A healthy gut is a foundation for a healthy body. Your gut’s function has been linked to the immune system, endocrine disorders, skin conditions, mental health, and autoimmune diseases. In short, your gut affects almost every part of your body which means paying attention to how you care for it is paramount to overall wellness.
What does a healthy gut mean?
You may have heard about gut microbiomes but aren’t sure if they’re good or bad. The answer is: they’re both. You have somewhere between 300 – 500 different species of bacteria living in your digestive tract. Some of them are good for you and are working hard to keep you healthy, while others are not so great and could be harmful to your body. The goal is to have a wide variety of that good bacteria to help keep our immune system functioning properly, stave off depression, keep weight down, and more, while also keeping bad bacteria in check.
Your gut microbiome is your symbiotic partner for your health. You feed the healthy microbiota and in turn, it will provide a number of health benefits for you. Finding the best diet for your healthy gut can be challenging. Functional medicine is great for investigating what is the best nutritional plan for you and your gut. We are all individuals with different needs and we all deserve individualized healthcare.
How do you know if your gut is unhealthy?
If you’re experiencing gas, bloating, indigestion, diarrhea, or just a generally upset stomach, it could be your gut trying to tell you something isn’t right. Although one would expect to only experience symptoms directly related to tummy trouble, an unhealthy gut can manifest in many other ways. You may also experience trouble sleeping, headaches, mood swings, or weight fluctuations. Conditions such as eczema or food intolerances also could also be a sign and, because of its link to the immune system, an unhealthy gut could also lead to autoimmune disorders where the body attacks itself rather than harmful invaders.
How can I get a healthy gut?
Of course, you should schedule an appointment with your health practitioner to address these concerns and work together to determine your best path forward for optimal health. In the meantime, I’ve rounded up a list of 5 things you can do right now to get a healthy gut.
Water for the Win
One of the fastest and easiest ways to improve the health of your gut is to incorporate more water into your diet. You can do this both through drinking beverages like tea and flavored waters, but also by eating foods with high water content (think fruits and vegetables like cucumbers, spinach, pineapple, and celery). If you’ve let your caffeine intake creep up, try switching your afternoon cups with decaf, or invest in a reusable water bottle you love that you’ll want to fill up throughout the day. Water intake needs vary by person but in general, women should aim to drink about 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) per day while men should opt for 15.5 cups (3.7 liters). Of course, if you had a particularly heavy workout or spent the day in the sun, you’ll want to sip a few extra cups to be safe.
If you’ve let your caffeine intake creep up, try switching your afternoon cups with decaf, or invest in a reusable water bottle and keep it filled throughout the day.”
Upping your water will help flush out toxins, keep your digestive tract in order, keep your mind and skin clear and so much more. Staying hydrated is essential, but tap water can also wreak havoc on your gut and depending on where you live, be highly toxic. Choose fresh spring water or filtered water to enhance your health. I have both a reverse osmosis system with remineralization and a subscription to live spring water at home to cover all my bases.
Fermented Foods are Your Friends
Another way to show some love for your gut is to incorporate more fermented foods into your diet. Not only do they increase that good bacteria we’re going for but they’re easy to work into the routine because they’re incredibly tasty. Some examples include kefir, miso, sauerkraut, pickles, and yogurt (opt for dairy-free yogurts without too much added sugar). Try Kimchi, a spicy Korean cabbage dish, or swap out your tofu for tempeh. And I’m sure you’re noticing those kombucha products everywhere so pick up a couple of bottles next time you’re at the store. You might just discover your new favorite treat that’s treating your gut with the bacteria it needs to flourish.
These Foods are Your Frenemies
Most of the foods on this list probably won’t come as a surprise as they’re items we all should limit, if not avoid altogether. These are the culprits that are working against your body rather than for it. I know we can’t be perfect all the time but aim to keep these foods as the smallest part of your diet and you’ll likely see an improvement in your digestion right away.
- Processed foods
- Artificial sweeteners
Keep Environmental Toxins at Bay
Sometimes we don’t even realize what outside influences are affecting our health. The world is full of environmental toxins that cause our bodies harm. The good news is, we do have some control over these. Easy fixes include choosing organic foods whenever possible and opting for natural cleaning products rather than those with harsh chemicals. Dust and vacuum your home often or even invest in an air purifier. Create nourishing meals with fresh foods rather than canned and try to drink filtered if you can. One of the simplest and most effective ways is to wash your hands frequently. I choose great smelling, naturally scented soaps to entice my family to wash their hands often.
Reduce Chronic Stress
Easier said than done, right? Whether you realize it or not, stress takes an enormous toll on the body and the repercussions manifest themselves in surprising ways. Of course, you can’t control the curveballs life throws your way but you can control how you react to them. Regular acupuncture treatments are an excellent tool for stress management and improving mental health. Be sure to also incorporate mindful practices into your daily routine. Things like meditation, yoga, or belly breathing, even for just five to ten minutes a day, will vastly improve your stress levels. You’ll find that you feel more capable and centered when new stressful situations arise. And your gut will thank you.
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