How to look after your gut health

How to look after your gut health

The human gut is home to a complex community of trillions of microorganisms, collectively known as the gut microbiome. 

This diverse ecosystem plays a crucial role in our overall health, influencing everything from digestion to mental well-being. 

We’re going to explore what the gut microbiome is, how it impacts our health, and what you can do to support a healthy gut.

What is the gut microbiome?

The gut microbiome consists of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microorganisms that inhabit our digestive tract. This is a tube of organs including the oesophagus, stomach, and intestines. 

These microorganisms are most densely populated in the intestines, particularly the colon. The balance and diversity of these microbes are vital for maintaining a healthy digestive system.

Why is gut health important?

The gut microbiome performs several critical functions that impact overall health. Here are some of the key roles it plays:

  • Digestion and nutrient absorption:

The gut microbiome helps break down food and aids in the absorption of nutrients. Certain bacteria produce enzymes that the human body cannot, enabling us to digest complex carbohydrates, fibres, and other substances.

  • Immune system support:

A significant portion of the immune system is located in the gut. The microbiome helps train the immune system to distinguish between harmful pathogens and harmless substances, preventing autoimmune reactions and infections.

  • Mental health:

The gut-brain axis is a communication system between the gut and the brain. Gut bacteria produce neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which influence mood and mental health. Research has linked gut health to conditions such as anxiety, depression, and even neurodegenerative diseases. Learn more about nutrition and mental health.

  • Metabolism and weight management:

Gut bacteria can play a role in regulating metabolism and can influence weight. An imbalance in the gut microbiome has been associated with weight gain and loss and metabolic disorders. Those who need to maintain weight should have a good understanding of how to achieve good gut health.

  • Inflammation and chronic diseases:

The gut microbiome can influence inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation is a contributing factor to many diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. A healthy microbiome helps regulate inflammation and protect against these conditions.

How do you maintain a healthy gut microbiome?

Maintaining a healthy gut microbiome involves lifestyle choices and dietary habits that support its diversity and balance. Here are some tips to promote gut health:

  • Eat a diverse diet

A varied diet rich in different types of plant-based foods can increase the diversity of the gut microbiome. Fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds are excellent sources of fibre, which serves as food for beneficial bacteria.

  • Include fermented foods

Fermented foods like yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha contain live probiotics, which can help replenish and diversify gut bacteria.

  • Stay hydrated

Hydration is really important for wellbeing. Drinking plenty of water supports the lining of the intestines and the balance of good bacteria.

  • Limit processed foods and sugars

High intake of processed foods and sugars can lead to an overgrowth of harmful bacteria and yeast in the gut.

  • Consider probiotics and prebiotics

Probiotics are live bacteria that can be taken as supplements to support gut health. Prebiotics are non-digestible fibres that feed beneficial bacteria. Foods high in prebiotics include garlic, onions, bananas, and asparagus.

  • Manage stress

Chronic stress can negatively impact the gut microbiome. Stress management techniques such as meditation, exercise, and deep breathing can help maintain gut health.

  • Get adequate sleep

Quality sleep is essential for overall health, including gut health. Poor sleep patterns can disrupt the gut microbiome balance.

  • Exercise regularly

Physical activity can promote a healthy gut microbiome by enhancing bacterial diversity and reducing inflammation.

Understanding and prioritising gut health is a crucial step towards improving your overall well-being. 


The gut microbiome is a remarkable part of our bodies, influencing everything from digestion to mental health. Maintaining a balanced and diverse microbiome through mindful dietary choices and a healthy lifestyle can enhance your immune system, support mental health, regulate metabolism, and more.