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3 surprising ways to help improve your gut health

A "good gut" is essential to overall wellness. These are some added ways you can get the right balance.

Gut health is trending — and for good reason.

The connection between the kind of bacteria in the gut, which is short for the gastrointestinal tract, and overall health has been shown in recent studies. Gut health can be also tied to mental health, physical health and weight. A good gut environment will help people live longer, but a bad gut could make them more prone to a whole host of health issues.

How to get that good gut?

Like fingerprints, every person has a completely unique profile of bacteria, or "bugs." Good gut health is all about the diversity of bugs in each person's system, or microbiome. Good bugs need to outweigh the bad ones.

Many factors go into what kind of bacteria are in each person's system. Some of these things can't be changed, like whether people were born through Cesarean or vaginal birth, what they were fed in the early years or whether they were exposed to a variety of germs in childhood.

What can be controlled is what happens now. How each person eats, manages stress and builds a sleep schedule can all affect gut health. High fiber foods, and probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt with live active enzymes, as well as fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, tempeh or kombucha, are often mentioned as good gut promoters.

Other sources, which might not immediately come to mind, have also been shown in studies to improve the good bugs living in the gut.

Here are three things that could help:

Enjoy a moderate amount of red wine

People who drank moderate amounts of red wine had more microbial diversity than non-red wine drinkers, according to a recent study in the journal Gastroenterology. The study authors suggested that the high content of polyphenols in red wine made the difference. Red wine drinkers had other gut benefits, such as lower LDL cholesterol and a lower incidence of obesity.

Vegan Restaurant
Trying a vegan diet, at least part time, could help with overall gut healthGetty Images stock

Cut consumption of animal-based products

Plant-based diets can have a positive impact on gut health, according to some previous studies.

A vegan diet, which is high in fiber (a big component knows to boost gut health), can help to seriously improve gut the mix of gut bacteria, too, a new study in the journal Diabetology showed.

While it can be challenging to go completely vegan, there may be some benefit to simply limiting consumption of red and processed meats. For example, having just two vegan days a week, or simply working up to a more plant-based, but not fully vegan, approach can be the first step in to improve gut health.

Aim for organic

Because organic and conventional fruits and vegetables are grown in different ways, organic have more kinds of bacteria. Another recent study looked at the difference in organic vs. conventional apples and found that the organic versions produced better gut microbes than the non-organic.

Lifestyle choices can make a big difference in whether the gut helps or hurts overall health. As with most things in wellness and longevity, eating well and taking care of the body can go a long way.