However, smoking also impacts gut health. A 2018 study looked at how the intestinal microbiome may be influenced by environmental factors such as smoking6. The researchers found that the composition and diversity of the intestinal microbiome are altered when an individual smokes. This interaction may contribute to the development of intestinal and systemic diseases, particularly inflammatory bowel diseases.


  1. https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/nutrition/how-can-i-improve-my-gut-health
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4082611/
  3. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/fermented-foods-for-better-gut-health-2018051613841
  4. https://www.hollandandbarrett.com/the-health-hub/conditions/digestive-health/prebiotics/prebiotics-guide/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6040098/#sec3title
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29626219/


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