Gut health 101
Our gut is sometimes referred to as the “second brain.” And, for good reasons!
The numerous neurons and bacteria that proliferate the gut and secrete neurotramitters and hormones are responsible for how we feel, how we think, the cravings we experience, and basically our general wellbeing. It’s no wonder that when our gut health is compromised, our health is compromised as well.
It’s not in your head…it’s in your gut! So, are you doing everything to optimize your gut health? Read on!
There are a number of ways that we can optimize our digestion and nutrition and help improve our gut health. Here some simple and effective ways:
- Chew your food: Duh! Right?! Not really. There are tons of enzymes secreted with your saliva that help break down the food before it hits the stomach. Your stomach and small intestine essentially try to breakdown food into its building blocks that then can get absorbed. The bigger the building blocks the more challenging it is for you to absorb the key nutrients. There’s more to mindful eating than just mindfulness.
- Drink your water: Thirsty? Too late! Thirst is a sign of dehydration. Drinking 4 oz of water at a time throughout the day is more beneficial than downing 16 oz in one sitting. Water flushes out toxins, promotes elimination, and the apple cider vinegar or lemon that you can add to your water helps in digestion. Here’s a tip: add some lemon to your morning water and see if you can prepare this concoction to take with you and sip on during the day before every meal!
- Eliminate food allergens: What is a food allergy? Great questions! An allergy or sensitivity to a food is an immune response, and an unhappy immune system brings about inflammation. Prolonged exposure to foods your gut does not tolerate causes inflammation, damage to intestinal walls, malabsorption, and malnutrition = unhappy you. If you are at all concerned about food allergies consider doing an elimination challenge for at least 6 weeks (gluten, dairy, corn, soy, citrus, nightshades, processed sugar, and caffeine are the top things to remove) and then bringing those foods back in one by one to see if you react to any.
- Prebiotics: The food for your gut bacteria! There are certain foods that promote proliferation of good gut bacteria such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. When thinking of prebiotics think of insoluble fiber. If you are eating a wide variety of leafy greens and other vegetables such as asparagus, artichokes, and broccoli then you are most likely getting enough of insoluble fiber. Now there’s even a better reason to eat your veggies!
- Probiotics: The good bacteria! Research shows that gut bacterial imbalance can effect metabolism, mood, endocrine function, and, of course, digestive issues. Again, it’s not in your head, it’s in your gut! There are a number of reasons why an imbalance can occur: history of antibiotic use, poor nutrition, diet high in processed carbohydrates and sugar, stress, and high alcohol consumption only to name a few. Having a good probiotic on board or eating probiotic rich foods like kimchi or kombucha can be essential to gut health!
- Fiber: You now know that insoluble fiber is an essential food for your gut bacteria. Soluble fiber is the driving force behind proper digestion and elimination. It promotes removal of toxins and waste, and with that comes more energy, vitality, clarity, and better health. Need a little extra fiber or feeling a bit backed up? Psyllium husk powder is an excellent source of soluble fiber and contains more fiber per servings than most fiber sources! Aim for getting at least 28 g of fiber a day.
If you are following these tips and still feel like you’ve got room for improvement, there is a way to evaluate your current digestion, absorption, any potential food allergies, and underlying gut bacteria imbalance. At Proactive Health, we offer comprehensive digestive analysis to make sure your gut is healthy and happy, and so are you!