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How to Improve Gut Health

8Dec 2022

How to Improve Gut Health

A healthy gut is the key to a healthy body; it has been rightly said. Gut microbiome play an important role in the achievement of optimal health. Poor health of the gut is a risk factor for several chronic health conditions, most particularly metabolic diseases and gastrointestinal disorder. It has also been associated with an elevated risk of colorectal cancer, cardiovascular disorders, type 2 diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease.

Dietary and environmental factors have a major influence over the health of your gut. Did you know that in an average lifetime, approximately 60 tonnes of food passes through your gastrointestinal tract? And it harbours more than 1014 microorganisms?

While certain good bacteria such as Bifidobacterium and Akkermansia species are conducive to the health of the gut, harmful bacteria such as E. coli are also its inhabitant. Rise in population of these bad bacteria results in infections and chronic health conditions depending on the bacterial species. So, it is important that you maintain the good population of bacteria. But, how do you do that?

Food! Your GI tract is loaded with food each day that it has to digest, absorb and excrete. As a result, it is inevitable that food has an influence on its microbial flora. Now you must be thinking what kinds of food have a good influence and what have a bad impact, right?

Well, don’t worry, we got you all covered. This article will introduce you to the best gut health foods and the worst gut health foods so that you can make an informed choice in excluding certain food groups from your diet. It will then provide you a list of supplements including natural supplements and artificial preparations like multi vitamins, which you can include in your diet for the best results. Lastly, it will help you in fighting the battle of poor gut health by providing insights into mental health management in the face of gastrointestinal issues.

So, let’s begin.

Best gut health foods

Diet is the key modulator of your gut microbiota, which derives energy from the nutritional components of the human host. So, eating the correct foods ensures the flourishing of good microbes whereas eating unhealthy foods will have a converse effect. The best gut health foods are:

Dietary fibre

Dietary fibres are the most essential food groups that favour a healthy gut. Daily consumption of 100 grams can help in optimising the health of your gut.

Since dietary fibres are not digested in the stomach, they directly reach the small intestine, where they are used by the fibre – degrading microorganisms as a source of energy. These good microorganisms then exert an anti – inflammatory and immune – modulatory effect, which improves your overall health by preventing inflammation and reducing the risk of infections.

These health – promoting effects are seen due to the production of short – chain fatty acids, acetate, propionate and butyrate, which are beneficial for your health. Dietary fibres are found abundantly in fresh fruits and vegetables such as apples with skin, cucumbers, broccoli and beans. They are also found in whole grains such as quinoa, wheat and oatmeal. So, now you know what the best foods to include in your diet will be.


Yogurt is a naturally – fermented, nutrient – dense food that helps to improve the health of your gut. Although dairy products are not best recommended for your gut health, yogurt is one such food, which helps in overcoming the dysregulation of your gut microbiota.

Clinical studies have found that it reduces chronic inflammation as well as it improves the function of the gut barrier. Reduction of endotoxins achieved through these mechanisms and the improvement of gastrointestinal peptides is what makes yogurts one of the best foods for your gut health.

Further, yogurt is a probiotic food, which can also be consumed by individuals suffering from lactose intolerance. So, healthy smoothies with a base of yogurt can be inculcated in their diets.


Deficiency of micronutrients including both vitamins and minerals is considered to be a major barrier inhibiting the growth of favourable microbiota in the gut, and thereby preventing potential benefits for human health. Most particularly, vitamin A, which is found in food sources such as carrots, beets and leafy greens, is crucial for a healthy gut.

However, an inclusion of multi vitamin sources found in a variety of fruits and vegetables such as oranges, peaches, berries, tomatoes, plums and melons is recommended for best results. This is because a prolonged intake of these foods, such as during the abidance with a Mediterranean diet has found beneficial effects for patients with type 2 diabetes, since it aids in their glycaemic control.

If you are wondering, a Mediterranean diet simply refers to a plant – based diet which includes increased consumption of fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, nuts, whole grains and legumes along with healthy oils like olive oil. Because of its simple nature, this diet is the easiest to follow and is even associated with weight loss effects. So, if you are confused with the list of too many good and bad foods related to your gut health which you are about to find in this article, you can simply follow this dietary pattern and swear by the results. Additionally, you can include probiotics along with this diet, the effects of which will be explained in a later section.


