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What Is Gut Health and How Do You Improve It?

Many of the cells in our body are actually bacterial cells. Trillions of bacteria are present inside our intestines and other parts of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract1. This is referred to as the “gut microbiome” and it plays a very important role in digestion and health. Therefore, it is important to recognize signs of an unhealthy gut and learn how to improve gut health.

What Is Gut Health?

The overall composition of our gut microbiome helps determine our gut health, which pertains to the overall function of the GI tract. The job of the GI tract is to properly digest food and absorb nutrients.

Why Is Gut Health Important?

A healthy gut microbiome has a rich diversity of several types of bacteria1. This permits better digestion of a wide array of foods, which helps to prevent digestive problems and food intolerances. Additionally, improving gut health promotes a good immune system2 and helps to fight off infection. It may even have certain psychological benefits3.

What Affects Gut Health?

Although there is still a lot to learn about the gut microbiome, there are both genetic and lifestyle factors4 that can impact gut health. An unhealthy diet that lacks enough fiber can potentially cause an imbalance in the gut microbiome5. Use of antibiotics, while necessary to treat certain infections, can also cause unwanted side effects by getting rid of the healthy bacteria in the gut.

Signs of an Unhealthy Gut

Since the gut microbiome is important for many physiological processes, an unhealthy gut can have uncomfortable consequences. Imbalances in the gut microbiome results in poor gut health and can contribute to problems in several areas including:

  • GI issues like diarrhea or inflammatory bowel disease1 4
  • Trouble losing weight or unintentional weight gain1
  • Food intolerances1
  • Changes in immune responsiveness2
  • Acne and skin problems6
  • Mood changes3

Struggling with one or more of the above issues may indicate that your gut microbiome is not as healthy or diverse as it could be. Therefore, knowing how to improve gut health can lead to better overall health and quality of life.

How to Improve Gut Health

There are a number of dietary and lifestyle changes you can make to improve your gut health. You can start by looking at how you eat— avoid eating too much7 or too little8, as both can cause digestive issues. It’s also important to make sure you’re getting enough of the right kinds of foods to promote a healthy gut.

Foods to Eat for Good Gut Health

To maintain a healthy diet, avoid filling up on too many processed or sugary foods. Instead, eat a nutritious diet full of diverse foods that are good for gut health, like the following:

  • Whole grains and legumes are a great source of dietary fiber which is important for gut health5 9
  • Fruits and vegetables are another good source of fiber and provide necessary antioxidants9
  • Nuts, seeds, and fish provide omega-3 fatty acids that are beneficial for the gut microbiome10
  • Fermented foods like yogurt, vinegar, or kombucha contain good bacteria that can help support and improve gut health11

Eating a diet that promotes a healthy gut can reduce the chance of diarrhea. Read more about ways to maintain a healthy diet.

Consider working with a nutritionist or other healthcare professional who can help suggest ways to improve your gut health like dietary changes, probiotics, and/or use of IMODIUM®. IMODIUM® products can help restore the natural rhythm of the gut to control symptoms of diarrhea.


1. Valdes AM, Walter J, Segal E, Spector TD. Role of the gut microbiota in nutrition and health. BMJ. 2018;361:k2179. doi:10.1136/bmj.k2179
2. Mezouar S, Chantran Y, Michel J, et al. Microbiome and the immune system: From a healthy steady-state to allergy associated disruption. Hum Microbiome J. 2018;10:11-20. doi:10.1016/j.humic.2018.10.001
3. Clapp M, Aurora N, Herrera L, Bhatia M, Wilen E, Wakefield S. Gut microbiota's effect on mental health: The gut-brain axis. Clin Pract. 2017;7(4):987. doi:10.4081/cp.2017.987
4. Hasan N, Yang H. Factors affecting the composition of the gut microbiota, and its modulation. PeerJ. 2019;7:e7502. doi:10.7717/peerj.7502
5. Myhrstad MCW, Tunsjø H, Charnock C, Telle-Hansen VH. Dietary Fiber, Gut Microbiota, and Metabolic Regulation-Current Status in Human Randomized Trials. Nutrients. 2020;12(3):859. doi:10.3390/nu12030859
6. Salem I, Ramser A, Isham N, Ghannoum MA. The Gut Microbiome as a Major Regulator of the Gut-Skin Axis. Front Microbiol. 2018;9:1459. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2018.01459
7. Blackburn KB. What happens when you overeat? Updated February 2018. Accessed November 11, 2021.
8. Ruusunen A, Rocks T, Jacka F, Loughman A. The gut microbiome in anorexia nervosa: relevance for nutritional rehabilitation. Psychopharmacology. 2019;236:1545–1558. doi:10.1007/s00213-018-5159-2
9. Singh RK, Chang HW, Yan D, et al. Influence of diet on the gut microbiome and implications for human health. J Transl Med. 2017;15(1):73. doi:10.1186/s12967-017-1175-y
10. Noriega BS, Sanchez-Gonzalez MA, Salyakina D, Coffman J. Understanding the Impact of Omega-3 Rich Diet on the Gut Microbiota. Case Rep Med. 2016;2016:3089303. doi:10.1155/2016/3089303
11. Marco ML, Sanders ME, Gänzle M, et al. The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) consensus statement on fermented foods. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2021;18(3):196-208. doi:10.1038/s41575-020-00390-5

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