Woman in sports bra and leggings, focused on her torso, hands are making a heart shape over stomach. Text on image says, Ashlyn's tips and tricks for gut health

5 Ways to Improve Gut Health According to Science

nutrition May 13, 2022

As the interest in science-based fitness is growing, so is the interest in improving gut health. More and more people are realizing that a healthy gut leads to better overall health, so in this post, we are going to share five evidence-based ways you can improve your gut health.

When we talk about good gut health, we are referring to the balance of gut bacteria. Having enough good bacteria is essential for having a properly functioning immune system and digestive system, not to mention that your gut health impacts how much inflammation you experience.

The gut does so much more than break down our food. It plays a vital role in sleep, training, body composition, skin health, hormone production, etc. If your gut isn't functioning correctly, these aspects won't function correctly either.


Good Gut Health Benefits

There are many health benefits to having good gut health since your gut is connected to so many systems within your body. You may have even heard the gut be called the second brain — this is because the gut and brain are connected through the vagus nerve, which connects to several other organs in your body.

You can see how this is a connection you want to keep as healthy as possible.

A healthy gut can better absorb essential nutrients from the food you eat, ensuring that your body gets the vitamins, minerals, and energy it needs for optimal functioning, which improves your overall health.

Another good gut health benefit is the positive impact it has on your immune system. A well-balanced gut microbiome helps your immune system function optimally, making you less likely to get sick.

Good gut health also impacts your mental health. The gut-brain axis connects your gut and brain, and research suggests that a healthy gut can positively impact your mood, reduce the risk of depression and anxiety, and improve your overall mental health.

A well-balanced gut can also help control inflammation, which is associated with various chronic diseases. Reducing inflammation can lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders.

The list of benefits of having good gut health is quite a bit longer than this, but you get the point. Your gut impacts several aspects of your health, so it's in your best interest to take good care of it.

How to Improve Your Gut Health

There are five key areas of optimal gut health that you should address and monitor to ensure that your body functions optimally. While these areas aren't the only determinants of a healthy gut, they're a great place to start.

1. Maximize Your Digestion

You need to slow down when you're eating. Chew each bite thoroughly, put down your fork between bites, and set aside 15–20 minutes to eat without distractions. 

Solid digestion is necessary for breaking down food into absorbable nutrients. Proper chewing, and therefore proper digestion, ensures your body absorbs nutrients like essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients more effectively. You're already being mindful of what you're eating, so you may as well take your time to enjoy your meal and help your body get the most possible benefits from it.

Speaking of eating nutrient-dense foods, eating a diet rich in fiber, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can support healthy digestion. Highly processed foods are harder to digest, so you can consider whole, nutrient-dense foods as gut-healthy foods.

Drinking enough water is also essential for proper digestion because it helps keep the digestive system functioning smoothly. You can also add one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to your water 10 minutes before your meal to further help with this.

If you have digestive issues, you may benefit from a high-quality digestive enzyme supplement or probiotics to support digestion and maintain a balanced guy. Digestive enzymes help your body process food better and absorb nutrients.

2. Improve Liver and Gallbladder Function 

Your liver and gallbladder play a role in creating a healthy gut microbiome.

How the Liver Impacts Gut Health

Your liver is responsible for producing bile, a greenish-yellow fluid that contains bile salts, which is essential for the digestion and absorption of dietary fats. The bile emulsifies those fats, breaking them down and making it easier for enzymes to digest the fats. This is essential for absorbing fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) and fatty acids.

Your liver also removes toxins, drugs, and metabolic waste products from your bloodstream to maintain overall health.

How the Gallbladder Impacts Gut Health

Your gallbladder plays a key role in your gut health alongside your liver. It stores and concentrates the bile produced, and when you eat a meal with fat, your gallbladder contracts, releasing concentrated bile into the small intestine to help with fat digestion.

Have you ever noticed that you have trouble digesting higher-fat meals? Or do you sometimes see a "greasy" film in your bowel movement? Both of these could indicate that your gallbladder is a little slow and that you should improve your gut bacteria.

Having poor liver or gallbladder function can lead to digestive issues, poor gut microbiome health, gallstones, irritable bowel syndrome, or inflammatory bowel disease.

Better Gut Bacteria

There are a couple of ways you can address this issue. First, you can try to add 1–2 teaspoons of Swedish bitters to your water 10 minutes before meals to help stimulate bile production.

Another option is to eat more bitter foods, such as dandelion root, ginger, artichokes, apple cider vinegar, and brussels sprouts.

3. Balance your Gut

A healthy gut means your gut bacteria is well balanced. You'll want to reduce inflammation and rebalance the bacteria in your gut to keep digestion happy and healthy.

You can do this relatively easily through nutrition.


Make sure to eat foods rich in micronutrients and fiber. Focus on eating a variety of protein and fat sources, such as chicken, fish, nuts, and avocado. Eating fermented foods like kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha can also help create beneficial gut bacteria.

You've always been told to eat the rainbow, and your gut and digestive health is why. You want to eat eight to ten shades of reds and greens each day. The more variety you have, the more diverse your gut bacteria will be. The variety will also keep you from getting bored with your meals. 

Mix it up by enjoying plant-based foods, whole grains, fermented foods, and other foods with a high nutritional value. You'll create gut microbiome diversity, which will help you achieve good health overall.

Probiotic Foods

Probiotic foods like whole grains, yogurt, and garlic can help introduce specific strains of healthy bacteria into your gut. These can help restore or maintain a healthy gut microbiome.

You can also take a high-quality probiotic supplement (like this one) to help improve nutrient absorption, reduce stomach pain and bloating, and decrease intestinal and whole-body inflammation.

