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5 Ways to Greatly Improve Your Gut Microbiome—and Your Health

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Summary: The gut microbiome influences everything from digestion to mood to immunity. Explore how you can improve and optimize it for enhanced well-being.

Mood swings are often blamed on hormones. Weight fluctuations on lifestyle. Sleep deprivation on late-night binges on Netflix.

What you may be unaware of is that there’s an unseen world inside you that influences all these factors. Nestled within your digestive system, this complex ecosystem is known as the gut microbiome. And it has a say in everything, from your emotional state to your waistline. 

The kicker? Understanding this collection of microbes can be your secret weapon for a healthier, happier life. 

What Is Gut Microbiome?

There’s a vibrant community of trillions of bacteria and other microbes that reside in your digestive system—this is your gut microbiome. These tiny organisms work together to help digest food, produce vitamins, and keep your body functioning well.

It’s “the largest and most diverse microbiome in our bodies,” explains Hilary Keiser, a biochemist and supplements expert at Viome. And here are the main members to note:

  • Bacteria cells are the most abundant and well-studied members of your gut community. They help with everything from digesting food to producing vitamins.
  • Viruses and bacteriophages are not your typical harmful viruses. Bacteriophages specifically infect bacteria and can regulate their populations, maintaining a balanced gut environment.
  • Fungi include yeasts and molds. While not as numerous as bacteria, they do play a part in keeping your gut balanced.
  • Archaea are less common in the gut but are known to help with the digestion of complex carbohydrates.

Not only are these organisms hard at work for you, but they’re also unique to each person. Indeed, the human microbiome is as individual as the fingerprint. 

The thing is, it doesn’t just influence digestion or nutrient absorption. These microbiota also shape the gut-brain connection, playing a pivotal role in your overall well-being.

How Does It Affect Your Body?

The gut microbiome plays a role in digestion and nutrient absorption. It also impacts your immune system, emotional well-being, weight, behavior, and how you socialize with other humans.

So, how does this all work? According to Dr. Grant Antoine, a naturopathic physician at Viome, the gut microbiome produces metabolites that serve as chemical messengers for our bodies. 

Microbe activity can change in response to diet, which can result in different messages being sent,” he explains. “Ultimately, the messages they send affect everything from how our nervous system works to how we metabolize sugars and fats.”

Research shows that it’s not solely centered around your genetic inheritance; rather, it’s based on your daily life. One study, for instance, involving over a thousand individuals from diverse genetic backgrounds reveals that factors like diet, household environment, and even medications play a larger role in shaping this internal ecosystem.

And so, by making mindful choices in your daily habits, you have the power to steer your digestive health in a positive direction.

What Are the Benefits of a Healthy Gut Microbiome?

Here’s a list that captures the essence of a thriving gut microbiome:

  • Enhanced digestive efficiency. It helps break down complex foods, making digestion smoother and reducing issues like bloating and constipation.
  • Boosted immune function. It plays a crucial role in shaping our immune response, helping to fend off pathogens and reduce the risk of infection.
  • Mood regulation. There’s a strong link between the gut microbiome and mental health, with a balanced microbiome contributing to lower levels of stress and anxiety.
  • Weight management. It can help regulate metabolism and may be a key factor in maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Reduced inflammation. It can reduce systemic inflammation, which is linked to numerous chronic diseases.
  • Improved nutrient absorption. It helps extract and absorb vital nutrients from food, contributing to overall nutrition.
  • Support for chronic disease management. Conditions like diabetes and heart disease can be better managed with a healthy gut microbiome.
  • Skin health. The gut-skin axis suggests that a healthy gut can lead to clearer, more radiant skin.

Remember, these benefits are intertwined with not just the presence of these microorganisms but also their balanced interactions within your body.

A man with his hands on his stomach

How Does Your Diet Influence the Gut Microbiome?

