How to Improve Your Gut Health Naturally


How to Improve Your Gut Health Naturally

Labeled “the body’s second brain”, the gut is pivotal to the overall health and wellbeing of our bodies. About 80 % of our immune system is found in the gut, which explains why so many illnesses and even psychological issues are said to stem from poor gut health. Put simply, the key to good gut health is maintaining a healthy level of good bacteria. But there are a lot of misconceptions about how bacteria works in the body, making this a confusing topic for many. Keep reading to learn more about the importance of good bacteria and how to increase it with probiotic, as well as prebiotic, foods and supplements.

Bacteria, Your Gut and You

Have you ever gotten excited about a news story of how scientists found life on another planet? Only to sigh in disappointment after learning that all they found was some bacteria? Surely, finding bacteria on a desolate planet is not nearly as exciting as discovering an alien civilization. But there’s a reason why such discoveries are considered a big deal. It’s because bacteria is life.

It’s strange then, that the word bacteria often carries such a negative connotation. Why is this? From a young age, we hear how it’s bacteria that causes things like food poisoning, body odor and Salmonella infection. And that’s all true. But that only paints a very small picture of what these extremely important organisms do.

It’s estimated that the amount of bacteria in a human body is equal to or even greater than the amount of body cells! Every single human being hosts an estimated 40 trillion bacteria in their body, the majority of which can be found in the intestines [3]. That’s why the topic of bacteria and gut health will always go hand in hand.

Gut microbiota have quite the impact on the human body in a number of ways. Not only do they aid in the digestion of the food we consume, they are also regulators and catalysts to many of the bodily processes that go on in our digestive tracts.

Good Bacteria
These little guys are responsible for so much of what happens in the gut

Scientists have even noted what can only be described as “crosstalk” between gut bacteria and the immune system, which is why intestinal health is considered so important to our overall wellbeing.

Being the ever-adaptive microorganisms, gut microbiota are constantly changing to adapt to the new foods we ingest. This is a mechanism that allows them to decipher which foods are good for us and which foods contain harmful toxins.

Gut bacteria are responsible for the digestive distress we get sometimes when we ingest food that’s not part of our normal diet. This explains why you might get an upset stomach while traveling abroad, even when there’s no issue with food hygiene in that particular country.

But just as the good kind of bacteria is needed for so many important processes of the body, an imbalance of intestinal bacteria can result in a number of issues.

Signs of an Unhealthy Gut

An unhealthy gut is hard to ignore. Some of the signs that you may have an unhealthy gut include occasional bouts of diarrhea, sensitivities to certain foods, frequent autoimmune diseases and skin disorders such as psoriasis and eczema.

However, what you may or may not know is that depression, anxiety, and a few other psychological disorders stem from poor gut health. An unhealthy gut has also been linked to ADHD, memory impairment and brain fog [4].

Prebiotics and Probiotics

You might have noticed that certain foods and supplements get categorized as either prebiotic or probiotic. But what do these mean and how do they differ? As the two words sound similar and are also related to the amount of good bacteria in the gut, this aspect of gut health often throws a lot of people off.

To put it simply, prebiotics help nourish the good bacteria already present in your gut. When you take a probiotic, you’re actually introducing brand new helpful bacteria to your microbiome.

There are two main strains of probiotics: Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria.

Lactobacilli helps the body break down lactic acid and better absorb minerals. This type of good bacteria is found naturally in the small intestine, vagina and inside the mouth. On supplement packaging, it’s often abbreviated by an L, followed by the name of the specific strain.

Bifidobacteria, on the other hand, not only helps control bad bacteria in the body but also strengthens the immune system. Bifidobacteria is abbreviated by a B, also followed by the name of the strain. (9)

Different strains of either Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria can be taken for different purposes, though many probiotic supplement products contain a combination of various strains.

But the question remains: Should we be consuming prebiotics, probiotics or both?

Consuming prebiotics and probiotics together is a great idea, as the prebiotics provide helpful support for the new bacteria you’re introducing to your body.

If you’re suffering from symptoms of an unhealthy gut, then consuming prebiotics alone is not going to do you any good, because your problem is a lack of sufficient helpful bacteria. Taking probiotics alone is also fine. If you’re already eating a healthy diet, you’re no doubt getting plenty of prebiotics naturally without even realizing it.

We’ll go into more detail below, but generally speaking, prebiotics are present in fruits, certain vegetables and legumes. Probiotics, on the other hand, are found in fermented foods and drinks like sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha.

How to Boost Good Bacteria & Improve Your Gut Health Naturally

The good news is that it’s fairly easy to maintain good gut health. A lot of it simply comes down to our food choices. Just as poor eating habits result in poor gut health, the right food choices will increase the amount of good bacteria in the digestive system, consequently improving our overall health.


healthy gut foods
A healthy gut is synonymous with a healthy life

Here are some of the things you can do to ensure good gut health:

Cut Down Your Intake of Refined Sugars

As bad as refined sugars are on the general health of your body, they also wreak havoc on your digestive health when consumed in excess. Both artificial sweeteners and refined sugars promote the growth of disease-causing bacteria such as Clostridium, while also killing off good bacteria that your digestive system depends on to do its job.

Studies conducted on mice and humans showed that blood sugar levels can rise dramatically simply due to a change in the gut microbiota [3]. The lack of flora balance within your gut has been linked to problems such as weight gain, abdominal inflammation and hormonal imbalance [1]

If you have a sweet tooth and really struggle with cutting out certain foods, be sure to check out this article to learn more about healthy alternatives. Interestingly, some people report that regular kombucha consumption naturally diminishes their sugar cravings over time.

