The importance of a healthy gut can never be understated.
A healthy gut is crucial for a significant proportion of your immune system resides in the GI tract. There’s considerable interaction between your immunity and outside bacteria and reflects the state of your digestion.
More and more experts understand the role gut health plays in keeping your whole being well. Neglecting this aspect may lead to diseases and other complications, so taking care of your digestive system should be one of your priorities in life.
Healthy bacteria and immune cells are vital in warding off infectious bacteria, fungi, and viruses that could be harmful to the body. Who is even exempted from gut problems? At one point, you may have experienced loose stools, abdominal pain, vomiting, and heartburn. Avoid the consequences of a destructive lifestyle and start making a change today!
So, in this article, Cognitive Health and Wellness Institute lists down different ways to achieve a healthy gut.
The secret to a healthy gut
A healthy gut translates to a more beneficial immune system. This is the answer to enhancing your mood and optimizing your digestion. When you achieve this for your body, you are doing yourself a favor by boosting the state of your heart and brain.
Your lifestyle, and eating habits would reflect your gut health. Thus, these are some of the changes you can observe:
1. Consume food with insoluble and soluble fiber
Aiming for at least 25 grams of fiber each day should be friendly to your metabolism. Widen your plant-based nutrient source as this promotes the growth and diversification of your gut bacteria. Don’t be afraid to add foods like beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, fennel, and spinach to your diet.
Soluble and insoluble fiber comes with their own set of advantages. For instance, soluble fiber helps improve digestion and lower blood sugar; on the other hand, insoluble softens stool, which allows you to have a smoother and more regular bowel movement. A combination of these would, in turn, have the best effects on your gut.
2. Restrict your fat intake
Fatty foods have always been problematic for the body, but this needs reinforcement because people tend to be oblivious.
Fats slow down the digestive process, which triggers constipation. This macronutrient is essential. But, it would help if you focused on healthy fats more and couple them with foods with high fiber to realize its benefits for the body.
Findings from various studies show that gut bacteria go through unfavorable changes with a high-fat diet. Thus, consuming too much of this macronutrient stimulates inflammation. This imbalance in bacteria also causes a leaky gut. This crack gives toxins, bacteria, and antigens the chance to penetrate the tissues beneath it, and it bears problems.
For this reason, go for healthy fats in your diet. The best sources are walnuts, avocado, cold-pressed olive oil, ghee, and coconut oil. Eggs may also be a fine addition, and fish like tuna, sardines, and salmon. Gradually increase your intake of these to maximize their benefits for your body!
3. Exercise regularly
There is a common notion that only nutrition is good for the gut, but physical activities can be equally important. So, including frequent exercise may keep your digestion happy. How do you get active for your gut?
The first thing you can do is to start moving. Make it as regular as possible. Track your steps if you need to. Take the stairs if you can. There are low-impact cardiovascular workouts that you can embark on. Yoga, stretching, and weightlifting – are suitable for the body.
A study suggests that implementing a steady fitness regimen improves microbes in the gut for only six weeks. You can optimize this positive effect by combining it with a nutritious diet that balances all the macronutrients your body requires.
Exercising is a big commitment. So, it would be best to be realistic with your goals. Make small, baby steps. Whether you are a pro or new in working out, sustainability is the key. Be consistent and build internal and external fitness for your body to realize a healthy gut.
4. Eat lean meat
A healthy and balanced diet isn’t complete without protein. However, be careful because fatty meat cuts lead to some digestive discomfort. Hence, the answer is to stick to the lean parts, including skinless poultry and pork loin. Control the portion of what you eat and fill more of your plate with fiber-rich foods coupled with vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
Lean meats are a rich source of zinc, iron, and B12. The body quickly absorbs them, even faster than plant-based foods. But of course, the vitamin C in vegetables and fruits is also essential to the body, so an amount of them on your plate would be necessary.
How much lean meat is good for your body? Eating 1-3 servings per day is the recommended frequency, though the amount may vary depending upon your age. Variation is still the key so you can make the most of these food groups.
5. Include probiotics and prebiotics in your diet
Probiotics and prebiotics are both beneficial to your body, with each of them playing vital roles to a healthy gut. While prebiotics feeds your gut bacteria, prebiotics, on the other hand, are good bacteria that contain live microorganisms essential to your digestive system.
Unhealthy gut bacteria causes gut inflammation. Those bacteria can consequently compromise your immune system in the long run. Hence, your body needs food and proper hydration to perform well.
Incorporating probiotics and prebiotics in your diet can help maintain balance in your gut. Also, probiotics such as yogurts and prebiotics such as whole grains can prevent symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, for example. Including these in your plate once in a while can help you improve your gut health.