Legumes such as beans, peas, soybeans chickpeas and lentils are excellent for your gut health. They contain high doses of dietary fibres, minerals and some of the vitamins, all of which, are essential for the health of your GI tract.

Higher intake of legumes will have more positive results for your health since it will increase short chain fatty acids improving the anti – inflammatory effects.

Along with including legumes in your diet in an edible form, switching to a vegan lifestyle, replacing dairy products such as milk and cheese with soy milk and tofu will be effective for improvement of your gut health. This is because research evidence has pointed out that consuming a vegan diet that includes fresh fruits, vegetables and legumes helps to increase the levels of short – chain fatty acids. It helps in improving the equilibrium of gut bacteria along with increasing the growth of good bacterial agents.


Soy, although a component of the legume family, deserved some extra attention and you will soon find out why.

Soy is essentially a phytoestrogen food, which are plant – derived polyphenols that are similar in structure to the hormone oestrogen. Soy is poorly digested in the small intestine making it largely available in the colon. In the colon, it gets converted into favourable compounds having anti – proliferative actions in addition to its anti – inflammatory and immune functioning enhancing effects.

Soy food products also exhibit antioxidant property through the modulation of microorganism and free radicals. Due to this, they have an independent role in maintaining the health of your gastrointestinal tract, particularly your colon.

Approximately 50 % of vegans exhibited enhanced formation of equol, which is responsible for these beneficial effects for your gut. Asians had a much higher equol production when compared with the Western dwellers, that is, 60 % and 30 % respectively.

This clearly gives you another reason to turn vegan, doesn’t it? And the goodness of that soy coffee latte!

Dark chocolate

You must be jaded with this gruesome list that only advocates for the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables for your gut health. Before you lose interest in your own health, let’s announce another healthy gut food, which is not at all yucky, if you may say.

Dark chocolate contains phytoesterols, the same plant – derived estrogen – like components, which can improve equol production being marvellous for the health of your gut.

Even though dark chocolate is good, you may need to choose a pure dark version, in an unsweetened form, in order to reap its gut – health benefits. If it contains sugar, it will rather be counter – intuitive, why, you’ll find out in the next section.


Another loved delicacy, honey, is actually a probiotic food, which has enormous benefits for the health of your gut.

Preclinical studies, intended to examine the microbial effects of the consumption of honey on the gut micribiota, have divulged that honey promoted the growth of good gut bacteria. These bacteria then acted as mediators to control the growth of disease – causing pathogens. Further, it promoted the growth of probiotic agents, which facilitated the inhibition of disease – causing pathways such as carcinogensis of cells.

When compared with glucose and even fructose syrups, honey was found to have the most beneficial effects on the health of your gut. Since fructose sugar is naturally present in fruits, the findings of this research help to conclude that honey is superior to natural fruits when it comes to gut health. But, make sure to pick pure organic honey and also remember that its intake must be combined with healthy foods. Topping it off on a highly processed waffle will do no good for your gut health.

Some brilliant ways in which you can include honey can be through its combination with fibre and vitamin sources such as oatmeal and fruits with soy milk. This will provide you with all the major components of healthy gut foods.

Collagen – rich foods

If at all you were not convinced by the idea of a vegan lifestyle that was explained earlier in this article, you must be delighted to know that some collagen – rich foods like bone broth, gelatin and salmon also have beneficial effects on your gut.

However, further research is needed to back up these claims and reach a level of conclusion, so that its unhesitant recommendation can be made.

Worst foods for gut health

Just like some foods are good for your gut health, some are bad, as you may have guessed by going through the above list. Symptoms caused due to these bad foods include stomach ache, fatigue, nausea or any other gastrointestinal side effect. Let’s elaborate these foods so that you can keep them at bay.


Do you have a sweet tooth? Do you love that sugar rush?

Well, there is some bad news. Consuming food products with added sugar like doughnuts, candies, store – bought treats, waffles and even your favourite can of soda, which is highly loaded with sugar, by the way, may need to go off your list.

