Placeholder Guide to a Healthy Gut: Importance, Signs and Practical Tips Holland & Barrett

Ultimate Guide to a Healthy and Happy Gut

Guía definitiva para un intestino sano y feliz

Gut health is key to overall health. This makes a lot of sense, since the intestine, our gastrointestinal tract, is the organ system responsible for digesting the food we eat.

The mouth, esophagus, stomach and intestines work together to extract from food the energy and nutrients our body needs to develop, and then the rectum and anus get rid of the excess waste.

However, our busy modern lives can sometimes compromise our gut health, which is not difficult as our gut is incredibly complex.

Not many of us can say that we have never had stomach problems. Whether it's gluten intolerance, indigestion, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a bad gut can make anyone suffer.

Do you need any advice? Here's our guide to everything you need to maintain a healthy and happy gut.

Why is gut health important?

The term "gut health" generally refers to the balance between healthy living bacteria and harmful "bad" bacteria.

More than 100 trillion live bacteria, known as the microbiome, live in our intestines, which help our body in a series of tasks.

In fact, this microbiome represents 90% of the cells in our body.

However, if the natural bacterial balance of our intestine is broken, we can start to experience some problems.

How can a healthy gut improve overall health?

A healthy gut with the right balance of bacteria can help your body in the following ways:

Immunity: Maintaining a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut can help support the immune system. Just as taking too many antibiotics - and upsetting the balance - can weaken the immune system.

Heart health: It has been shown that probiotic supplements can help control total blood cholesterol levels.

Digestive problems: A healthy balance of bacteria in the gut has been seen to help with intestinal disorders such as lactose intolerance and antibiotic-induced diarrhea.

Sleep and fatigue: Our gut microbiome can affect the quality of our sleep. This is because the gut produces most of serotonin, a hormone that affects sleep.

Your gut is your "second brain."

Our "gut brain" contains millions of nerve cells and helps control digestion, detecting and responding to the food we have eaten, adjusting digestive secretions, absorbing nutrients and informing our brain what is happening. Our brain and gut are closely connected to allow digestion to occur under the right circumstances.

Therefore, eating when we are stressed can cause symptoms such as bloating, as our body focuses on fight or flight, rather than digesting food.

Experiencing an emotional upheaval while eating can also trigger digestive problems.

The “gut brain” remembers the discomfort and may develop symptoms around the contents of that meal; For example, after receiving bad news at a fish restaurant, you may react to the fish.

Is your gut healthy?

Gut health is difficult to determine.

There is never simply a 'yes' or 'no' answer, as there is no single measure used to assess the health of our gut.

However, there are some signs you can look out for that can give you a pointer in either direction.

3 signs of a healthy intestine:

  1. Healthy bowel movements

We're talking about your digestive system here, so it makes sense that our stool can be a great indicator of gut health. Soft, 'sausage' shaped stools are ideal, not hard, lumpy or really soft ones. And while they won't smell like roses... if you smell something really unpleasant in the bathroom, this could be a sign that something is wrong.

  1. You don't have swelling often

If you find that you feel comfortable after most meals and that you don't experience bloating frequently, it may be that your gut is happy and healthy. That said, passing gas 10-20 times is still normal, but if it's a lot more for you, you may want to invest in your gut health.

  1. You can defecate without pain

A key indicator of a healthy intestine is also that you can go to the bathroom without experiencing any pain, or having to strain too hard to expel it!

5 signs of an unhealthy gut

  • Constipation or irregular stools
  • Stomach ache
  • Sleep bad
  • Inflammation
  • Pimple-prone skin

4 foods and supplements to help you have a healthy intestine

The food you eat can have a significant impact on the diversity of bacteria in your gut. In general, high consumption of animal proteins, saturated fats, sugar and salt can create an environment in which pathogenic bacteria thrive. In contrast, eating complex carbohydrates, plant proteins, omega-3s, polyphenols, and micronutrients is associated with better growth and function of beneficial bacteria. In addition to following the advice above, the following foods can help you maintain a healthy intestine:

  1. Yoghurt

Yogurt is made by fermenting lactic acid in milk with Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. There is evidence that consuming yogurt with live and active cultures, such as probiotic yogurt, can improve digestion for those with lactose intolerance.

  1. Probiotic foods

Probiotics are live microorganisms that interact with your own microbiota, sometimes helping to restore a balance. You can also get probiotic drinks that work the same way. Examples of probiotic foods include yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, pickles, kimchi, and tempeh.

  1. Prebiotic fiber

Prebiotics are nondigestible foods (fiber that passes through the gastrointestinal tract undigested) that may be beneficial for gut health. Because we can't metabolize them like normal foods, our gut bacteria metabolize them into short-chain fatty acids, which help our body with several tasks. Examples of foods rich in prebiotics include bananas, onions, artichokes, garlic, oats, honey, and asparagus.

  1. Vitamins and minerals

Micronutrients are important in supporting the regulation of energy metabolism, immune function and cell growth, and can also have a positive effect on your gut. B vitamins have been observed to be synthesized by the fecal microbiota, and vitamin D has been shown to increase the abundance of potentially beneficial bacterial strains.

How to improve intestinal health naturally

  1. Follow a gut-friendly, FODMAP-free diet

FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. These are groups of carbohydrates that are not absorbed by the intestine, so they ferment and bacteria feed on them, causing unpleasant intestinal behavior. Foods high in FODMAPs include apples, pears, milk and cabbage.

  1. Try taking friendly bacteria supplements

They have been shown to be beneficial in some people with gut problems and there is some evidence that they may also help with mood fluctuations associated with gut problems.

  1. Reduce your fiber intake

Too much fiber can overstimulate the intestine, making symptoms even worse. Ask a dietician for advice before eliminating food groups. Read more: A nutritionist's guide to fiber

  1. Practice gut-focused hypnotherapy

Research shows that this can reduce symptoms in at least half of patients. It is thought to make the intestine less sensitive, decrease the strength of contractions, and help with the stress and anxiety of having intestinal problems.

  1. do exercise

Exercise increases your heart and breathing rate, which in turn stimulates waves of muscle contractions that move stool through the intestine, a process called peristalsis. This helps the intestine work more efficiently.

The UK government recommends 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, such as cycling, running or brisk walking, each week for adults.

They also recommend strength training, such as yoga, dancing, gardening, or weight lifting, two or more days a week. Try to avoid long periods of sitting still, breaking it up with activity.


Healing the gut doesn't have to be difficult.

By eating the right foods, making time to exercise, and taking note of your bowel movements, you should be on the right track.


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