7 Weird Remedies For Gut Health You Wouldn’t Expect To Work, But Do

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You've lived with your gut since birth, but science is only just figuring out what really makes it tick. Sure, you might know from experience that dairy makes your tum feel off, but research is starting to show the exact effect your latte might have on your microbiome, aka the complex mix of millions of bacteria and other living things that reside in the our guts. And if you think something with your microbiome is off, these weird remedies for gut health can actually give your GI a boost.

If you believe your gut is unhealthy, there's more to remedying it than probiotics and prebiotics (though those are a very good start). There's a host of more unexpected treatments that might help your microbiome change from flunking to flourishing. Misfiring microbiomes can show up in a variety of ways. Healthline explains that insomnia, digestive distress, or sudden food intolerances are potential signs of a gut that might need some TLC. You may also have been told by your GP that your microbiome needs some care after a course of medication; antibiotics, naturally, kill off both bad and good bacteria. A healthy microbiome is one in which as many "good" microbes flourish as possible, so here are some unusual tips and tricks to help your gut health.

1. Exercise

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Yes, getting active can help your gut health. A study in 2019 found that good microbial diversity is linked to cardiovascular fitness in women who've survived breast cancer, which can be tough on the microbiome. The scientists behind the study suggested that getting your heart rate up and boosting your cardiovascular fitness overall may be a good way to help support a healthy gut microbiome — or regenerate a damaged one.

2. Switch To Whole Grains

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Carbs are not the devil. A study in 2017 found that when it comes to grains, it's best for the gut microbiome to go with whole-grain foods rather than refined grains — because in as little as six weeks, that produces a shift in healthy gut microbe levels. Want to help your gut health? Switch out foods made of white flour and white rice for whole-grain pantry fillers like wholemeal flour, oatmeal, brown rice, bulgur wheat, buckwheat and barley.

3. Talk To Your GP About Taking Zinc Carnosine Supplements

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This is an interesting possibility that isn't yet proven to work in everybody, but it might be worth a conversation with your doctor. Zinc carnosine is a supplement commonly available at health food stores, and it's been found in various studies to help guts that have problems with their outer membranes. A study in 2016 recommended zinc carnosine for Olympic athletes on the basis that gut mucosa, or membranes, appear to be more porous in people who do incredibly intense exercise in harsh environmental conditions. If you're a serious marathon runner or love intense exercise, and are finding that you seem to have gut issues, this may be something you talk about with your doctor.

4. Eat Foods With Resistant Starch

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Starch has an important role in the gut. A study in 2017 found that foods with "resistant starch" — starches that don't break down easily in the small intestine, and become a fiber source for microbes — can be very good for our guts. The study names potatoes, bananas, whole grains, and legumes as good sources for resistant starches, so try to keep some of them as part of your food plan.

5. Drinking Green Tea

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Professor Tim Spector wrote for BBC Science Focus in 2019 that one easy, if unexpected, way to improve your gut microbe is to start developing a taste for green tea. The reason? It contains important microbe-food in the form of polyphenols. "Polyphenols are antioxidants that act as fuel for microbes. Examples are nuts, seeds, berries, olive oil, brassicas, coffee and tea – especially green tea," he wrote. Green tea is also lower in caffeine than coffee, so drinking a cup won't keep you up all night.

6. Avoid Sugar Replacements

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Neuropsychiatrist David Cox explained in The Guardian in 2018 that cutting your sugar levels by relying on artificial sweeteners can be tough on your gut. "Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame are commonly found in food as replacements for sugar," he wrote. "However, aspartame has been found to alter gut bacteria in human and animal studies. These changes appear to result in elevated blood sugar levels and increased susceptibility to metabolic disease." Unrefined sugars like honey, agave, and maple syrup are helpful if you're keeping your gut in mind.

7. Try New Fruits, Veggies, & Protein Sources

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Are you a creature of routine? For the sake of your gut, break out of your rut. Eating a huge range of fruits, vegetables, grains and meats appears to help create diverse, healthy microbiome. Professor Spector wrote in Science Focus, "The Hadza people of Tanzania have a gut microbiome diversity that is one of the richest on the planet and about 40 per cent higher than the average American [...] The average Hadza person eats around 600 species of plants and animals in a year and has huge seasonal variation." In comparison, "Westerners have fewer than 50 species in their diet."

Diet expert Professor Kevin Whelan told the BBC in 2018: "Dietary diversity is about challenging the concept of constantly eating the same thing. For example, if you have fish regularly, make sure it isn't always salmon. Make sure you have whole grains regularly, but not just wholegrain bread."

Gut health fixes can be pretty simple. Step out of your routine, eat a lot of veg and whole grains, and up your cardiovascular fitness levels. Your gut will be a lot happier — and you'll be able to tell your friends you've tried every dish at the local salad bar, even the one with the fermented relish.