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Digestive Health and Wellness

Jillian Michaels Shares the Key to Optimal Gut Health

Photo: Courtesy of Don Flood

Celebrity health and fitness expert Jillian Michaels breaks down the benefits of nutrition and exercise for digestive wellness.


What would you say are the best practices to reap the overwhelming benefits of a strong microbiome?

Firstly, to get your microbes naturally, you want to avoid over-sanitizing. I know, it’s a crazy thing to say in the time of COVID, but it’s still true. Avoid non-organic thin-skinned fruits and vegetables as well as non-organic coffee, as these are very heavily sprayed with herbicides and fungicides which can kill off your microbes. Don’t take antibiotics unless it’s absolutely necessary, as these guys kill indiscriminately. They wipe out your microbiome as well as unhealthy pathogens, so don’t just pop a ZPak unless your doctor specifically tells you why you need it.

Next, be sure to consume foods that are high in all types of fiber (soluble and insoluble) as this provides food for your microbes. Hence the term “prebiotics,” which is really just a fancy way of saying microbe food. Foods like this include fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds. Consume fermented foods like kefir, miso, and kimchi as well. These will contain food-based strains of microbes. 

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Finally, get outside in nature as often as possible — hike, garden, or spend the day at the beach. This is where you can get healthy microbes from nature instead of taking soil-based probiotic strains, which really shouldn’t be necessary if you spend time outside. 

What do you think are the benefits of including prebiotics and probiotics into your diet? How do these improve your gut health?

We are just starting to learn how wide-reaching the impact of microbiome is on our overall health, but what I can tell you is that the foremost experts in this field have evidenced that microbiomes impact immunity, cognitive function, skin health, gut health and digestion, nutrient synthesis, metabolism, mood, and more. Prioritizing the diversity of your microbiome and cultivating its health is really important in all the ways I just mentioned and arguably many ways we don’t even yet know. 

Why do you feel the key to optimal gut health is pairing probiotic foods with fiber? How do you maintain this balance on a daily basis?

This is because we need to feed those little microbes so they can flourish. If we don’t have enough fiber, they don’t get what they need, and it compromises their positive impact on our overall health. I simply pair probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt or cottage cheese with fiber-rich foods including fruit and grains.


Do you think that fitness and nutrition play an equal role in maintaining good digestive health?

This is irrefutable. I touched on many ways that nutrition is critical to good digestive health, but exercise has also shown to be very impactful, even though we don’t fully understand the mechanisms of exactly how. Some experts believe that the fluctuation in body temperature, improved cardiovascular function, and improved blood circulation play a role as well as the potential hormonal impacts from fitness and how that impacts our microbes as well. 

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