Sugar – containing foods, particularly those with high – fructose corn syrup, increase inflammatory processes in the body implicating poor gut health. Further, it is linked to a high risk of a number of diseases including cancer. Since high – fructose corn syrup is present even in canned fruits and boxed juices, it is advisable that you read the ingredients before making any purchase.

Furthermore, foods with a high content of sugar increase your sugar cravings, so, you end up eating more sugar and the cycle repeats, making your gut health go to worse from bad.

However, we have good news too. Natural sources of sugars like hand – pressed juices, homemade jams without added sugar, fresh fruits with some yogurt and any desserts sweetened with honey are still some of the sweet indulgences you can rejoice.

Processed foods

You must have time and again heard that processed foods are bad for your health. Obviously, your gut is no exception.

Processed food items include packaged cereals, ready – to – eat foods like kebobs, chips, sausages, and all the packaged food items included breads. Just like sugar, they increase inflammatory processes in your body being bad for your gut. However, they also raise oxidant activity raising the levels of damage to your gut and body.

This will elevate the risk of a myriad of health conditions including most types of cancers and even organ failure.

Red meat

Red meats including beefs, sausages, goat meat, pork and so on, are poor food choices if you want to improve your gastrointestinal health.

Research evidence has indicated that the intake of red meats increases the levels of trimethylamine – N – oxide, which is a pathogenic compound that is closely linked with a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases. This is because a diet rich in red meats reduces the total concentration of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, that are, responsible for positive metabolic processes. While it reduces the concentrations of friendly bacteria like Lactobacillus, it raises the concentration of bad bacteria, resulting in much severe adverse effects.

Food rich in trans – fats

Trans fats refers to food items that have been deep fried or highly processes like cakes, pastries, chips, French fries, fast foods, microwave foods like popcorns and frozen pizza.

While they are convenient to eat, they are not as easy on your stomach, and accelerate the inflammatory processes of the body. Inadvertently, they are associated with an increased risk of cancer, obesity, cardiovascular disorders and liver diseases. So, the best you can do is avoid them.

Other foods

Along with the above – listed, some seemingly unharmful foods like store – bought cookie dough, ready – to – make dosa batters, frozen canned vegetables and even packaged iced tea can be harmful for your gut health due to high levels of processing or sugar additions. Other than this, intake of genetically – modified foods including genetic engineered crops contain harmful components that have the potential to alter your gut bacteria. So, other than checking for nutrient component of your foods, it is also plausible that you verify their source / origin. This is because eating fruits and vegetables will still be bad for your gut if they are prepared through rigorous bioengineering methods. Sticking to locally – produced foods and organic farm items will be helpful. Also, some people may be allergic to dairy, so, it is recommended that they follow alternative vegan sources as well.

Best supplements for gut health

Fermented foods

In addition to yogurt, which has been listed above, fermented foods include pickles, kefir, kombucha, kimchi, tempeh, and some cheeses and wines. The metabolism of fermented food products requires microorganisms like Saccharomyces yeasts and lactic acid bacteria yielding lactic acid.

Clinical studies have demonstrated that the intake of fermented foods causes significant improvements in the gut health because of balancing of intestinal permeability to microorganisms and barrier function. By acting on the gut – brain axis, the consumption of fermented foods also improved metabolism and immunoregulation along with promoting organ protection.

So, we think these are reasons enough to include fermented foods in your diet. You can easily get most of these fermented foods at a local Japanese joint.


Probiotics include the intake of live bacteria and yeast, which are favourable for your digestive health. Honey, yogurt and sour breads are the most common examples of probiotic supplements that you can include in your diet.

Clinical evidence has divulged that the intake of probiotics helps in soothing the lining of your gut providing relief from the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. It also helps in managing diarrhoea and other digestion – related issues.

Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is another fermented food, which contains active dry yeast among other ingredients. Apple cider vinegar is processed by the lactic acid bacteria, and its intake is associated with an improvement of your gut health. However, future research is needed to understand the exact mechanisms associated with this effect.