6. Get enough hydration and sleep
Sleep deprivation is enough to mess with your gut health.
Most animal studies show that lack of sleep may disrupt the microorganisms in the intestines. They indicate that irregular sleep habits have negative outcomes in the gut flora, hence, risking inflammatory conditions.
When it comes to sleeping, quality is king. It doesn’t only improve mood and cognition, but the health of the gut as well. Establish a pattern that your body will thank you for. Sleep and get up on the same schedule every day. Adults should get at least seven hours or more every night.
Increasing your water intake is also vital in your digestive health. Remember that your body loses water as you breathe, sweat, and digest. Hence, replace it by getting enough hydration. Start assessing your physical activity, metabolism, and medications, for these would affect the water your body requires.
According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, an average healthy adult should take at least: 11 cups of water for women and 15 cups for men.
7. Quit vices
Did you know that significant changes in gut bacteria can happen when you quit smoking? A study in 2019 showed that there’s a substantial decrease in the beneficial bacteria living in a smoker’s gut. So, if you’ve been in this habit for a long time, it may be best to re-think it.
Other vices can be as bad as taking illegal drugs, for example. That’s going to ruin your entire immune system. Taking unprescribed medication can negatively impact and disrupt the microorganisms in your gut, too. Drinking and alcohol overdose can damage the lining in your gut and, consequently, overwhelm your gastrointestinal tract as studies showed.
You might not notice that staying up late at night and playing video games all day is taking its toll on your body. More often than not, when you’re excessively doing these activities at irregular hours, you tend to eat more. And for convenience’s sake, you will eat only what’s readily available such as processed foods. This needs to change!
8. Manage stress
Reducing stress may also be the answer to elevating your gut health.
Psychological and environmental stressors may trigger your digestive system to be in overdrive. For this reason, finding stress-reducing activities will help you prevent this. When you know how to manage your stress, you have the power to reduce uncomfortable GI symptoms. And the development of your whole being will follow.
There are techniques to manage stress. Some go for meditation, while others seek physical activities. Research emphasizes exercise to reduce the stress levels in the body. Hence, you may try this.
No wonder stressed people often end up with an upset stomach. They are related and so learning how to deal with your anxiety is helpful for your gut. Consistently sticking to the routine that gives you peace is the way to go!
9. Give your gut a rest
Resetting your gut means giving your digestive system a break. You don’t realize how much work it does; it needs time to heal and repair itself. This rest can be done by increasing levels of beneficial bacteria in your large intestines, which helps break down the food you consume. This way, you’re helping your body absorb nutrients better and manage waste more efficiently.
Sometimes, you may need to detox for optimal gut health lightly. Pay attention to both what and how you eat. Choose whole-grain varieties of bread over white, for example. Let fiber quickly assist the transit and delivery of food to your gut. Be mindful of your food choices. Sit down when you eat and take your sweet time chewing your food to digest it well.
Eat probiotics such as Lactobacillius from yogurts. Incorporate more vegetables into your diet. Other times, you may need to go on fasting for a few days or only set several hours when you eat or drink in a day. Or, minimize snacking for a few days and maybe totally stop doing so. Stay hydrated so you can regulate your digestion well.
10. Avoid overly-processed food
Processed foods like frozen pizza, potato chips, and bacon are comfort foods you can quickly get. However, consuming a lot of them is detrimental to your gut health. Ready-to-eat meals and processed meats, for example, tend to be high in trans fats and refined carbohydrates.
In many cases, ultra-processed foods increase the risks of coronary heart diseases and cardiovascular illnesses. Instead of frozen dinner take-outs filled with too many sugars and sodium, recreate them in your kitchen. Although it takes more planning, grilling chicken and preparing some vegetables to help you eat healthy meals at home.
Eating processed food occasionally is okay. But, don’t let them take bigger portions on your plate daily and in your weekly diet. Limit overly-processed foods so you can focus on more fresh and whole foods as much as you possibly can.
What does your gut tell you?
Often, you don’t “go” with your gut and follow what it tells you. Maybe you need to change your eating and lifestyle habits. Perhaps you need to cut down on high sodium food. “Listen” to what your gut tells you.
Every individual may have unique gut microbiomes, but the same recommendation applies: Moderation is key. Train your body on having a good relationship with food, especially those that give you proper nutrition. Find a good mix of a high fiber diet with fruits and vegetables, for example.
You will better understand and appreciate your gut when you take care of your gut health. In turn, you can enjoy better, quality food plus both length and quality of life. That’s what Cognitive Health and Wellness Institute is all about.