The topic of gut health has become increasingly important as the correlation between the health of the gut and overall wellness has been uncovered. Your microbiome is full of bacteria of all shapes and sizes that are impacted by the nourishment you provide your body, as well as how you live. This beautiful array of bacteria shapes your mental and physical health, and has the ability to turn genes on and off that may cause — or reduce — your risk of developing debilitating diseases. While many nutritional factors affect gut bacteria, tackling your lifestyle habits can be a quick and efficient means to improving and restoring beneficial microflora. In this article we will uncover all the ways to naturally heal your gut with lifestyle hacks intended to nourish gut flora and restore health. (Source)
Why Do I Need to Heal My Gut?
Leaky gut, or intestinal gut permeability, is a condition in which the intestinal mucosal barrier is broken down, compromising overall health. As a result of this broken barrier toxins, antigens, and bacteria are released into the bloodstream, causing inflammation as the immune system attacks pathogens and substances that should not be there. (Source, Source)
The mucosal barrier is in place for proper digestion and absorption of nutrients. When this barrier is compromised it may cause gastrointestinal symptoms of bloating, gas, food allergies and sensitivities, as well as brain fog and fatigue, increasing the risk of developing larger issues as time goes on. Feeling poorly and being plagued by digestive issues is common but not at all normal. (Source, Source)
The Standard American Diet (SAD) consists of processed and packaged foods with little to no nutritional value containing high amounts of fat and sugar, lacking in fiber, and inflammatory additives. This way of eating cannot be considered true nourishment as the SAD has led to increased development of chronic and inflammatory diseases. In addition to poor diet, poor lifestyle habits play a large role in gut bacteria too. Stress, lack of exercise, poor sleep, poor hydration and toxins have contributed to the decline in gut health. (Source, Source)
How Is Gut Health Related to Autoimmune Diseases?
About 70%–80% of our immune system lies within our gut. Intestinal permeability is a factor in poor health outcomes due to the fact that the function of the immune system depends on the health of the gut. In addition to genetic predisposition, there appears to be a link between poor microbiome health and the development of autoimmune diseases. Healing the gut may sound intimidating, but small habit changes that progressively repair the intestinal lining may markedly improve your overall health. (Source, Source)
Heal Your Gut 101
The benefits of providing proper nutrients and nourishment to discourage bad bacteria and promote digestive health are endless. As stated before, the foods you eat are very important but so is the way you live!
Behind every gut that needs healing is a body in need of rewiring its nervous system to manage stress more effectively. The autonomic nervous system, which controls bodily functions you don’t have to think about such as your heart rate and blood pressure, is divided into the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) and the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). Learning how to balance the two systems will help you manage a healthy nervous system overall. In this article, we are focusing on how to promote better gut health by transitioning to that “rest and digest'' state. Read on to uncover the 5 lifestyle hacks you should adopt to begin gut healing sooner rather than later! (Source)
1. Mindful Eating
There is always so much emphasis on which foods to consume for better health, but how you eat is just as important. Research has shown that a stressed digestive system cannot properly absorb and utilize nutrients, and may lead to gastrointestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Reducing stress is crucial for proper digestion and gut healing in general. (Source)
Take a moment to think about your last meal. If you remember what it tasted like, how it smelled, the texture, and so forth, then you were pretty involved in your meal. Many of us will simply remember what we ate last by the indigestion we experienced from inhaling said meal. It may feel as if there is always too much to do and not enough time to do it, but being present body, mind, and soul at meal times may help your digestive system do its job just a little bit easier. Here are some tips to help you start practicing mindful eating as soon as your next meal.
Slow down to speed up — chew your food thoroughly, even if you run the risk of being the last person at the table. Studies have shown that chewing each mouthful least 30 times promotes efficient digestion by breaking food down so it is more easily absorbed by the body. To practice this, make a conscious effort during meal times to count chews until it becomes a habit. Try placing your fork down between bites and truly lean into this new way of dining. (Source)
In addition to chewing, practice diaphragmatic breathing to alter stress, activate rest and digest, and improve absorption. This method of breathing can be practiced throughout the day, but engaging in deep breaths before you eat is an act of meditation that will truly benefit your gut. Besides affecting the gastrointestinal system, deep breathing is beneficial for vagus nerve stimulation, managing stress disorders, and healing for those with chronic respiratory disease. (Source, Source)
Life is stressful and you cannot always control it. What you can control is how you react to stressors, and one way you can manage future responses better is through your breath. Diaphragmatic breathing is simple and effective, and the slow act of deep, rhythmic breathing can help bring your body and mind into a state of calm. Placing one hand on the chest and the other over the stomach, breathe slowly in through your nose, feeling your belly rise and fall with each deep breath as the chest minimally moves and the diaphragm contracts. De-stress from your head to your toes with this simple breathing tool. (Source)
2. Increase Water Intake
Most of us recognize we could drink more water to be better hydrated, but how does water affect your gut health? Inadequate intake of fluids may result in constipation as the stool becomes hard and dry from lack of water, making it difficult to pass. An imbalanced gut microbiome, or gut dysbiosis, may cause constipation issues.
If you struggle to stay hydrated, begin each day with a glass of water to prep the digestive tract to begin transporting nutrients and waste products, maintaining optimal gut health all day long. The total amount of water you need each day will vary according to your environment, your level of activity, and other factors, but generally speaking you want to take in about 2.7 L of fluids per day, with about 20% of that coming from the food you eat. Keep in mind that more is not always better — overhydrating may throw off your electrolyte balance, causing low sodium and other health concerns. (Source, Source, Source, Source)