9 expert secrets to optimize your gut health 

Photo of author

| Updated:

Gut health is the cornerstone of well-being, impacting everything from digestion to mental wellness. A healthy gut contributes to a strong immune system, heart health, brain health, improved mood, effective digestion and the prevention of some cancers and autoimmune diseases.

A person in sportswear indicating a slim waistline, optimized for gut health, with their hands.
Take control of your gut health with secrets from expert dietitians. Photo credit: Depositphotos.

To help you nurture your digestive system and optimize your health, check out these nine tips from dietitians that are practical, evidence-based and actionable. By incorporating these expert recommendations, you can take proactive steps toward maintaining a healthy and balanced gut microbiome. 

Embracing dietary diversity

Alyssa Smolen, MS RDN CDN and nutrition content creator stresses the importance of dietary diversity for gut health. She explains that regularly introducing new plant-based foods into your diet can strengthen and diversify your gut microbiome, supporting your overall health and well-being.

“Aim to include over 30 different types of plants in your diet each week,” suggests Celine Thompson, MS, RDN. Including mixes of whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and herbs in your fruit and vegetable intake further enriches dietary diversity. This assortment not only fosters the growth of beneficial gut bacteria but also bolsters the immune system and helps reduce inflammation. 

Subscription Form

Save this article and we'll send it to your inbox. Plus we'll send you more great article links every week.

Fiber for digestive wellness

Fiber is a well-documented digestive superfood and is essential in promoting gut health. Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, cookbook author and founder of Nutrition Starring You, explains that only 1 in 10 Americans consumes the 25g to 38g of recommended fiber intake. 

Soluble fibers found in oats, apples and flaxseeds are great for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels and nourishing the beneficial bacteria in your gut. Meanwhile, insoluble fibers in wheat bran and vegetables help ensure smooth and regular digestive movements. 

Gut harmony with prebiotics  

Amanda Sauceda, MS, RDN, highlights the importance of prebiotics for gut health. Prebiotic-forward fruits and vegetables like onions, garlic, bananas and asparagus serve as food for beneficial gut bacteria, promoting their growth and activity.

“When in doubt, eat the rainbow,” recommends Chelsea Newbrough, RDN, functional nutritionist and founder of The Mil Spouse Dietitian. “Eating a variety of colors of fruits and vegetables ensures you’re getting the different prebiotic fibers needed to feed all the important types of gut microbes.” 

Focusing on fermented foods

According to Lindsay Cohen, RDN and nutrition blogger, probiotics in fermented foods help to balance gut microbiota, promoting a diverse and healthy ecosystem. This balance is essential for digestion, nutrient absorption and immune function. 

“Try to incorporate these foods into your daily routine. Look for supermarket staples like yogurt, kefir, kombucha, miso, tempeh, sauerkraut and kimchi,” suggests Michelle Rauch, MSc, RDN. Regular consumption of these foods can even prevent gastrointestinal issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Alcohol moderation

Kim Kulp, RDN and owner of the Gut Health Connection, explains that alcohol intake can disrupt the balance of beneficial gut microbes, leading to dysbiosis and impairing digestive health. This can further increase inflammation in the body, affect immune function and damage your gut lining. 

Prioritizing patterned eating

“Regularity, adequacy and variety are important,” advises Erin Decker, MS, RD, LDN, emphasizing the importance of a meal pattern for gut health. Skipping meals or undereating can disrupt the digestive system, leading to gastrointestinal (GI) issues such as bloating, constipation or diarrhea. Consistent eating patterns also have the added benefit of helping to regulate blood sugar levels, which can impact energy levels and mood. 

Movement and yoga for digestion

Yoga and gentle movement after meals can support digestion. “Poses like supine twist and cat-cow can increase blood circulation to the belly and stimulate the digestive tract,” explains Kristin Grimes, RDN, LD, CPT. These movements relax abdominal muscles and facilitate food movement through the digestive tract. 

Along with yoga, gentle movement like a leisurely walk after meals can further promote digestion and prevent bloating. Light activities stimulate muscles in the gastrointestinal tract, reducing the likelihood of digestive discomfort.

Staying hydrated 

Vandana Sheth, RDN, CDCES, FAND and cookbook author, emphasizes the importance of staying hydrated throughout the day. Drinking water supports your digestive health and reduces inflammation. 

Adequate hydration allows your body to better process food as it moves through the digestive tract, making it easier to pass and preventing constipation. Water also aids in the breakdown and transport of nutrients, allowing your body to absorb them more effectively. 

Mindful eating for better digestion

Making mindfulness a part of your mealtime routine can transform your eating habits and contribute to a more balanced and nourished digestive system. This practice involves being present, savoring each bite and ensuring you chew your food thoroughly. 

Functional performance dietician, Stephanie Darby, RD, reiterates the importance of mindful eating for gut health. “Sitting down to eat and removing distractions at mealtime will reduce stress and allow for better digestion of food.” By incorporating this practice into your routine, you’ll enhance nutrient absorption, recognize your body’s hunger and fullness signals and avoid overeating and digestive discomfort.

Improving your gut health

Good gut health is a multifaceted endeavor that prioritizes a holistic approach to health. Incorporating a variety of techniques like mindful eating, dietary diversity, regular exercise and adequate hydration play a crucial role in supporting a healthy digestive system. This in turn contributes to your overall well-being. 

By following these expert tips, you can create a supportive environment for your gut microbiome, leading to improved digestion, enhanced nutrient absorption and a stronger immune system. Understanding the importance of gut health demonstrates that caring for the digestive system is a valuable investment in overall well-being and quality of life.

Lara is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Personal Trainer. She is also a recipe developer, photographer and runs the food and travel blog Lara Clevenger. She shares easy recipes that are mostly low-carb, along with travel adventures. 

Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The contents of this article are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice. The content presented here is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or dietary changes. Reliance on any information provided by this article is solely at your own risk.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.