This post has been syndicated from my blog, The Bewitchin’ Kitchen’s 6 Ways to Improve Your Gut Health.
There is so much talk if gut health these days, and it can get a little overwhelming. So I simplified it with these 6 ways to improve your gut health.
Improve Your Gut Health
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The flora in your gut impacts your overall health, so keeping it healthy is vital!
Our stomachs are like a second brain. Yes, it processes the food we eat, draws nutrients and produces waste; it also regulates the bacterias that are in our bodies, and ultimately many of the diseases that affect us. But did you know that our stomachs also impact our moods and overall well being? How? There is an actual net of neurotransmitters lining our stomachs! It’s not an accident that when you feel nervous, you have butterflies. Brain and gut health are well and truly connected!
“Breaking down food, absorbing nutrients, and expelling of waste requires chemical processing, mechanical mixing and rhythmic muscle contractions that move everything on down the line. Thus equipped with its own reflexes and senses, the second brain can control gut behavior independently of the brain.” (Source)
If your gut flora isn’t in balance and working effectively, the results can be anything from weight issues and digestive disorders like constipation, as well as mood, fatigue and mental health, to say nothing of diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even some cancers. You can see that the impact of your gut health is far reaching!
Here are six ways you can improve your gut health to maintain your second brain and your body’s overall health!
1. Check your diet
At a basic level, your gut is impacted by everything you put into it. If you eat a lot of saturated fats, fried, sugary or processed foods, or excessive alcohol and not enough water, you will find that your overall gut health isn’t the greatest. Start on the path to better health by looking at your current diet and stress levels—cortisol, that is produced when you are stressed, also impacts your gut health—and see where you can start cutting back on things that don’t help.
Randa’s Tip: Write down what you eat over the next three days. Then review, you may be surprised when you realize how much food you’re putting into your body that can harm you gut.
Gut-friendly recipes from The Bewitchin’ Kitchen:
- Coconut Curry Chicken Meatballs
- Homemade Greek Vinaigrette
- Paleo Coffee Creamer
- Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps
2. Add more vegetables and legumes
The first step to addressing your diet is to add more vegetables and legumes, preferably those that are high in fiber. The slow breakdown and high nutrient, water and fiber content of many vegetables will help you stem the tide of an unhealthy gut. Examples? Raspberries, apples, blueberries, peas, beans, lentils and broccoli.
Try this delicious and gut-friendly Moroccan Carrot Salad. If you like zesty salads and carrots, it’s so yummy, and a great way to add some excitement to vegetables!
3. Add prebiotic enriched foods
Prebiotics provide what the healthy gut flora (probiotics / live bacteria) need to grow and flourish. They are sources of fiber that are not easily digested by the stomach, and so pass through to the colon relatively unscathed. The advantage is that in the process of the breakdown that occurs in the colon, prebiotics actually increases the level of probiotics. Examples? Brussels sprouts, broccoli, whole grains (like quinoa), chickpeas, lentils, asparagus, onion, and garlic.
4. Add probiotic enriched foods
Probiotics are the good bacteria that your gut needs to remain healthy. By eating probiotic-rich foods, you are increasing your gut flora’s health a lot. Probiotics can be taken in by a supplement but there is a lot to be said for the natural approach! Ingesting probiotics that exist in certain foods is a healthy and effective way to keep your gut happy! Examples? Yogurts and other fermented foods, like miso and sauerkraut, are excellent sources of probiotics.
My go-to probiotic supplements of choice are the ones from Renew Life. They were recommended to me by my naturopath, but if you have a favorite let me know in the comments.
5. Skip the artificial sweeteners
You can’t just replace natural sugar with artificial sweetener and assume that you’re doing the best for your body. Studies have shown that sweeteners tend to increase the blood sugar in your body because of their negative effects on gut flora. The key with any sugars is to avoid the simple ones (white, refined sugar) and take it in more natural formats, like the fructose found in fruit.
6. Stress less
Since the two brains—actual brain and gut brain—are so connected, it’s no wonder that stress is a major factor in your gut health. The proof is in disorders like irritable bowel syndrome, that is connected to mental wellbeing. Finding ways to reduce your stress and increase your relaxation is important. Whether that’s getting a massage, taking up yoga or just taking a daily walk, find ways to lower your stress to increase your gut health!
Randa’s Tip: Try the Insight Timer app to get started with meditation.
None of what I’m saying here is rocket science: eating healthy, unprocessed foods is better than eating processed junk foods. Getting some exercise, staying hydrated and getting enough rest are all basic but essential to good gut health. It’s all a fairly simple circle: what you put into your body, in terms of food and stress, how you treat your body, in terms of rest and exercise, all have a major impact. Knowing how connected your two brains are, it’s worth spending some time figuring out how you can keep both healthy and happy!
Some of my favorite foods and tools to improve your gut health: