Chances are, if you’ve visited a wellness website or picked up a health and fitness magazine in the last few years, you’ve seen at least three (or ten!) articles on gut health. The wellness industry has focused heavily on the gut recently, and that’s because it affects virtually every other area of our health. A healthy gut can contribute to brighter skin, increased nutrient absorption, higher metabolism, and better energy to name a few. Although every body has a unique set of needs, a few truths about gut health hold steady for everyone. Read below for some basics of gut health that we hope will get you started on the right track:
It’s coming to light that many of us may be sensitive to certain ingredients and foods in the modern diet. Common allergens include gluten, dairy, shellfish, eggs, or tree nuts. If you are experiencing difficulty with digestion or have other symptoms of poor gut health, try keeping a food diary for a few weeks. Notice the type of foods that leave you feeling lethargic, inflamed, or uncomfortable. It may take time to identify the common factors, but once you do, try eliminating them one at a time from your diet to see if your symptoms clear up.
Naturally occurring in plant foods, fiber helps bulk up the matter moving through the digestive system which strengthens and improves its overall function. These days we often hear of certain plant foods being referred to as prebiotics, which essentially means food for the “good bacteria” in your gut to feed on. Focusing on fiber will also help your body naturally detox from any not-so-healthy ingredients that made their way in. The average American does not get enough fiber in their daily diet, but it’s something that can be easily achieved with a few tweaks. Including a variety of raw and cooked vegetables, fruits, and greens in your diet will improve gut health over time.
Speaking of good bacteria, there are a few specific foods and supplements we can include in our daily and weekly diets to give our gut the best chance at success. If you’re just embarking on your journey to better digestion, a probiotic supplement is a great starting point. A daily probiotic will supply your gut with a high dose of healthy bacteria. This will help to rebuild your digestive power to easily break down and assimilate food. For naturally occurring probiotics, try adding in fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and yogurt.
Lastly, a surprising but proven pillar of gut health is adequate sleep. Sleep deprivation affects hormone levels, causing your body to experience a higher stress load. This stress directly impacts your gut and your ability to digest properly. By focusing on quality and quantity of sleep, you are giving your body time to rest and repair on a cellular level. Try to avoid eating close to bedtime, so that you can digest while you’re awake and repair while you’re asleep. The beautiful thing is, when we practice good sleep habits, our microbiome, gut flora, and digestive tract takes care of everything else!
Gut health can feel like a tricky, delicate science, especially if you discover sensitivities or underlying issues along the way. However, with all of the information available today, we have a better chance than ever of bringing our digestive systems into harmony. Not only will focusing on gut health improve how you feel after eating, but the benefits of a strong digestive system will span throughout your whole body and mind. Many studies have demonstrated the link between gut health and mental health–they are almost one in the same! Taking the time to focus on your digestion will reap exponential benefits for your life.
We hope these guidelines will provide a solid starting point for anyone looking to improve their gut health. If you have tips and tricks of your own, we’d love for you to share in the comments below!