Maintaining optimal gut health is vital to our overall well-being due to the ongoing risks of chronic diseases, according to NHS GP Doctor Hana Patel.

Explaining why our gut health is so important Dr Patel, who is also a resident sleep expert at Time4Sleep, said there were three main reasons.

She said: "Firstly, our intestinal tract harbours trillions of microbes, playing a crucial role in our health by producing essential hormones and vitamins.

“Secondly, a significant portion of our immune system cells reside in the digestive tract, emphasising the direct link between good gut health and a reduced likelihood of illnesses, allergies, and autoimmune conditions.

"Finally, even with a diet rich in nutrients, the benefits may be hindered if the intestinal lining isn't in optimal condition for digestion.

"Therefore, nurturing a healthy gut ensures the absorption of nutrients and the overall effectiveness of a nutritious diet.”

@uktoday_ Do you have high cholesterol? What it means and how to reduce yours #uknews #cholesterol #health #gp #healthyliving #CapCut ♬ original sound - UKToday 🇬🇧 Newsquest

But you may be asking yourself, how do I know if I have a healthy gut? And if I don't are there ways of improving it?

Well, don't worry. We've asked the experts all these kinds of commonly asked questions surrounding gut health and this is what they had to say.

How do I know if I have a healthy gut?

Poor gut health can affect all aspects of your health, according to Prep Kitchen nutritionist Kerry Beeson.

Beeson said this means there are a number of symptoms you can look out for when it comes to recognising an "unbalanced" gut (also known as dysbiosis).

She added: "The most obvious signs are regular digestive issues, such as regularly experiencing bloating, pain, excessive flatulence, acid reflux, diarrhoea or constipation, or having more serious gut health issues such as IBS or IBD. 

“However, poor gut health has been linked to a broad range of health issues, including skin problems, auto-immune conditions, joint pain, metabolic diseases, and even mental health conditions. I always consider supporting gut health in any health protocol.”

One of the most important factors when it comes to maintaining good gut heath is diet.One of the most important factors when it comes to maintaining good gut heath is diet. (Image: Getty Images)

So if you are not experiencing any of the above symptoms, that is a good sign you have a healthy gut.

Ways of improving your gut health

One of the most important factors when it comes to maintaining a healthy gut is diet, according to Beeson.

She explained: "Diet is one of the most important factors in supporting gut health, both by eating foods which help to support the growth of good bacteria in the gut microbiome, and by avoiding foods which might encourage the growth of bad bacteria and yeasts (pathogens).”

With diet in mind, Beeson shared her four tips on how to improve your gut health:

Include fermented foods 

“To support your microbiome, include fermented foods such as live yoghurt, kimchi, live sauerkraut, kombucha, fermented pickles (not pasteurised or in vinegar), and apple cider vinegar with ‘the mother’," the Prep Kitchen nutritionist said.

"These foods contain naturally occurring probiotic bacteria.

"Probiotic bacteria are those which live in harmony with their host, and assist in the functioning of body systems.

“Also include high-fibre prebiotic foods such as whole grains, beans, pulses, fruits and vegetables - these contain prebiotic fibres which probiotic bacteria like to feed on.”

Avoid refined carbohydrates and high-sugar food

Beeson said some foods and drinks can negatively affect the delicate balance of the gut microbiome.

This was especially the came to refined carbohydrates and high-sugar foods which "encourage pathogenic overgrowth if consumed regularly".

There is also evidence to suggest, according to Beeson, that regular alcohol consumption can kill good gut bacteria.

@uktoday_ Are there benefits to drinking red wine? I happily found out. 🍷 #uknews #redwine #winetimе #uknewsheadlines ♬ original sound - UKToday 🇬🇧 Newsquest

Consider taking probiotic supplements 

The nutrition expert added that probiotic supplements were also worth considering if you were looking at improving your gut health (if you have a serious health condition speak to your doctor first).

Speak to a professional 

If you have severe digestive and gut health issues, Beeson recommends speaking to a health professional.

She said: “Some gut imbalances can be quite complex, so if you have severe digestive issues, you might benefit from talking to a qualified health professional.

"They can conduct specific tests to determine the health of your gut microbiome, recommend a supporting dietary protocol, and relevant supplements, such as strain-specific probiotics or anti-microbials.”


How long does it take to improve your gut health?

The length of time it takes to improve your gut health, according to Beeson, depends on the severity of the imbalance but could take as long as several months.

She explains: "If you usually enjoy good digestive health but, for example, you’ve been away on holiday and eaten lots of unusual or sweet foods, or perhaps experienced ‘holiday tummy’, you should find that eating plenty of gut-supportive foods and perhaps a course of probiotics should have your gut settled again in a week or two. 

“However, if you have a severe imbalance or more serious health and digestive issues, it may take several months to rebalance.”