Other supplements

Other than fermented foods, some of the supplements which can be conducive to your gut health include collagen peptides, zinc and curcumin. Other organic supplements combining natural greens, collagen products and probiotic supplements can also be helpful. For individuals with a vitamin deficiency, multi – vitamin supplements in doses prescribed by their doctor is also appropriate.

Gut health and anxiety / depression

If you are faced with anxiety or depression due to poor gut health, it is clear that the mere inclusion of certain foods and the elimination of other foods will not be enough. You require more rigorous lifestyle changes for the management of both your gut health and anxiety. These changes include:

Stress Management

Chronic stress is a menace for your gut health since it triggers the process of inflammation. So, stress management with the help of activities such as meditation, relaxation and deep relaxation may be of immense help.

Checking for food intolerances

If you are highly troubled by a bad gut, it is time to check for food intolerances. A lot of people are intolerant to generally healthy gut foods such as soybean, milk or even wheat products.

To look for food intolerances, it is advisable to keep a food journal to track down your daily intake. So, the day you have the most uncomfortable symptoms such as digestive discomfort, fatigue or stomach ache, you will be able to list out some suspicious foods. You can gradually try to eliminate them from your diet and look for possible alternatives.

Additionally, keeping a food diary will help in building a mindful approach towards healthy eating ensuring that you intake the most gut healthy foods. Before replacing any foods, it is essential that you undertake a formal test for food intolerances in consultation with your doctor.

Proper sleep

Is it true that you feel a bad heartburn on the day where you sleep lesser? Well, what more hints do you need? Along with a healthy diet, an undisturbed sleep of at least 8 hours is essential for your overall health and that of your gut.

This is because it gives your body the necessary time to heal, and your gut, the time to improve its powerful disease – fighting mechanisms. Further, optimal sleep is also associated with reduction in stress, anxiety and depression taking care of these concerns as well.


Hydration is the key to your gut health. Without proper hydration, your food will not be properly digested resulting in waste accumulation, toxin production and poor gut health. Drinking water has found to enhance the function of mucosal lining of your stomach, which harbours the good bacteria. If you are unable to keep up with 8 to 10 glasses, simply use larger bottles and sip water throughout the day to ensure sufficient hydration. Alternatively, you can include coconut water and highly – hydrant foods such as watermelon in your diet, which is also a rich source of vitamins and fibre, thereby elevating the gut – favouring activities.


Obesity has been most commonly linked with poor gut health because of the proliferation of unwanted bacteria. Exercise helps to manage obesity as well as it fuels the metabolic and digestive processes of your body enhancing your gut health. You can include simple exercises like fast – paced walking or can indulge in high – intensity workouts or yoga.

The bottom line is that the intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially those with high fibre content like apples and broccoli are beneficial for your gut health. Highly processed foods, foods containing sugars or trans fats and meats are, on the other hand, bad for your gut. Overall, a plant – based lifestyle has been found to be more suitable to a healthy gut, however, moderate inclusion of lean meats, collagen – rich foods like fishes and bone breath is also good. Additionally, natural foods like yogurt, honey and fermented foods like kefir, kombucha and apple cider vinegar are excellent supplements that will boost your gut health and will reduce the risk of associated disease conditions. 

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Sunny Garg
Dr. Sunny Garg

Best Oncologist in Gurgaon & Cancer Specialist - Oncoexperts

Dr Sunny Garg is a renowned Medical Oncologist in New Delhi with an experience of more than 10 years of treating cancer patients.

He has studied in one of the most reputed educational institutes of India. He has done his MBBS and MD Internal Medicine from Institute of Medical Sciences, Banaras Hindu University. Thereafter, he has undergone training in Medical Oncology (DM Medical Oncology) from Kidwai Memorial Institute of Oncology, Bengaluru. He has worked in leading cancer centers in Delhi, and currently practicing at Manipal Hospital, Dwarka, New Delhi.

Dr Sunny Garg has extensive knowledge and experience in the field of oncology, and has treated all cancer types, in various stages, including hard to treat cases. He is well versed with various modalities for cancer treatment like Chemotherapy, Immunotherapy, Targeted Therapy, Hormonal Therapy and Personalised Cancer Therapy.