Improve gut health

by Matt Elphick

A healthy gut contributes to improved sleep quality, a strong immune function, and an effective digestive system. However, inflammation can wreak havoc on gut health and cause many negative health issues. Learn more about how you can reduce inflammation and improve your gut health with some diet and lifestyle changes.

Over recent years, the relationship between the gut and our overall health has been an increasingly studied topic. Researchers have found that having a variety of good bacteria offers many health benefits, including immune system function and improved mental health.

Unfortunately, our modern lifestyle negatively impacts gut health, like stress levels, lack of sleep, and an unhealthy diet can all damage our gut microbiome. Dysbiosis leads to adverse health outcomes since the gut microbiome also influences inflammatory responses. So, what can you do to reduce inflammation and improve your gut health? Before looking at the relationship between gut health and inflammation, let’s start by defining what each is and how they impact our health.


Inflammation is the body’s natural response to protect from infection, injury, or disease. While this is a natural process that helps your body heal and defend itself from harm, chronic inflammation can wreak havoc on your body and even lead to harmful diseases. Symptoms of inflammation usually include fatigue, swelling, and GI issues and may arise from stress, abnormal immune reactions, obesity, or a poor diet [1,2,3]. 

Gut health

The term ‘gut health’ refers to the function and balance of bacteria within the GI tract. A healthy gut communicates with the brain through nerves and hormones, which helps maintain general health and well-being. It also contains healthy bacteria and immune cells that ward off bacteria, viruses, and fungi, all of which are necessary for a well-functioning body. As research shows, having a variety of good bacteria in your gut can improve psychological symptoms, combat obesity, and boost immune system function [4]. Gut bacteria have also been shown to produce neurotransmitters (such as serotonin), with additional anti-inflammatory effects [8,9]. 

How does inflammation affect gut health?

Now that we have covered what inflammation and gut health are let’s discuss how they affect each other.

Dysbiosis refers to when bad gut bacteria outweigh the good, thus creating a state of chronic inflammation and influencing a range of inflammatory conditions (such as diabetes, asthma, or IBD). This gut imbalance can be caused by high-stress levels, antibiotics, improper sleep patterns, and a poor diet. Moreover, inflammation can decrease your ability to absorb nutrients, thus disabling the gut microbiome and negatively affecting your digestive health[5]. 

Top tips to reduce inflammation

How can you reduce inflammation and improve your gut health through diet and lifestyle changes [10]. Here are changes you can make:

Eat more anti-inflammatory foods

What you put on your fork has an immense impact on gut health and inflammation. Eating a more anti-inflammatory diet will go a long way when it comes to improving gut health.  Consuming a nutrient-dense diet filled with variety. This can include fruits, vegetables, turmeric, green tea, fatty fish, olive oil), and reduce consumption of processed food, excess alcohol, and sugar [6,7].

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Increase supplementation

Probiotics promote healthy gut bacteria while simultaneously fighting the bad bacteria, so it’s recommended to include them in your diet [11]. Other supplements that can reduce inflammation include all B vitamins, omega-3s, vitamin D, and magnesium. Always contact your doctor before taking any extra supplementation.

Improve sleep quality

Studies show that a lack of sleep negatively impacts gut health and inflammation [12]. It’s recommended to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night to see

Risk Factors: Chronic Inflammation

Information about how chronic inflammation can lead to cancer.

benefits in your overall health.

Boost hydration

Drinking enough water has been shown to benefit the good bacteria in the gut and decrease overall inflammation [13].

Reduce stress

Chronic stress negatively impacts your body and leads to severe inflammation. You can reduce stress through strength training, meditation, yoga, reading, and other self-care practices.

Eat slower

Take time when eating your meals.  Don’t woof down your food, eat slower to promote better digestion and nutrient absorption. This will also decrease inflammation and boost gut health [14].

Engage in physical activity

Exercise has been shown to positively affect disease activity scores, inflammatory markers, and gut health [15]. To reap the benefits, it’s recommended to participate in 30 to 45 minutes of weight or resistance training and 10 to 25 minutes of aerobic exercise. Weight or resistance training at least four to five times per week.


