7 Good Habits to Improve Your Gut Health
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By JV Valderama
Achieve a healthy mind and body by taking care of your gut. The gut or the gastrointestinal tract ensures that your body digests and absorbs the nutrients from the food you eat. And amazingly enough, your gut bacteria communicate with your brain through thousands of nerves, influencing your mood and mental health.
By making sure your gut is happy, you ensure that your overall health is delighted, too! And one of the best and easiest ways to improve your gut health is through your habits. So, you might want to slow down on cheeseburgers and continue reading to maintain a healthy gut.
Gut Health 101
Talking about your gut or digestive health, in general, can be quite unpleasant. However, a healthy gut is beneficial to many aspects of health. Gastroenterologist Dr. Mark Pimentel explained that the human gut functions with two primary programs–digesting mode and cleaning mode.
Your body spends a lot of energy when digesting food. If the gut is functioning properly, the stored energy in your body is perfectly distributed to your other internal systems. In an unhealthy gut, stored energy may be sent more to the stomach and intestines, leaving you tired and sleepy throughout the day.
The cleaning mode refers to your bowel movement. It is the body’s way of removing toxins or waste that is not beneficial and harmful to your system, preventing diseases like Irritable Bowel Syndrome. One indicator of a healthy gut is when you wake up in the morning and your stomach is in “cleaning mode.” It is essential to flush out all the stuff you eat from yesterday to prepare your gut for your next meal.
Gut Feelings: What it Actually Means
The gut-brain axis, or the connection between the gastrointestinal tract and mind, has something to do with your ability to concentrate. Poor gut health can be linked to brain fog and low mental clarity. The gut-brain connection explains why you feel something is wrong with your stomach whenever you feel anxious. So, yes, the “gut feeling” is true.
According to Dr. Tara Swart, M.D., Ph.D., a Neuroscientist, gut feelings are the result of your gut bacteria communicating directly to your brain through chemical messengers in the blood and the gut neurons connecting to the limbic (emotional and intuitive) parts of the brain.
If the gut is unhappy, your brain might be struggling, too!
7 Tips to Improve Gut Health
Fiber-rich foods like vegetables and fruits are beneficial for gut health. When consumed they make food movement in your tract faster and more efficient, avoiding constipation, bloating, and abdominal pain. Insoluble and soluble fibers are essential for a regular bowel movement. Additionally, high-fiber foods help maintain a healthy weight.
Since digesting consumes a lot of energy in your body, mindful chewing helps intestinal bacteria break down food efficiently and faster. It eases up the digestive process and avoids overwhelming your gut. When the food is properly digested, your body absorbs nutrients better.
Reduce Sugar Consumption
Excess sugar in your system disrupts the gut microbiome diversity. The gut microbiome, or the community of microorganisms in your digestive tract, should contain a healthy balance of bacteria. Meaning, there should be enough healthy bacteria to keep bad bacteria in check and avoid digestive issues like stomach pain.
Furthermore, too much artificial sweeteners may increase blood sugar levels, leading to weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease. Try eating fruits or probiotic foods like yogurt, instead.
Eat Fermented Foods
Fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut contain beneficial bacteria like probiotics. A healthy amount of probiotic bacteria in your gut are beneficial for human health by strengthening your immune function. The benefits of probiotics extend from nutrient absorption to regulating body weight.
Practice a Regular Eating Habit
Eating your meals on time, on a regular schedule, and in a relaxed state is good for the gut. Whenever possible, make it a point to eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks at the same time every day. It also helps to eat in peaceful surroundings. The goal is not to rush through your meal. Take the time to fully enjoy your food.
Furthermore, consider eating a wider variety of food to maintain a healthy gut microbiome. You can try plant-based foods like peas, chickpeas, and black beans.
The gut is connected to the brain, so it makes sense that your emotional reactions and brain function affect the gut and that connection goes both ways. Try to find ways to manage your stress levels. It can be as simple as walking, bonding with friends over coffee, or practicing breathing exercises.
Doing Physical Exercise Regularly
Partaking in physical activities helps increase the quality and quantity of beneficial bacteria in the gut. According to a Nutrition Professor, Maria Adams, MS, MPH, RDN, regular exercise lowers the chance of constipation by keeping foods moving through your digestive system. A 30-minute exercise daily has a huge impact on your gut while helping you build strength and better immunity against cardiovascular diseases.
The gut plays a huge role in keeping your body healthy. Simple habits like exercising and eating fiber-rich foods are crucial to maintaining optimal gut health. What are you waiting for? Incorporate the tips above to ensure a healthy gut.
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