Your 5-minute read on gut health

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Your gut is always trying to tell you something. Whether it’s growling, grumbling, or quiet, your gut is highly responsive to everything from your meal choices to your mood.

In fact, the gastrointestinal (GI) tract — a.k.a. the digestive system — is one of the body’s most important barometers of health. An estimated 70 percent Trusted Sourceof our immune system cells live in the GI tract. With a little TLC, we can all have happy bellies. Eating certain foods and avoiding stress triggers is a good start to keeping your gut functional and comfortable. And when trouble arises? Here are some tips to get your GI tract back on track. Eat to nourish your microbiome Your gut naturally contains a host of invisible organisms. This little world is what scientists call the gut microbiome. These organisms are mainly fungi, viruses, and parasites, and a few bacteria.

Some of these microbes are associated with certain illnesses and diseases, but others are important for your health and digestion. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), your gut performs best when populated with a diverse variety of microbes. You can help your gut’s microbiome stay balanced by eating foods that promote the development of “good” bacteria and fungi. Many high fiber foods, known as prebiotics, create a gut environment that helps these beneficial bugs flourish. Here are a few examples of prebiotic foods. These are recommended by Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Get friendly with fermented foods

Believe it or not, many “funky” foods — including that zesty deli pickle in your lunchtime sub — may boost gut health. When foods ferment, helpful microbes grow on them, nourished by the sugar molecules in the food. Many expertsTrusted Source think these microbes, called probiotics, can help contribute to a healthy gut environment.

Consider adding the following delicious fermented foods to your diet:

Manage lifestyle factors for gut health Staying active and minding your mental health may make your belly feel better, too. Evidence suggests that exercise may help balance your gut. Findings show that regular aerobic exercise — like brisk walking or biking a few times a week — can help good bacteria in our guts flourish.

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