Written by Lisa Murray, Certified Health Coach at Found Edited by Lynn Yudofsky, MD, Director of Behavioral Health at Found
Need a little help from a friend? Your gut (microbiome) may be your best friend as it offers a host of health benefits, and has more of an impact on your overall health than you may be aware of - similar to your closest pal. Your digestive system affects most other parts of your body, from your mood to the way you battle anxiety and depression, to your energy levels. I know that afternoon slump can be pretty rough, but there might just be a way to help avoid it. Let's phone a friend!
Here are 5 simple ways to improve gut health and manage your digestive tract:
Focus on eating plants
We already know that including more fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes into your day is recommended for great health, but it can also help your tummy! Eating fiber-rich foods like nuts have shown to have higher levels of good bacteria as compared to inflammation-inducing foods, like many processed meats. Research has found that consuming primarily plants has been associated with higher levels of good fatty-acids produced, which help cultivate the good bacteria in your system. This isn’t to say that you have to go cold turkey on meat, just make sure to load up on vegetables as well!
Ditch the routine and switch up your meals
The key to having a happy tummy is feeding it a variety of different foods. The more your food varies, the more the bacteria in your gut can change and recover from damage or injury. Poor gut health can lead to disease - scientists have even found a link to gastrointestinal issues - your worst enemy. Additionally, eating patterns are usually formed by the time you’re an adult, but take the leap and carve out some time to try new foods or cook a special meal. Eating a variety of food can be a fun way to break up the routine. Give your body the chance to acquire new tastes, and get out of your comfort zone by trying unique foods!
SIDE SCIENCE ☼Did you know studies have found that gut health can extend your lifespan, help your body to function at full-capacity, and even fight off disease and sickness!
3. Take a chill pill
Stress is a part of being human. We’ve all had that deadline to meet, a big presentation in front of a bunch of people, or the exam we’re trying so hard to cram for. It’s been shown that stress changes the structure and activity of gut microbiota. Not getting enough sleep, eating the wrong foods, or even environmental stressors like a hot day or a cold winter storm can all contribute to stress! Maintain a healthier gut by managing your stress! #foundtip Take a short walk outside, take a few deep breaths, or drink a warm cup of herbal tea to clear your mind and help you relax.
4. Get familiar with fermented foods
Fermented food has been aged or cultured. This neat process helps the body digest and absorb your food, which makes it super beneficial for your health and gut. Many fermented foods have natural probiotics and anti-inflammatory properties. Probiotics can help reduce stress and keep your body from making bad bacteria and killing all the good! Here’s some foods for you to try (and this may also help with switching up your variety):
5. Sleep tight
Lack of sleep can not only disrupt your day at work or in school, but it can affect your gut health. Sleep deprivation puts stress on your body, which can cause the bacteria in your tummy to not perform at 100%. Tuck yourself in after a long day and make sure to get at least 7 hours a night! Here are some tips and tricks to improve your sleep:
Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bed
Have a consistent sleep schedule
Create a relaxing bedtime routine
Move more during the day
Assure that your bedroom is quiet, dark, and at your preferred temperature
It’s totally understandable why you would want your gut to be in tip-top shape. There are trillions of microbiota (good and bad bacteria) found in your tummy. These enzymes can affect your body’s immune system, appetite, and metabolism. Stick with eating lots of plants and fiber, get a goodnight’s rest, stock up on those yummy fermented foods, and listen to those guided meditations. Remember, your best friend is looking out for you - the gut wants the best for your body and your health!