It should come as no surprise that what you put on your plate can dramatically affect your digestive health. And yes, some foods are better than others for maintaining a well-balanced gut.

Before you panic about giving up your favorite treats, here’s the good news: You don’t have to drastically change to a gut microbiome diet overnight. Small, sustainable changes can make a world of difference.

Best and worst foods for microbiome

Kicking off your quest for a happier gut is simpler than decoding the latest diet trend. Let’s break it down—straight from Dr. Antoine’s playbook:

Best foods for the gut microbiome:

  • Fruits
  • Veggies
  • Herbs
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Whole grains

Worst foods for the gut microbiome:

  • Highly processed foods
  • Fast foods
  • Packaged foods

Switching from processed to fresh can flip the script on your digestive health. As you start to incorporate the best foods for gut health, remember that this isn’t just about your stomach—it’s setting the stage for a sound mind, too.

The secret to your mood swings and anxiety might be hiding in the microscopic world of your gut microbiome. This bustling hub of bacteria within your digestive system has the power to influence your brain, affecting everything from your daily mood to your stress levels.

The science is clear: the gut microbiome communicates with the brain using some of the same chemicals that our nerve cells do. Research suggests that these microbes can produce neurotransmitters, which are key players in regulating our moods and emotions.

It gets better. Forward-thinking scientists are now examining how tweaking the gut microbiome could revolutionize mental health treatment. Instead of relying solely on traditional medications, they’re considering probiotics as potential mood regulators.

Understanding this gut-brain dialogue opens up exciting possibilities for managing mental health. By nurturing your gut microbiome, you’re essentially killing two birds with one stone—taking care of your digestive health and mental well-being.

5 Easy Ways to Improve Gut Microbiome, According to Experts

Learning how to improve gut microbiome can be the key to shifting from frequent health concerns to sustained vitality. 

So what are some steps you can take? Here are some suggestions from Dr. Antoine.

1. Eat plenty of plants

Incorporating a variety of plants into your diet enriches your gut with essential fibers, nutrients, and vitamins crucial for a balanced microbiome.

These immunity-boosting foods pack a punch of prebiotics—the food that your gut bacteria feast on to thrive. So aim for at least 30 different plant-based foods per week, from crisp kale to sweet blueberries, to support a robust gut microbiome.

2. Choose more whole, unprocessed foods

Whole, unprocessed foods are the champions of gut health. Unlike their counterparts, they come without a list of artificial ingredients that can confuse and disrupt your digestive system. 

By choosing foods in their natural state, you’re providing your body with the pure, unadulterated goodness it needs for optimal gut function.

3. Reduce sugar and saturated fats

Sugar and saturated fats are the culprits behind many gut health issues. They can lead to an imbalance in your gut bacteria, favoring those that trigger inflammation over those that promote health.

Cutting back on these can help maintain a balanced gut microbiome, making you feel more energetic and possibly even contributing to weight loss.

4. Add fermented foods to your diet

Fermented foods are nature’s own probiotics. Yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kombucha are bursting with beneficial bacteria that can colonize your gut and improve its health.

By integrating these into your daily meals, you’re directly depositing live cultures that can enhance digestive health and bolster your immune system.

5. Be mindful of medication and alcohol use

Medications and alcohol may be a part of our lives, but they also have the power to disrupt your gut microbiome. Being mindful of their use—and limiting them where possible—can help preserve the delicate balance of your gut bacteria. 

Now, if you’re considering supplements or making significant dietary changes, it might be wise to take a gut microbiome test first. This can provide a clearer picture of your gut’s current state and help tailor your approach to gut health.

Frequently Asked Questions

Undoubtedly, the journey to restore gut health begins with understanding how to fix your gut microbiome. And such an intriguing topic is bound to raise questions.

With the help of Dr. Antoine, here are answers to commonly asked ones.

1. What are the symptoms of dysbiosis?

Dysbiosis can mean a lot of things and present itself in very different ways. But for your average individual gut microbiome, dysbiosis can increase gas, bloating, and indigestion.

