Last week we talked about eating whole, unprocessed foods and identifying and eliminating food sensitivities and allergies.
Here are steps 3 – 5 to help you in your quest for better gut health!
Step #3 – Balance the Bacteria
As previously mentioned, there are millions of bacteria in your gut and the vast majority of these bacteria are essential for your good health. When we’re in our mother’s uterus, we’re free from bacteria. The process of being born immediately exposes us to bacteria.
Scientists believe that the first few months of life essentially set the tone for the types of bacteria in and around our body. They call it the “Microbial cloud.” We each have a somewhat unique cloud based on the home and family we’re born into – we are exposed to our parents’ bacteria and thus their bacteria becomes our bacteria.
Environmental influences and the food we eat can then tip the scale and support good gut health, or they can deplete the good bacteria in our gut and cause health problems.
You can keep your healthy bacteria in check by:
- Cutting back on sugar – Bad bacteria thrive on sugar, so reducing it or cutting it out of your diet will help greatly!
- Getting more fiber in your diet – We’re back to whole foods again including fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. Fiber helps move material through your system and creates a healthy environment in which good bacteria thrive.
- Adding prebiotics to your diet – Prebiotics are nutrients that help create a healthy environment for good bacteria, and they actually help probiotics work more effectively. They’ve been shown to reduce gastrointestinal diseases as well as improve digestion and absorption. While there are now supplement forms of prebiotics, the best sources are natural food sources. Onions, leeks, garlic, green leafy vegetables and whole grains can be excellent sources of prebiotics.
- Add probiotics to your diet – Probiotics are organisms that impact digestion and help you maintain a healthy gut. You can obtain probiotics by eating fermented foods, eating yogurt or cultured foods, and by taking supplements. Common probiotics include:
- Bifidobacterium lactis
- Lactobacillus reuteri
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus
- Lactobacillus casei
If you’re adding probiotics to your diet via supplementation, take care to add them slowly. Adding too much, too quickly can cause digestive problems including nausea.
Step #4 – Heal Your Gut
There’s a good chance you have some irritation and inflammation in your gut already; most of us do with our standard American diet (SAD). If it isn’t repaired, it can become a problem down for you. Chronic inflammation is the precursor to most if not all chronic disease and premature aging. There are some easy ways to heal your gut including:
- Getting enough Omega 3 fatty acids – Eat cold water fish several times a week or take an omega 3 supplement. It reduces inflammation throughout your body, and healthy fats are great for your organs and vital systems.
- Get enough calcium, magnesium, glutamine and zinc – these nutrients have been shown to facilitate digestion and cellular repair as well as heal the lining of your digestive system. They can all be found in food sources. You can also take supplements.
- Cut back on unhealthy habits like drinking alcohol and smoking – both nicotine and alcohol cause inflammation throughout your body. If you are a drinker (more than two drinks a day) or a smoker, then cut back to improve your digestive health and heal your gut.
Step #5 Reduce Stress
Chronic stress releases the hormone cortisol. Cortisol negatively affects your immune system and increases inflammation. It also changes how you digest and absorb foods. Increased levels of cortisol slow down digestion which can lead to constipation and bloating. It also causes an increase in stomach acid which can wear away at the stomach lining.
All combined, stress causes significant damage to your digestive system. There are many ways to reduce stress including but not limited to:
- Participating in activities that bring you joy
- Massage and touch therapy
Remember that you don’t have to implement all of these steps at once. Identify one that you want to focus on and make it part of your life. Even something as simple as taking a daily prebiotic and probiotic as well as adding vegetables to every meal can make a significant difference in your digestive health.
This article was originally published on my site at http://thinstronghealthy.com/how-to-improve-gut-health/
Helping You Achieve Major Wellness in Your Life!
Cheryl A Major, CNWC
Cheryl A Major lives in Westford and is a Certified Nutrition and Wellness Consultant. Her TV show, Thin Strong Healthy, airs on WestfordCat and is an offshoot of her blog http://ThinStrongHealthy.com Cheryl offers ongoing information and personal health coaching to help you feel better and be healthier. Follow Cheryl on Twitter @CherylAMajor. She is also a full time residential Realtor with Coldwell Banker with more than 25 years experience.
Questions? Email Cheryl at [email protected] and be sure to put Health Question in the subject line. Your question and its answer will be included in a future article
P.S. Check out all the free recipes for great tasting healthy eating in the Recipe Section at http://ThinStrongHealthy.com