Nutrition is imperative for a healthy gut and digestive system.

Gut health has become a focal point in nutrition science in recent years. As time goes on, we are discovering all the complexities but importance of a healthy gut and microbiome. First, what is a healthy gut exactly? A healthy gut is one that is free of disease, digestion issues, such as IBS or chronic constipation, and has a variety of plentiful beneficial bacteria. Typically, when you first hear the word bacteria you may automatically assume unhealthy. However, on the contrary, we have trillions of bacteria living in our body, many of which are not only beneficial, but crucial for a healthy mind and body. So how do you keep your gut health and good bacteria, aka probiotics, flourishing? Here are a few ways you can start improving your gut health and feeling your best:

  1. Prioritize Probiotics – these are beneficial bacteria that assist with digestion regulation and function. They are naturally found in our body, but are also sourced from certain fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, tempeh, miso and sauerkraut (vinegar-free). Of course, you can also take probiotics in supplement form to get the most bang for your buck. Ideally a combination of probiotic-rich foods and supplements will ensure you get as many as possible to keep your gut balanced, healthy and strong.
  2. Add in Antioxidants – these oxidative stress-fighting compounds perform miracles for our body. Studies show they can not only help with longevity and fight against age-related medical issues, but they also help protect against things that can destroy our gut health. An antioxidant-rich diet involves a balance of plant foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Really, the more variety, the better.
  3. Fill Up On Fiber – just like antioxidants, the more variety of different fiber-rich foods the better. Why? Because each food brings something new to the table (pun intended). For example, fiber is found in oats that also supply calcium, potassium and magnesium. Another source of fiber is blueberries that offer a myriad of benefits including antioxidant resveratrol, and vitamin C. Aim for 25-38 of fiber per day to get the full effects.
  4. Focus on Anti-Inflammatory Foods – inflammation, especially when chronic, is what contributes to most ailments. While we can’t necessarily always detect inflammation in the body, if you’re struggling with a lot of health issues, its likely inflammation is playing a role. What helps to fight inflammation are foods like olive oil, avocado, chia seeds, fish oils, and even turmeric powder.
  5. Stop Excessive Stress – sure, we can’t completely prevent stress, but there are definitely strategies to manage it better. Having positive habits like exercising, meditating, talking with friends and family regularly, and practicing proper self-care is key to keeping stress at healthier levels.
  6. Have Good Sleep Hygiene – sleep should be a priority in life. We need sufficient sleep to function, period! Insufficient sleep can also wreak havoc on our gut. Make sure you shut everything down so you can get enough shut eye.
  7. Add in Regular Activity – regular means at least 3 days per week but perhaps a little everyday fits better with your lifestyle. You don’t have to do anything fancy or specific to benefit. Simple walking, stretching, or taking dance classes will suffice.
  8. Limit Sugar and Sweeteners – sugar can contribute to inflammation and artificial sweeteners can be toxic to our gut. Find alternate ways to enhance the flavor of coffee, yogurt or oatmeal with cinnamon, cocoa powder, fresh fruit or a little bit of plant stevia as needed.
  9. Avoid Excess Alcohol Consumption – its totally okay to have a glass or 2 of wine at dinner. In fact, red wine is a great source of antioxidants. However if you’re going through bottles by the week, its time to rethink your lifestyle. Alcohol is a type of poison on the body and thus it does affect the balance of microorganisms in our body required to stay healthy and strong.

Overall, research on gut health is still young and evolving. There is so much more to understand, learn and translate into everyday life. For now, do what you can to keep yourself healthy and strong, but don’t worry if you can’t follow every single one of these tips, every single day. The more you do the better, and even a little bit goes a long way.

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Stay Healthy!