It might even promote constipation or diarrhea. Other signs could be fatigue, decreased mental clarity or focus, as well as difficulty controlling blood sugar and losing weight.”

2. What is the connection between the gut microbiome and the immune system?

The gut microbiome is integral to the proper development and function of the human immune system. Microbes help educate our immune system and send signals that can upregulate or downregulate immune cell activity, which influences how we respond to infections or inflammatory triggers. 

Remember that the gut is wrapped in immune tissue and is constantly being monitored, so microbial activity has a significant impact on our immune system.”

3. What is the connection between the gut microbiome and weight loss?

Because all of the food we eat must be filtered through the gut microbiome before it makes its way to our body, microbes have a tremendous impact on how we metabolize macronutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. The ultimate effect is an increase or decrease in our metabolism, which in turn can impact how well we gain or lose weight. 

This is also why individuals can have very different responses when eating the same foods. One individual might see a low spike in their blood sugar, while another may see an exceedingly high spike in their blood sugar. This can impact how efficient we are at losing weight. 

In addition, because of the impact on the immune system, the gut microbiome can impact levels of inflammation, which have been shown to promote weight gain and obesity.”

A man and a woman sitting at a table with food

Great Change Starts With You

The reality is, your gut microbiome influences your hormones, lifestyle choices, and even those late-night Netflix binges. By understanding how to keep your gut healthy, you’re on the path to a healthier life overall.

But this is just the beginning. Imagine taking the next step with experts like Naveen Jain, the founder of Viome, and their team as your guides. 

Explore the transformative experience of the Mindvalley Viome Certified Nutrition Coach program, where you’ll not only deepen your knowledge of your own health but also gain the tools to help others transform their lives.

After all, when you make a change for the better, you inspire others to do the same. And their change, like a domino, inspires more.

So take that step and let your change do the talking.


Images generated on Midjourney.

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Written by

Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman is the SEO content editor for Mindvalley and a certified life coach. She brings a wealth of experience in writing and storytelling to her work, honed through her background in journalism. Drawing on her years in spa and wellness and having gone through a cancer experience, she's constantly on the lookout for natural, effective ways that help with one's overall well-being.
Dr Grant Antoine
In collaboration with

Dr. Grant Antoine is a naturopathic doctor passionate about patient empowerment and education. At Viome, Dr. Antoine is involved in clinical trial design and developing nutritional and supplement interventions for Viome’s user recommendations and efficacy studies.

Hilary Keiser
In collaboration with

Hilary Keiser is a Translational Scientist at Viome, specializing in transforming complex metatranscriptomic data into practical health recommendations. Drawing from a background in Biochemistry, she leverages her deep understanding of nutrition and biochemical pathways to develop AI-driven logic for personalized diets and supplements. She is a passionate health educator whose expertise empowers individuals to make informed choices for their optimal well-being.

Picture of Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman is the SEO content editor for Mindvalley and a certified life coach. She brings a wealth of experience in writing and storytelling to her work, honed through her background in journalism. Drawing on her years in spa and wellness and having gone through a cancer experience, she's constantly on the lookout for natural, effective ways that help with one's overall well-being.
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Mindvalley is committed to providing reliable and trustworthy content. We rely heavily on evidence-based sources, including peer-reviewed studies and insights from recognized experts in various personal growth fields. Our goal is to keep the information we share both current and factual. To learn more about our dedication to reliable reporting, you can read our detailed editorial standards.

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Fact-Checking: Our Process

Mindvalley is committed to providing reliable and trustworthy content. 

We rely heavily on evidence-based sources, including peer-reviewed studies and insights from recognized experts in various personal growth fields. Our goal is to keep the information we share both current and factual. 

The Mindvalley fact-checking guidelines are based on:

To learn more about our dedication to reliable reporting, you can read our detailed editorial standards.