7 Ways To Improve Your Gut Health & Digestion
“Gut health” has almost become a buzz word in society today. But what does it really mean to have a healthy gut? Well, the billions of microbes that live within our gut make up our microbiome. This balance of microbes, as well as a few other important factors, can determine the health and functionality of our gut. Because the state of our microbiome directly impacts our digestive, hormonal, immune, and even mental health, it is essential that we take good care of our gut! We can also support gut function by doing our part to improve digestion, which in turn helps to promote optimal gut health. The following tips are science-backed strategies to help you enhance your gut health and stimulate digestion, therefore improving your overall wellbeing!
1. Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.
Fiber, which is found in plant-based foods, is necessary for our microbes to thrive and survive in the gut. And all of the microbes in our gut require different types of fiber! So when we only eat a few fruits and vegetables, or only a few food groups, some microbes do not get adequate food to survive in our gut. A diverse microbiome is a healthy microbiome! This means eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables will feed a wide variety of microbes, and therefore support a healthy and diverse gut.
Some examples of high fiber foods: asparagus, artichoke, whole grains, berries, pears, and legumes like chickpeas.
Research has shown that exercising regularly not only improves digestive regularity, but also improves gut health and microbiome diversity! Working out also boosts healthy endorphins which stimulates digestion and cellular repair, which is important for gut health! The Physical Activity Guidelines of America recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week. Choosing forms of movement which you truly enjoy will help elevate endorphins even more and also helps to ensure exercise stays part of your routine! One of my favorite ways to get moving and build strength is yoga. Check out my FREE Yoga Sculpt Classes to get moving and grooving today!
3. Develop a meditation or mindfulness practice.
Have you ever heard the expression; the “gut-brain connection”? This refers to our enteric nervous system which actually lies in our gut, and is connected to our stress levels and emotions. When we are anxious or stressed, our digestion and gut health can be significantly impacted. Try this Mindful Eating Technique: Take 10 deep breaths before you eat and after you eat. This helps stimulate your parasympathetic nerve response, aka the “rest and digest” response which helps your body digest properly.
4. Eat dinner early.
Your gut microbes actually have a circadian rhythm! This means that they prefer to digest food during the day vs late at night. Enjoying dinner about 3 hours before you go to bed helps to ensure your food is fully digested, helping to avoid bloating or indigestion. We all love late-night pizza every once in a while, but opting for an early dinner when possible will help you sleep better and digest more efficiently in the long term!
5. Drink fluids 30 min before or after a meal.
Try not to drink too much water during a meal as this can dilute digestive enzymes that you need to digest your food! A few sips is totally fine, we just don’t want to overload our gut with tons of fluid which will dilute vital enzymes. Opt for sipping water throughout the day, 30 min before or after your meal. If you are drinking fluid with your meal, opt for warm water, ginger tea, or even a turmeric latte to help stimulate digestion.
6 . Chew slowly and effectively.
Your food should be a soup consistency before your swallow. A bit gross, I know, but super helpful for your digestive system! If we don’t fully chew our food before it hits our gut, indigestion or bloating may occur. The less work our gut has to do to digest our food, the more readily nutrients will be absorbed!
7. Get enough sleep.
When we don’t get enough sleep, our stress hormones spike which negatively impact our gut health and digestion! Helping yourself get about 8 hours of sleep per night will promote balanced hormones, as well as optimal gut health. I love using lavender essential oil spray, calming rain sounds, as well as an eye mask to help me fall asleep and stay asleep! Here’s one of my Guided Meditations for Sleep and Relaxation.
Maintaining a healthy gut goes hand in hand with living a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Gut health definitely doesn’t have to mean expensive products or cleanses! Finding balance between rest and movement, while also supporting your gut with a variety of fiber-filled foods is the best way to go. Keep in mind these few simple tools to help promote optimal digestion and overall health!
Molly Pelletier is a Nutritionist and Master of Science in Dietetics Candidate. She is also a 500-hour certified Yoga Instructor who frequently shares yoga sculpt classes and health tips on her youtube channel. For more gut health and digestion tips, check out @zucchini.who on Instagram and Molly Pelletier on YouTube.