Being out of touch with nature is one major factor that messes with gut health. “As we narrow our contact with nature, animals, and other humans, we get a more narrow microbiome,” triple-board-certified physician and gut health expert Zach Bush, M.D., tells mbg.
To remedy this, prioritize spending more time outdoors—go on a hike or jog off the beaten path, touch some trees and plants, get dirty—to help foster biodiversity.
Plus, exercising outdoors is a positive double-whammy for your gut health. A 2018 study found that endurance exercise training for 30 to 60 minutes three times a week for six weeks led to increased abundance of SCFA-producing microbes, says gastroenterologist Will Bulsiewicz, M.D. As a reminder, SCFAs are healing compounds with anti-inflammatory properties produced by good gut bacteria that help heal the gut and regulate the immune system.
Or, consider meditating outdoors for bonus benefits. “Meditation can alter the gut microbiome and the types of bugs in positive ways,” says integrative physician Vincent Pedre, M.D. Authors of a 2017 research review suggest that meditation helps regulate the stress response, thereby suppressing chronic inflammation states and helping maintain healthy gut-barrier function. With this in mind, other meditative and relaxing activities (yoga, hiking, running, etc.) could have a beneficial effect on your gut, too.