It’s gut health month! Which means it is time to talk about what you can do for a healthier gut! This blog will cover 5 ways to improve gut health.
Are you taking care of your gut? Most don’t realize just how important and sensitive their digestive system is. Your gut impacts all other systems. It is a central part of whole-body wellness. The gut is strongly connected with the brain and impacts cravings, mood and more. An irritated gut will cause bloating, discomfort and put you at risk for larger health issues…
Why is Gut Health Important?
Gut health is important because the gut is largely responsible for food cravings. It plays such a key role in responses, that some even call the gut the first brain!
Your digestive system helps your body get the nutrients you need and eliminate harmful waste—so, digestive issues can have ripple effects throughout the rest of your body. Did you know that there are more beneficial bacteria in your gut than cells in your entire body? It’s truly a microbiome. And this microbiome needs to be balanced. The gut flora is a delicate system of bacteria, fungi, protozoa, microorganisms and archaea located in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
Five Ways to Improve Gut Health Naturally
You will be shocked at how much your mood and energy levels improve by caring for your gut. If you are wondering how to improve gut health, here are five things you can do to achieve better overall digestive wellness.
1. Eat a Diverse and Natural Diet
Food quite literally fuels your body. The wrong foods will make you feel sick and sluggish. Unprocessed and fresh foods are going to be better for your digestive tract. Processed and packaged foods are often high in sodium (salt), sugar, preservatives, artificial sweeteners and food coloring, which can have negative impacts on that microbiome we mentioned.
You want to support the gut flora with diverse food types. While most Americans eat a lot of the wrong kinds of inflammatory fats and white processed sugar, the focus should really be on organic vegetables, high quality proteins and the right kinds of healthy fats. A richly diverse diet is going to come from a variety of plant sources. A good rule of thumb is to look for the most naturally vibrant vegetables, like dark leafy greens, because these are the most nutrient-dense foods.
You should also consider incorporating CBD coconut oil into your cooking, smoothies and coffee to increase your healthy fat intake. Healthy fats like organic coconut oil can have incredible benefits for your gut.
2. Incorporate More Fiber and Water
If you are eating a lot of vegetables, fruits and whole grains, you’re doing a great job on the fiber front. Fiber is what helps waste move through your digestive tract. Fiber is also digested only by certain gut-based bacteria, so an increased amount of fiber in your diet will help stimulate that kind of healthy bacteria’s growth while also offering prebiotics which are a source of food for your gut’s healthy bacteria (more on probiotics below). Some of the foods highest in fiber include:
- Chia and flax Seeds
- Dark leafy greens
Along with more fiber, drinking more water is vital for helping clear out the system as well. Research has shown that the average American adult drinks less than four cups of water every day. The amount recommended by the U.S. National Academies is 15.5 cups a day for men and 11.5 cups a day for women. You can expect about 20% of that daily water intake to come from your foods. While there is no set amount of water you should drink each day, aiming for 8 pint-sized glasses a day is a reasonable goal that is easy to remember.
3. Reduce Your Stress Level
Easier said than done, we know. But, stress is a natural motivator that puts our body into high gear. Prolonged acute stress can be extremely harmful for the body—especially for the gut. You may experience bowel issues, IBS, nausea, heartburn or painful stomach ulcers because of stress. To support a healthy gut, you can work on reducing your stress. A few great tips for reducing stress include:
- Movement: We will cover this again below, but exercising is a great natural stress-reducer and mood booster. Yoga and mindfulness exercises can be especially helpful for reducing stress.
- Sunshine: Believe it or not, getting outside is crucial for lowered stress levels and increased mood. Your skin uses the vitamin D from the sun and creates mood-boosting hormones, like serotonin.
- Gardening: Do you have a vegetable or flower garden? Get in the dirt! (barefoot, if possible!). Science has found that microbes in the dirt act as natural stress-reducers and antidepressants.
- Taking a Bath: Warm water can help you focus on the present moment and relax your body. Check out these five tips for a truly relaxing CBD-infused bath.
- Cooking: Making food intentionally actually feels really good! Even if you don’t enjoy cooking, eating a healthy meal that you prepared can increase a feeling of accomplishment and healthier foods are going to help your body lower the fight or flight feeling that comes with stress.
4. Increase Probiotics and Fermented Foods
If you are wondering how to restore gut health, a few solid doses of probiotic live cultures is the right place to start for some quick improvement.
You may already know that kombucha and yogurt are good for the gut, but you may not know why. Probiotics help increase good bacteria in the gut, especially if you are sick or fighting off a virus. People who ingest fermented foods, like yogurt, will have increased lactobacilli and less of the bacteria associated with inflammation and disease.
Some of the best sources for these live cultures and fermented benefits are in yogurt, kefir, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut and natto. Always watch out for the sugar content that would be harmful to the gut and counteract the benefits.
5. Exercise 3-5 Times a Week
Getting the body moving is great for boosting gut health. First and foremost, it reduces your stress levels while strengthening your body. Exercise gets the blood flowing, strengthening your heart and lungs. It will help you with balance as you strengthen muscles surrounding key joints and ligaments.
And, exercise also helps get things moving internally—helping create regular bowel movements.
A sedentary lifestyle has been linked to less diversity in the microbiome. Recommendations are to exercise 3-5 times per week for a weekly total of 150 minutes or more. You don’t have to kill yourself at the gym to make a big difference in your overall strength, energy level and gut health. It’s about finding movement that suits your style! Maybe that is dancing in your kitchen! The key is about living an active life that can be incorporated well.
Don’t neglect your gut and the rest will fall into place! There are a lot more things you can do to boost gut health (like avoiding painkillers and pesticide-filled foods), but this guide for gut health offers a great place to start. You will be on the road to better mental and physical health in no time.