Gut reaction. Go with your gut. Gut instinct.
Our gut is so important we used it to create expressions to define how we trust our intuition and how to make a decision. So isn’t it appropriate that you would take May 29, World Digestive Health Day, to treat your own gut with tender loving care?
Health experts have discovered that the billions of microbes that play, work and in some cases launch hostile takeovers of our guts can play a role in everything from obesity to our psychological health to neurological disorders. It’s no wonder that our GI tract has been dubbed “the second brain.” So why do we abuse our guts with processed foods, burritos the size of footballs and added sugars and sodium?
Poor gut health leads to impaired immune and nervous systems, which messes up our hormonal function because our gastrointestinal tract is loaded with neurons that release the same neurotransmitters found in the brain. The truth is, bad food choices, viruses, parasites, caffeine, alcohol, antibiotics and bad bacteria can damage the gastrointestinal tract, which leads to increased permeability or "leaky gut."
Here are five ways to love your gut and help improve your digestive health.
1. Remove offenders from your diet.
This could include caffeine, alcohol, processed foods, bad fats, gluten and dairy. Seem daunting? Take it slow and eliminate one offender at a time over a period of time and see how your body reacts.
Try fermented foods like kefir, sauerkraut and kimchee (they add healthy bacteria); whole oranges; butter; garlic; lentils; and dark chocolate. Dark chocolate, people! This is a good thing (in moderation, of course). Getting a good balance of probiotics (the healthy bacteria that help control growth of harmful bacteria) and prebiotics (carbohydrates that can’t be digested but are food for probiotics), your gut will be happy and your body will respond.
3. Stay hydrated.
Drinking lots of water is good for us in so many ways. Consuming large amounts of soda and coffee dehydrates your body, which can also sap your energy. Drinking water also helps move foods through your digestive tract more quickly and easily.
4. Take steps to manage your stress.
Everydayhealth.com describes how digestion is controlled by the enteric nervous system that communicates with the central nervous system. Digestion can shut down during times of stress because your central nervous system shuts down blood flow, which affects the contraction of digestive muscles and decreases secretions needed for digestion. Think of the butterflies you get before a test, or a presentation in front of coworkers. Here are 10 ways to quickly reduce stress, but the easiest is to just take several deep breaths.
5. Invest in a cookbook..
that promotes gut health with yummy recipes and tips. The “Heal Your Gut Cookbook” from Hilary Boynton and Mary Brackett is just one among many. The authors offer a “healing, nutrient-dense culinary adventure that invites us to reclaim the food traditions of our ancestors and repair the damage we have done to our bodies.” The book has more than 200 recipes that focus on what the authors call GAPS, or Gut and Psychology Syndrome.
World Digestive Health Day may be just one day, but the benefits of achieving and maintaining a healthy gut through good nutrition and lifestyle changes will stay with you for a long time. Interested in getting more tips on healthy living and nutrition? Subscribe to the Fisher-Titus Healthy Living blog today.