Just remember, supplements come along with a nutrient-dense diet. You can't solely eat ultra-processed foods, take a fistful of probiotic supplements, and be surprised you have an unhealthy gut. Supplements alone can't give you enough nutrients and beneficial bacteria to make your gut healthy.

You can also supplement with botanicals and antimicrobials to flush out the bad guys from your gut.

NOTE: All supplementation should be monitored by a healthcare provider.

4. Improve Your Bowel Habits, Improve Your Gut Health

Do you have one to three bowel movements a day? Because you should.

Do you experience alternating constipation and diarrhea? That you shouldn't.

Why Bowel Health Matters for Gut Health

Getting this under control is essential for proper detoxification and colon health. Your bowel health is connected to your gut health since your bowels are an essential part of the gastrointestinal system, which includes the stomach, small intestine, and large intestine.

If the small intestine's lining is damaged by inflammation or other issues, it can impact your nutrient absorption. Your large intestine has trillions of microorganisms, collectively known as the gut microbiome. A balanced gut microbiome is essential for proper digestion, nutrient metabolism, and immune function.

How to Improve Bowel Health

If your bowel movements are irregular, that's something you'll want to work on right away.

You'll want a diet rich in fibrous foods, healthy fats, pre/probiotics, bitter foods, and flax seeds to improve your bowel regularity.

Another option is to supplement with binders, which bind toxins and remove them through your digestive tract so your body doesn't reabsorb them.

5. Achieve Strong Motility for Optimal Gut Health

Motility is the act of moving food through the digestive tract. If food isn't efficiently pushed through your body, health conditions such as gut dysbiosis, infections, and SIBO can show up.

Ensure you eat plenty of dietary fiber throughout the day to improve motility (are you noticing a pattern?). Fiber adds bulk to your stool and promotes regular bowel movements. Good sources of dietary fiber include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts.

If you needed another reason to manage your stress levels, this is it. Chronic stress can slow motility and lead to digestive problems. Managing stress through mindfulness, meditation, and deep breathing exercises to help support healthy digestion.

You can also experiment with intermittent fasting to improve motility. Try time-restricted fasting with a 10-12 hour feeding window. Additionally, you can try incorporating prokinetics, including ginger, chamomile, peppermint, and artichoke.

Bonus: Try Somatic Exercises for Better Gut Health

Remember how we said your vagus nerve connects your gut and brain? Well, you can improve your gut health by stimulating your vagus nerve.

When you stimulate the vagus nerve, your parasympathetic nervous system takes over. This is commonly referred to as the "rest and digest" response! When signaled, this allows your body to focus on digestion, the secretion of neurotransmitters in your brain, intestinal motility, and decreasing heart rate.

When your sympathetic nervous system ("fight or flight" response) is signaled, there is a decrease in activity from the vagus nerve. This can cause digestive issues, including bloating, gas and constipation, as well as poor sleep quality, anxiety, and stress.

If the stress continues long-term, this leads to hormonal imbalances, decreased immune health, slow recovery from wounds and workouts, low motivation, and depression/anxiety!

Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve

Just like you can train your muscles, you can train your brain to help you reduce stress and improve your gut health! There are many ways to stimulate your vagus nerve, including:

  • Breathe deeply
    Breathe from your belly. Take a large inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Exhaling for longer than you inhale will trigger a relaxation response.
  • Gargle or sing
    Loud gargling with water or loud singing activates the vocal cord, which, in turn, stimulates the vagus nerve. See, singing in the shower is good for your health!
  • Get a foot massage
    A gentle or firm touch can assist in activating the vagus nerve.
  • Cold water
    Immerse your forehead, eyes, and at least ⅔ of your cheeks in cold water to fire up the vagus nerve, decrease your heart rate, and stimulate your intestines.
  • Eat fiber
    Eating fiber stimulates vagus impulses to the brain, slowing the gut movements and making us feel fuller after meals.
  • Laughter
    Remember that person who said laughter is the best medicine? They weren't wrong! Laughter will improve your mood, boost your immune system, and activate the vagus nerve.

These are just a few ways to activate your vagus nerve. These things will relax you and release GABA and serotonin (beneficial neurotransmitters) in your brain!

Why You Should Improve Your Gut Health

Hopefully, by seeing all the ways to improve your gut health, you realize how important your gut health is. 

Of course, your gut health is an essential part of digestion, but by improving your gut health, you also boost your immune system, heart health, and brain health.

Once you improve your gut health, you'll also likely see an improvement in your mood and sleep quality. 

If you choose to use supplements to help create a healthy gut microbiome and improve your gut health, we encourage you to choose only the highest-quality supplements. We like Legion Athletics (code KASEYJO saves you money), but choose the high-quality supplements that you like best.

Supplements aren't regulated by the FDA, so we have to be extra diligent to ensure the ones we take use evidence-based ingredients in adequate doses. Some supplement companies load their supplements with large amounts of artificial sweeteners, fillers, or other ingredients your body won't love.

If you are unsure of how to determine the quality of your supplements, we have a free guide for you here.

We know it can be challenging to tackle something as big and vital as your gut health, but we have a stellar team of coaches ready and excited to help you optimize your health. 

Click HERE to learn more about working with us!

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Guilliams, T. G., & Drake, L. E. (2020). Meal-Time Supplementation with Betaine HCl for Functional Hypochlorhydria: What is the Evidence? Integrative Medicine: A Clinician's Journal, 19(1), 32-36. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7238915/

Limbana, T., Khan, F., & Eskander, N. (2020). Gut Microbiome and Depression: How Microbes Affect the Way We Think. Cureus, 12(8). https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.9966

Hi, I'm Kasey!

I coach, mentor, write, and teach with one main focus: Build strong bodies and healthy lifestyles, starting with your mindset.


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