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8 Ways to Improve Gut Health (Without Probiotics)

Beth Lipton
March 4, 2019

Raise your hand if you don’t want a healthier gut? We didn’t think so. A healthy microbiome is tied to improved immunity, metabolism, mood, and longevity. And we all want those things. But, what’s the best way to improve your gut health? Though eating well and taking probiotics are important, it turns out there are some changes to your lifestyle that can have an impact, too.

In reading the New York Times bestseller Genius Foods by Max Lugavere (about one of our other favorite topics, brain health), we came across this handy list of ways to boost your gut health that don’t include adding another supplement to your routine.

1. Avoid antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers.

As we’re living in COVID times, this one is a bit tricky. But, over-washing can actually have a negative effect on your immune system. And you don’t need to use antibacterial soap; any old bar of soap is effective against the coronavirus.

2. Embrace nature.

When you go outdoors, you expose yourself to millions of microbes! In fact, exposing children to dirt and germs is actually essential for strengthening their immune system.

3. Drink filtered water.

The use of chlorine to eliminate outbreaks of waterborne pathogens in developing nations is 
a great thing, but many first-world water supplies tend to be over-treated with chlorine.

4. Shower less.

Or use soap more sparingly, perhaps only every other shower. The resulting increase in mating scent molecules called pheromones may even help your dating life. Shampoo once or twice a week at most—there’s no reason to shampoo every day.

5. Buy organic produce whenever possible.

Organic produce will be richer in antioxidant polyphenols, which support butyrate-producing bacteria as well as a healthy mucosa.

6. Avoid taking broad-spectrum antibiotics unless absolutely necessary.

Antibiotics can save lives when appropriate—this is an undeniable truth. However, 30 percent of antibiotics prescribed in the United States are completely unnecessary according to recent research, and they can devastate the microbial ecosystem. This can make room for opportunistic pathogens like C. difficile to take over instead.

7. Adopt a pet.

There are millions of homeless animals in shelters all around the United States that would be happy to help you increase your microbial diversity. Women who have a dog in their homes when pregnant are less likely to have children with allergies, and kids who grow up with dogs are 15 percent less likely to develop asthma. Living with a dog is one of the top ways to increase the microbial diversity of the home and in the gut.

8. Slow down.

Digestion takes place when you are relaxed, hence the term “rest and digest.” Eating on the go can set off a cascade of stress response mechanisms in the body that compromise digestion, not only impairing your absorption of nutrients but affecting your bacterial friends’ access to them as well.

Excerpted with permission from the book Genius Foods: Become Smarter, Happier, and More Productive While Protecting Your Brain for Life by Max Lugavere with Paul Grewal, MD. Copyright © 2018 by Max Lugavere. Published on March 03, 2018 by Harper Wave, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. 

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