How to Use Simple Science-Backed Lifestyle Hacks to Improve Your Health

woman stretching outside

Our bodies are complex networks that thrive when given the right care and attention. Every decision we make in our daily lives has a profound effect on our overall well-being, including the incredible world of microorganisms that reside within, on, and around us. Recent studies have shed light on the vital role our microbiome plays, impacting everything from our immune system to our mental well-being. 

Nourish your body, nourish your microbiome

Our microbiome, the trillions of bacteria in and on us, is intricately linked to overall health and well-being. The lifestyle choices we make each day directly impact our gut microbiota, and research continues to reveal how influential these microbes are - from immune function and metabolism to mental health. By nourishing a diverse, balanced microbiome, we can enhance energy, resilience, and vitality. Here are six strategic science-backed ways to optimize your microbial community and treat your body well.

Manage Stress with Mindfulness

Cultivating a positive mindset can profoundly affect our well-being. Chronic stress, known to disrupt healthy gut flora and gut barrier integrity, is manageable through mindfulness practices and meditation. Spending ten to fifteen minutes in daily quiet solitude engaging in these practices can help mitigate stress and minimize its detrimental effects. Studies have shown that meditation and mindfulness practices can decrease inflammatory markers and stress hormones that impact the microbiome.1

Tip: A straightforward approach is to focus on your breath during a breathing practice, noticing thoughts without judgment and returning your attention to the breath. Additionally, practicing gratitude can rewire the brain and body positively. Regularly expressing gratitude reduces stress, improves sleep quality, strengthens relationships, and enhances motivation for healthy habits. It also improves vagal tone, fostering improved communication between the gut and brain while decreasing stress markers and a balanced microbiome.2

Eat a Personalized, Whole Food Diet

Recent scientific evidence has shown that the microbiome, rather than human genetics, plays a significant role in how nutrition affects our health. A study involving twins revealed that individuals can respond differently to identical meals, with variations in blood triglyceride, glucose, and insulin levels.3 

This highlights the impact of the microbiome on digestion, as well as its ability to convert molecular ingredients in food into either beneficial or harmful substances.4 These secondary metabolites can have profound effects on various physiological functions, including neurotransmitter production, immune system activation and deactivation, immune tolerance, and carbohydrate metabolism.

Tip: What you eat matters–and your diet ideally is personalized to your current biology. Start by eating whole foods and removing ultra-processed foods that do not contribute meaningful nutrients. Next, explore microbiome testing for a deeper understanding of how your microbiome impacts overall health.

Nourish Social Connections

Human connection provides vital nourishment and has a real and lasting impact on health. Unfortunately, there is an epidemic of loneliness in the United States, and lacking connection can increase the risk of premature death to levels comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, according to the 2023 advisory from the U.S. Surgeon General.5 

It continues that the physical consequences of poor connection can be devastating, including a 29% increased risk of heart disease, a 32% increased risk of stroke, and a 50% increased risk of developing dementia for older adults.6 Regular contact and social interaction release the hormone oxytocin, which can reduce stress, improve sleep, support immunity, and increase overall health in the body.7,8 

Tip: Make social wellness a priority by scheduling video calls with loved ones, joining a book club, taking a group fitness class, volunteering, or helping others. Staying engaged with a community that shares your interests and values will nurture both mind and body.  

Incorporate More Movement

Movement has a positive impact on gut health and supports the function of beneficial organisms.  In fact, according to a recent study, more microbial richness correlates with a higher level of physical fitness.9  Multiple studies find active people have a greater diversity of gut bacteria and a greater abundance of beneficial bacteria in the gut overall.10 Aerobic activity diversifies the microbiome and increases beneficial activity.11 

Movement also improves gut motility, reducing constipation and supporting overall digestion. Both sprint interval and moderate-intensity training reduce stress and increase the strength and number of healthy gut bacteria.12 Gentle exercises like yoga and walking are also great for promoting relaxation and enhancing digestion, and in addition to the physiological benefits, regular movement also has a positive impact on mental well-being. It can reduce stress and anxiety, which are known to affect both digestive and brain health negatively.13

Tip: By incorporating movement into your daily routine, you not only support your physical health but also nurture a healthy mind-microbiome connection. You can even turn your movements into more minor bouts of activity that you do throughout the day. Either way, listen to your body and adjust your activity to your energy levels.

Cultivate Your Sense of Purpose

Finding purpose and meaning in life goes beyond surface-level happiness; it nourishes the core of our being. Research shows that having clear goals and values we are actively pursuing is not only linked to longevity but also to improved digestion health and reduces the risks of poor cognition and mental health.14 Individuals who expressed a clear goal in life—something to get up for in the morning, something that made a difference—lived longer and were sharper than those who did not.15

Tip: To cultivate a sense of purpose, regularly reflect on what truly matters to you and align your intentions accordingly. Identify your strengths and your gits and consider engaging in volunteer work; you may discover a sense of fulfillment and pride when serving others. Having a vision for your life gives you the energy and direction to thrive, allowing you to navigate challenges with resilience and maintain overall well-being. 

Rest and Recharge Everyday

Daily rest and taking time to recharge your body and mind are essential to optimize your microbiome and overall well-being. One study demonstrated that restricting sleep to only 2 hours per night for three consecutive days can lower community richness of the gut microbiota without affecting intestinal permeability or relative abundances of prevalent taxa.16  The decrease in community richness might be due to the loss of rare taxa. This is problematic for populations with repeated sleep restrictions since the loss of taxa reduces the overall functional gut microbiota. It is also worth consideration to try other moments or activities to recharge into your day, such as cold and hot therapies, time spent in nature, breathwork, massage, and quiet time for reflection. 

Tip: Prioritize 7-9 hours of sleep each night to support your gut health and flora. To make that happen, maintain a consistent bedtime, limit screen use before bed, and establish a relaxing wind-down routine to support restorative sleep and your microbiome.

Read More

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