- Charity Lawson, Nutritionist
8 Simple Tips to Support Your Gut
We all know that our gut is home to a variety of bacteria, and the makeup of these bacteria has an effect on our overall health. There are many ways we can improve the health of our gut, including introducing more fiber into our diet, drinking plenty of water and eating fermented food like yogurt or kimchi. Today we'll be covering 8 simple tips that will help your digestive tract stay healthy.
Fiber is a complex carbohydrate that feeds the friendly bacteria in our gut. We need to consume 25-35 grams of fiber daily for optimal health, however most Americans only consume about half of this recommendation (around 15g). Interestingly, studies show that supplementing with fiber can be just as effective, if not more so, than dietary changes in increasing the number of gut bacteria. Since our bodies can't digest whole foods that are high in fiber, they must rely on the community of microbes living in our gut to break it down into simple sugars for use.
We have all heard that we should be drinking plenty of water to help keep our bodies healthy. But did you know that the fiber found in fruits and vegetables is highly hydrating? Consuming foods rich in fiber can result in an increased need for fluid intake, as these fibers draw extra water toward the colon where they are excreted.
There are many fermented food products that contain good bacteria, including yogurt, kefir (a drinkable yogurt), sauerkraut and kimchi. Consuming these items will help improve your gut health. However if you don't like the taste of them there are other options, such as probiotic supplements or pills. These pills are typically high in either lactobacillus or bifidobacterium, both of which contribute to a healthy digestive tract.
The health of our gut bacteria has been linked with autoimmune diseases such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. In addition, when we maintain these healthy bacteria, we also improve our immune system's reaction to invaders like viruses and harmful bacteria. One way you can do this is by avoiding refined foods and choosing nutrient-dense whole foods instead. The best anti-inflammatory diet includes plenty of colorful vegetables, nuts, fish oil for omega three fatty acids, olive oil and herbs such as turmeric.
Stress is one of the biggest causes of low gut health, as stress hormones are damaging to the cells that line our intestines and also reduces the number of bacteria present. For many people, simply practicing a few relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation can make a big difference in their overall mental and physical health. There are also specific probiotic strains that have been shown to help improve mood and stress-related conditions.
Low gut health has been associated with chronic insomnia, especially in women who suffer from hormone imbalances like pre menopause, perimenopause or postpartum depression. Another strange fact is that people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are almost twice as likely to experience chronic sleepiness than those without the condition.
Antibiotic use is another contributing factor in low gut health. Whenever you take an antibiotic it kills off many of your bacteria, which upsets the balance. In addition, antibiotics can cause you to gain weight because it kills off the beneficial bacteria in your gut that tell you when you are full. Make sure that you have a great probiotic in your arsenal for general use, and be sure to add yogurt and other fermented foods into your diet, especially when you're on an antibiotic.
It has been shown that exercise causes small changes to the composition of our intestinal bacteria, and this is most evident if we increase our level of physical activity as opposed to just maintaining a steady routine. The best way to achieve this is to get at least 30 minutes of exercise, five times per week.
It is definitely worth doing some research into your own diet and lifestyle to get an idea of how you can improve your gut health. It won't be easy at first, but it will certainly start to pay off in the long run. Ready to get your gut on the right track? Call us at (830) 992-3042. We're here to support you on your journey.