Adopt a Plant-Based Diet Rich in Prebiotic Foods

Eating plenty of fruit every day can enhance the health of the bacteria in your gut, thereby improving the overall state of your digestive system [2]. The fiber contained in most fruits is an added bonus, since harmful bacteria can feed on remnants of our meals that didn’t get properly digested.[3]

Fruits and vegetables also contain plenty of nutrients that the body’s microbiota need to thrive. As we went over above, certain fresh fruits and vegetables are among the best sources of prebiotics, offering a sturdy support system for the good bacteria already in our system.

Below are some of the best sources of prebiotics that you can start integrating into your diet.

Common Prebiotic Fruits & Vegetables:

  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Bananas
  • Legumes
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Spinach


Fruit Antioxidant Gut Health
Eating more fruit is a great way to improve your gut health


Eat Probiotic-Rich Fermented Foods

The best way to increase the amount of good bacteria in your body is to eat fermented foods. When researching probiotics, you’ll likely come across yogurt, cheese and kefir as the best probiotic sources. In fact, these foods are both prebiotic and probiotic. However, there are a lot of drawbacks to dairy, which you learn a little more about here. Alternatively, let’s focus on some great non-dairy probiotic sources, of which there are plenty.


If you’re a fan of Korean, or even Japanese cuisine, you may already be familiar with kimchi. Kimchi is essentially fermented cabbage that’s mixed together with Korean radishes and chili powder. In addition to its probiotics, kimchi is also high in fiber and digestive enzymes.

You should be able to find kimchi in the Asian section of your local supermarket. Or, you could just buy sauerkraut, which essentially has the same benefits.


Kombucha is booming in popularity these days, and it’s surely one of the best ways to get good bacteria in liquid form. But even if you’ve tried kombucha and liked it, not everyone is completely sure what kombucha really is.

Kombucha is essentially fermented black tea and has its origins in East Asia. It’s produced by mixing an active starter culture of bacteria and yeast together with sugar and tea. The mixture is then set to ferment for about 10 days, during which the sugar gets consumed by the starter culture. It’s a little bit complicated, but at least it’s tasty!

The fizzy drink is a great source of vitamin C and various B vitamins and is overall helpful for digestive support. Kombucha is also often mixed with chia seeds, an amazingly nutritious superfood.

While you can make your own at home, kombucha’s recent popularity means that it’s also really easy to find at grocery stores these days. Or, you can even easily order kombucha online.

Coconut Kefir:

This is a great non-dairy alternative to traditional kefir that still contains various strains of probiotics. Instead of using milk like normal kefir, coconut water makes for a great substitute. It aids in digestion, boosts the immune system and is even a decent source of potassium. But how can you get your hands on some?

Like with kombucha, kits are available for you to make some at home. To make it, you mix the water kefir grains together with coconut water. As coconut kefir is still relatively obscure, it’s not easy to come by as a prepackaged product.


Pickles are probably the easiest probiotic source to come by. As a kid growing up, I had no that idea pickles were actually just cucumbers. While they look the same, they taste completely different! But it’s this pickling process that not only drastically alters a cucumber’s flavor, but also gives it its healthy bacteria content.

As the cucumbers sit for awhile in a salt water mixture or vinegar, they actually ferment in their own lactic acid bacteria. And this is what makes pickles such a good probiotic source. (6)

Some other great probiotic sources include Japanese staples like miso and natto. However, you should be somewhat cautious when purchasing soy products, especially in the West, as so much of the soy grown these days is genetically modified.


Bacteria Gut Health
Fermented foods like kimchi promote the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut

Probiotic Supplementation

If you’re not a fan of fermented foods then you might also want to consider probiotic supplementation. But with so many different strains of good bacteria, how do you know which type of supplements to buy?

Just like with other dietary supplements, they’re always going to be inferior to natural food sources because lots of the beneficial stuff in food work together as a team. Accordingly, you should consider looking for probiotic supplements that contain more than one bacteria strain.

Dr. David Williams recommends that people look for supplements with L. acidophilus, which aids in digestion and helps the small intestine, B. longum, a powerful antioxidant, and B. bifidum, which helps with the breakdown of carbohydrates and dairy. (7)

Other things you want to look out for when shopping for probiotic supplements is that they contain living and not dead bacteria. Be sure to look for an expiration date on the label. If you don’t see an expiration date at all, put it back on the shelf.

Another thing to look out for is what are known as CFU’s, or Colony Forming Units. The ideal number should be between 3 – 50 billion. For basic supplementation, the lower end of the spectrum is fine. Some argue that the combination of bacteria strains is more important than the CFU number itself. (8)

Personally, I do not have any experience with probiotic supplements, as I’m a big fan of kombucha and kimchi. But one of the highest rated products on Amazon is Vitamin Bounty – Pro 50 Probiotic. It’s on the extreme end of the spectrum, with a CFU count of 50 billion and 13 different bacteria strains! Is all that really necessary? I can’t say for sure myself, but the reviews are overwhelmingly positive.

This kind by Hermann Health Products, on the other hand, contains a more moderate 5.75 billion CFU’s with 7 different strains.

Potential Probiotics Side Effects

There generally isn’t too much to worry about in regards to side effects from probiotics. Common issues include nausea, gas, bloating or headaches. As always, consult with a professional about which type of supplementation, if any, is right for you.


Bacteria is a lot more diverse than we’ve been led to believe. And, it turns out, it’s actually more ‘good’ than it is ‘bad.’ In fact, we wouldn’t be able to function without the stuff! It’s prudent that we maintain healthy levels of good gut bacteria to make sure the body’s “second brain” runs as smoothly as possible. Take care of your digestive system and it will reward you with good health for years!





How to Improve Your Gut Health Naturally
Like the article? Pin it to your board!
Scroll to Top