You know your gut needs fixing, but where to start? If you’ve been asking yourself, “How do I improve my gut health?” or “How do I change my gut bacteria?” then stick around because we’ve got answers. We know making diet and lifestyle changes can be overwhelming, so let’s start with the basics.
Here are 9 Daily Habits to improve your gut health.
The health of your gut is strongly connected with the health of your brain. Emotional reactions can trigger physical symptoms, as you know all too well if you’ve ever felt butterflies in your stomach, or thrown up before a big performance. That connection goes both ways, which you may have experienced the last time you caught a stomach bug and started to wonder if life was even worth living. Many studies have shown that stressful life experiences are related to the onset of gut-disrupting conditions including IBS, IBD, Crohns and GERD.
We are all under constant stress, but taking steps to manage and reduce it will benefit your gut and your overall health in positive ways. Taking up yoga, meditation, or reflecting on what you are grateful for each day will benefit your mood, stress level, and your gut.
Get Enough Sleep
The constant feedback between gut and brain can affect your sleep as well. Your microbiome produces many neurotransmitters including GABA, dopamine, and serotonin, which help regulate sleep and mood.
If your microbiome isn’t operating effectively, your sleep cycles may be off too. A study conducted on rats that were put in a condition to simulate obstructive sleep apnea had developed different gut bacteria by the end of the study!
The take-away from this: get your sleep. We know it’s difficult to find the time, but if good health is a priority for you then getting enough sleep should be too.
Drink Your Water
Drinking enough water has a positive effect on the balance of good vs. bad bacteria in the gut. It helps stimulate digestion and the clearing of waste. Many experts recommend drinking half your body weight in ounces per day. That means that a 150lb person would aim for 75oz of water daily.
Fiber Fiber Fiber
The easiest way to make a dietary change is by replacing the bad food with the good. Instead of focusing on deprivation or restriction, focus on making better choices. If you must eat junk, ok. Just start with something healthy first. Our recommendation? Fiber. It’s pretty easy to understand how eating more fiber cleans out your gut. If you have too many bad organisms running the show, fiber will help you get rid of them.
While you’re clearing out the nasty organisms, you also want to stop feeding them. Harmful organisms such as Candida actually feed on sugar.
If you can’t go cold turkey just yet, begin replacing it with more natural sweeteners such as raw honey or fruit.
Modern farming results in bigger quantities and greater affordability of food, but the hybridized version of wheat grown today actually has different proteins than the wheat our grandparents ate. Some people can’t tolerate these proteins, and their immune system goes into attack mode. This leads to inflammation and weakened gut lining. Try subbing pasta for potatoes, rice, or the ever-popular zoodles for 30 days and see how you feel.
In our last post we talked about the importance of diversity in your gut. Studies have shown that western diets high in red meat and dairy actually reduce the variety of organisms in your gut and specifically reduce numbers of two different beneficial bacteria.
There are a LOT of dairy alternatives on the market these days. While there may not be the perfect substitute for your favorite cheese just yet, the options keep getting better.
Eat Healthy Fats
Your brain is intricately connected to your gut, and it needs healthy fats to thrive. This includes coconut oil, olive oil, and avocados, to name a few. These types of fats break down in ways that protect our gut and stimulate the production of immune cells.7
More Fermented Foods
You’re eating a lot of fiber and cleaning out your digestive tract daily but you need to fill it back in with good bacteria too. You can do this by popping probiotics but a more natural way is to include fermented foods (i.e. pickles, kraut, and kimchi). A forkful once a day is a great place to start.
To learn more about how to creatively work more fermented food into your daily routine, read Why You Should Eat For Your Microbiome (And How To Do It Easily).