7 ways to improve gut health!
“We’ve all heard the saying, “listen to your gut.” And while that advice often refers to our intuition, it should also speak to our digestion. Your gut guides your overall well-being. Quite literally, your gut is the epicenter of your mental and physical health. Yet it’s all too common to experience lots of digestive issues that make a huge impact on our strength and vitality. If you want better immunity, efficient digestion, improved clarity and balance, focus on rebuilding your gut health.” -Kris Carr
There are many resources about gut health- the key is to start taking steps toward improvement today!
1. Take a probiotic supplement. A daily probiotic supplement will help boost the good bacteria in your gut, keeping the bad guys under control, boosting your immune system and easing digestive issues. This is especially helpful when you’re taking a medication, such as an antibiotic that has wiped out a large amount of gut bacteria. Some recommended brands: Dr. Ohirra’s, Primal Defense, Healthforce Nutritionals (Friendly Force)
If you’ve been focusing on your gut health for a while and your symptoms persist, you may want to try additional supplements to restore balance in your belly. In his book Revive, my friend Frank Lipman, MD recommends taking an herbal antibiotic, which can help kill an overgrowth of bad bacteria (I’ve taken GI Microb-x in the past). He also suggests taking a glutamine-based formula to repair your gut lining and digestive enzymes with meals to assist with breaking down and digesting your food. To find out which of these measures might be necessary have your stool analyzed by Metametrix or Genova Diagnostics. This analysis will identify parasites, abnormal bacteria, yeasts and other gastrointestinal issues, which will help you create a supplement plan, ideally with the help of an Integrative MD or Naturopath.
2. Eat probiotic whole foods. You can also eat whole foods that are fermented and contain large amounts of good bacteria. Sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, microalgae and coconut kefir are fantastic plant-based probiotic-rich foods. When looking for probiotic-rich foods, avoid vinegar-based and/or pasteurized varieties, since these elements kill good bacteria. You want to pick up (or make!) lacto-fermented probiotic foods (FYI–this is a plant-friendly approach, no whey is necessary). If you’re interested in making your own probiotic foods, Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz is a popular book on the subject. Word to the wise: Get educated on fermenting at home before diving in–it can be risky if you don’t know what you’re doing!
3. Eat prebiotic whole foods. Certain foods feed and support the growth of good bacteria. By eating more whole, plant-based, fiber-filled foods, you’re fueling the bacteria that support your health. Raw onions, garlic, dandelion greens, artichokes and bananas are some of the best prebiotic foods to add to your diet.
4. Eat regularly, but not constantly (and don’t eat late at night). To give your gut a chance to clean up and clear out bacteria and waste, it needs a rest from digestion. Every 90 minutes to two hours, the smooth muscle in your intestines move and groove to keep bacteria and waste truckin’ through your digestive tract. But this process is put on hold every time you eat. Can you see why snacking constantly slows down digestion and contributes to bacterial overgrowth? I’m not saying that you need to fast for long periods — eating regularly helps prevent constipation and bloating — but it’s best to take breaks between meals.
5. Stay hydrated. A good rule of thumb for staying hydrated is drinking half your bodyweight in ounces of water each day. For example, if you weigh 130 pounds, you should drink about 65 ounces of water. That’s about eight 8-ounce glasses of water. Your gut needs water to keep bacteria and waste moving through your digestive system, which will help prevent constipation and bloating. When you’re dehydrated, these issues can throw off the balance of bacteria in your gut and lead to inflammation. Give your gut a hand and drink more H2O!
6. Lessen refined sugar and processed foods. When you consume processed, sugar-laden, refined foods, you’re giving bad bacteria an all-you-can-eat buffet, which increases the likelihood of all the aforementioned bull crap that weighs you down and dims your shine.
7. Lessen stress. Remember when we talked about the connection between your brain and your gut? When you experience chronic stress, your brain goes into fight or flight mode, causing your digestion and blood flow in the gut to slow down, the muscles that push along waste and bacteria to freeze up and the secretions for digestion to decrease. All of these stress responses equal a poorly functioning gut! Take care of your gut health by coping with stress through breathwork, yoga, meditation, therapy, time in the outdoors and the countless other stress reduction techniques available to you.
Here’s the rest of this great article explaining what the gut is all about and why it’s so important to keep it healthy!