Love Your Gut

4 simple solutions for a healthy belly.
Healthy snack with yogurt oatmeal berries walnuts

Last year, the New York Times published an article highlighting the prevalence of trendy gut health advice on TikTok. Like clockwork, influencers were posting videos on the latest “hack” to improve gut health, “from cucumber-ginger juices and boiled apples to sludgy sweet potato soups,” noted the Times.

Sure, our gut microbiome has trillions of microorganisms that make up a complex ecosystem. But does it really take extraordinary feats of creative eating to improve digestion?

Absolutely not says Jessica Fischer, a registered dietitian at University of Vermont Medical CenterNor does a healthy gut just help with digestion. It can also improve immunity and play a role in preventing health conditions like heart disease and autoimmune diseases.

“We can't control our gut’s ecosystem completely, but certain behaviors can help shift it favorably,” says Fischer.

Here are Fischer’s four favorite, not-too-trendy-but-based-in-science tips for improving your gut health.

4 Tips for Better Gut Health

Eat Your Fiber, My Friend

When it comes to keeping your gut healthy, “Nutrition is an essential piece of the puzzle, and fiber is the key,” says Fischer.

A good rule of thumb is to consume at least 30 grams of fiber daily, which means eating a variety of different plant-based foods every day, if not with every meal, she says. Try a variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains with every meal.

Give Your Gut Some “Good” Stuff

We’ve all heard that probiotics and prebiotics can benefit your gut and overall health. But what exactly are they and what’s the difference between the two?

Probiotics are a type of "good" bacteria found in some foods and supplements. They help support your immune system and can help inhibit the growth of bad bacteria that may contribute to illness or inflammation.

Consuming probiotics can ease bloating, gas, inflammatory bowel disease and constipation. You can add probiotics to your diet by eating yogurt or fermented foods like sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi and kombucha. You can also ask your doctor if probiotic supplements are right for you.

While probiotics are a type of “good” bacteria, prebiotics act like a fertilizer to help grow good bacteria. Prebiotics serve as a food source for all those microorganisms in your gut and offer a range of health benefits for our bodies, including better digestion, regular bowel movements and increased production of healthy bacteria.

You can get prebiotics from foods like whole grains, bananas, greens, onions, garlic, soybeans and artichokes.

It’s also possible to get prebiotics and probiotics from supplements sold at your local health food store, grocery store or pharmacy. “Make sure to ask your dietitian or provider if supplements are right for you,” says Fischer. If so, your pharmacist can then help you find a high-quality product without additional hidden ingredients.

Drink Water for the Win

Staying hydrated helps keep your gut healthy because water is a lubricant that moves food along the digestive tract. It helps keep bowel movements regular, say Fischer. Most adults need anywhere between one to four liters of fluid daily, including fluid found naturally in food.

“Increasing our fiber intake is important for gut motility,” Fischer says, “but it works best if we match it with good hydration.” Why? Fiber absorbs water, helping your body digest it and carry it smoothly through your gut. It can also help you feel fuller longer.

Older people are more likely to become dehydrated, and anyone aged 65 and up has less water in their bodies than younger adults or children. Adults of all ages need to drink water during exercise to replace the fluids they lose when they sweat.

Certain medications for cancer, bipolar disorder and autoimmune diseases can also cause dehydration, as can over-the-counter laxatives, diuretics and migraine medications.

Move Your Body

“Exercise is an important part of improving our gut health,” shares Fischer. During exercise, your heart pumps harder and faster, increasing circulation to deliver extra blood and oxygen to your muscles and organs, including those in your gut.

“Sitting for too much of the day can contribute to constipation and worsen acid reflux,” Fisher says.

Still, you don’t need to run 10 miles or pump iron to boost your gut’s health. A daily 20-minute walk can do the trick and bring much-needed blood flow and oxygen to the gut.

“Movement helps support a happy gut microbiome, can promote weight loss and provides countless health benefits,” Fischer says. It can also help inflammation, lower stress levels and improve digestion.

Like so much else, the best advice for gut health comes down to doing the simple things – drink water, move your body, eat whole foods – and not falling for the trendy quick fix. Your body will thank you.

Try These Gut-Healthy Recipes

Winter Slaw

Cabbage is a good source of prebiotic fiber that feeds our gut microbiota. This simple salad can also be made with almost any vegetable available in winter months (i.e., fennel, beets, turnips, radishes). Add red pepper flakes or minced jalapeno for a mild kick.

Serves: 8

½ red or green cabbage, shredded

2-3 carrots, unpeeled, scrubbed and shredded

1-2 parsnips, unpeeled, scrubbed and shredded

1 bunch fresh green herbs (e.g. parsley, cilantro, dill), chopped

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

½ cup rice wine vinegar

2 teaspoons salt


  1. Mix all ingredients to a large bowl. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.
  2. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Slaw can be stored in the refrigerator for five days in an air-tight container.

Homemade Labneh

Make cheese from yogurt! Whether you choose to make it sweet or savory, this cheese made from yogurt is full of probiotics for a healthy gut.

Serves: 8


1 quart whole-fat plain yogurt with live probiotics

1 teaspoon salt

Flavor variations:

  • Sweet: 1 tablespoon maple syrup, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • Savory: ¼ cup chopped fresh herbs, zest of 1 lemon, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon black pepper, drizzle of olive oil
  • Spicy: 1 teaspoon cayenne, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon garlic powder


  1. Line a colander with several layers of cheesecloth. Place colander inside a bowl.
  2. Pour yogurt onto the center of the cheesecloth.
  3. Pick up the edges of the cheesecloth and tie the yogurt into a ball, secured at the top. Hang from somewhere secure with the bowl underneath to catch the liquid whey.
  4. Drain for 24 hours; the liquid whey will separate from the curd.
  5. Remove cheese from cheesecloth into a bowl, season as desired, and serve with crackers, pita, and fresh vegetables for dipping.


Love Food and Recipes?

Visit the UVM Medical Center Culinary Medicine team online for tasty recipes and downloadable recipe cards. You can also visit our “What’s That Food” playlist on YouTube for delicious recipe videos featuring fresh, seasonal produce and simple growing tips.

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