Chronic inflammation causes a wide array of symptoms that can negatively affect your health. Gut health is one factor that affects inflammation. An imbalance in the gut microbiome can decrease your ability to absorb nutrients and negatively affect digestive health. Since improving gut health will reduce inflammation, you can achieve better health through diet and lifestyle changes.


National Cancer Institute. (2015). Risk factors: Chronic inflammation. National Cancer Institute  https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/chronic-inflammation. 

InformedHealth.org (2018) What is inflammation? Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279298/

Kolb, H., & Mandrup-Poulsen, T. (2010). The global diabetes epidemic as a consequence of lifestyle-induced low-grade inflammation. Diabetologia, 53(1), 10–20. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00125-009-1573-7

Quigley E. M. (2013). Gut bacteria in health and disease. Gastroenterology & hepatology, 9(9), 560–569. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3983973/

Integrative HMP (iHMP) Research Network Consortium (2014). The Integrative Human Microbiome Project: dynamic analysis of microbiome-host omics profiles during periods of human health and disease. Cell host & microbe, 16(3), 276–289. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chom.2014.08.014

Bolte LA, Vich Vila A, Imhann F, et alLong-term dietary patterns are associated with pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory features of the gut microbiomeGut 2021;70:1287-1298. https://gut.bmj.com/content/70/7/1287

Szeto, Y. T., Kwok, T. C., & Benzie, I. F. (2004). Effects of a long-term vegetarian diet on biomarkers of antioxidant status and cardiovascular disease risk. Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.), 20(10), 863–866. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nut.2004.06.006

O’Mahony, S. M., Clarke, G., Borre, Y. E., Dinan, T. G., & Cryan, J. F. (2015). Serotonin, tryptophan metabolism and the brain-gut-microbiome axis. Behavioural brain research, 277, 32–48. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbr.2014.07.027

Domínguez-Soto, Á., Usategui, A., Casas-Engel, M.d.l. et al. Serotonin drives the acquisition of a profibrotic and anti-inflammatory gene profile through the 5-HT7R-PKA signaling axis. Sci Rep 7, 14761 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-15348-y

Pahwa R, Goyal A, Bansal P, et al. (2021) Chronic Inflammation.StatPearls Publishing https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493173/

Hemarajata, P., & Versalovic, J. (2013). Effects of probiotics on gut microbiota: mechanisms of intestinal immunomodulation and neuromodulation. Therapeutic advances in gastroenterology, 6(1), 39–51. https://doi.org/10.1177/1756283X12459294

Irwin, M. R., Olmstead, R., & Carroll, J. E. (2016). Sleep Disturbance, Sleep Duration, and Inflammation: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Cohort Studies and Experimental Sleep Deprivation. Biological psychiatry, 80(1), 40–52. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2015.05.014

Ganio, M. S., Armstrong, L. E., Casa, D. J., McDermott, B. P., Lee, E. C., Yamamoto, L. M., Marzano, S., Lopez, R. M., Jimenez, L., Le Bellego, L., Chevillotte, E., & Lieberman, H. R.

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Mild dehydration impairs cognitive performance and mood of men – Volume 106 Issue 10

(2011). Mild dehydration impairs cognitive performance and mood of men. The British journal of nutrition, 106(10), 1535–1543. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007114511002005

Daubenmier, J., Kristeller, J., Hecht, F. M., Maninger, N., Kuwata, M., Jhaveri, K., Lustig, R. H., Kemeny, M., Karan, L., & Epel, E. (2011). Mindfulness Intervention for Stress Eating to Reduce Cortisol and Abdominal Fat among Overweight and Obese Women: An Exploratory Randomized Controlled Study. Journal of obesity, 2011, 651936. https://doi.org/10.1155/2011/651936

Ertek, S., & Cicero, A. (2012). Impact of physical activity on inflammation: effects on cardiovascular disease risk and other inflammatory conditions. Archives of medical science: AMS, 8(5), 794–804. https://doi.org/10.5114/aoms.2012.31614

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