We’ve all heard the expression “listen to your gut,” but it means more than just going with your gut feeling. Your gut has many important functions, from absorbing nutrients in food to protecting us from illness. The gut even controls emotions! So if something in your body feels off, it may be your gut talking to you.

Your gut contains a microbiome of “good” bacteria that needs to be nurtured and fed so it can keep you feeling your best. Symptoms like stomach pain, gas, cramping, bloating, diarrhea and constipation are obvious signs that something is wrong. You may be lacking good bacteria if you are experiencing these symptoms. But if you’re experiencing more subtle conditions such as brain fog, sadness, low energy, or even certain kinds of allergies, these can also be signs that you need to take better care of your gut. Talk with your doctor if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, and pay attention to these tips on caring for your gut:

Eat whole foods: they are easy to digest and contain good bacteria and fiber.
Get your probiotics: good bacteria contained in fermented foods including kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, and tempeh, and beverages like kefir and kombucha.
Get your prebiotics: the dietary fiber that feeds probiotics. They are contained in onions, garlic, asparagus, bananas, and legumes.
Consider daily supplements: if your diet doesn’t deliver what you need.
Manage stress: a busy, stress-filled lifestyle wears down the body and impacts your microbiome. Use meditation, deep breathing, exercise, or warm baths to alleviate stress.
Get enough sleep: the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention recommend 7-9 hours of nightly sleep for adults.

Consume processed foods: the body fights processed foods as invaders because they’re not recognizable as food, resulting in inflammation.
Drink excessive amounts of alcohol and coffee: these drinks kill your good bacteria.
Eat too many acidic foods, and avoid gluten if you’re sensitive to it: these can damage the gut lining.
Eat late meals: for better sleep, don’t eat within three hours of bedtime.

By Jennifer Slaboda