Suffering with gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation and abdominal pain is no fun! It's embarrassing and gets in the way of being able to do all the things that you want to do. Plus, it is difficult to talk about because not everyone wants to hear about difficult bathroom habits. It can also be very isolating when dealing with an unhealthy gut. Being afraid to go out because your unsure when you will need to run to the bathroom is hard to explain.
Unfortunately, while gut health issues are prevalent in our society, it is not yet a health topic that we can talk about freely. Especially to those who aren't suffering or haven't experienced an unhealthy gut. In the United States, 22% of all adults were diagnosed with gastrointestinal conditions in 2018. (Source: Statista) But even if you haven't been formally diagnosed with a gut health issue, you know your body and how your gut health makes you feel. When your gut health is not right, it affects your entire life.
There is a very simple routine that can help promote a healthy gut. It will take some time to remember to incorporate the below steps into your lifestyle. Start slowly by practicing one step at a time. Once the step becomes part of your routine, add another one. Also, notice how you feel when you are practicing the step. Not every step will be appropriate for everyone. Our bodies are different and we respond differently to changes in our routine. If you listen to your body and notice how you feel, you'll find the steps that work for you.
#1 REDUCE STRESS
I cannot emphasize this enough. Stress is so harmful to our bodies. It wreaks havoc on our digestive system. When we are stressed it is harder to digest food, cause pain, bloating and stomach spasms. Stress can trigger diarrhea or constipation since it can change the good bacteria in our gut. (Source: APA) When we have diarrhea we are unable to absorb nutrients from the food we ate because it moved through us too quickly. When we are constipated, the waste that we need to expel from the body is stuck and can make us sick. There are a number of ways to reduce stress.
Meditation is a great practice to reduce stress. It doesn't have to be long unless you want it to be. There are plenty of free videos on YouTube that provide a 10 - 15 minute guided meditation to help reduce stress. Do this 5 days a week to increase relaxation and reduce stress.
Yoga can reduce stress since it focuses not only on deliberate movement but breathing while moving. If you haven't tried yoga, give it a chance. You don't have to be flexible because a skilled teacher will focus on your level of activity in the class.
Essential oils help manage stress and can be taken with you. When breathing in essential oils, the smell receptors in our nose sends messages to the nervous system. (Source: Healthline) Essential oils can be bought individually or as a combination product that can be bought specifically for stress relief.
Journaling is another activity that can help manage stress. Writing down your thoughts is a great way to get them out of your mind so that they aren't racing around. Once you write them down, read them in order to help let go of the stress that is bothering you.
Being outside is a great way to relax. Taking a quick walk outside can help release any pent up energy and give the mind a break from a stressful situation.
#2 EAT SLOWLY & CHEW THOROUGHLY
When we eat, we ingest air. Eating too fast means we ingest more air than we need to which causes our digestion to become impaired and unable to break down the food we've just eaten efficiently. Plus, if we aren't chewing our food into smaller particles, which is usually what happens when we eat fast, our bodies have to work extra hard just to digest the food. Slowing down to chew food into smaller particles helps the digestive tract absorb nutrients and process waste for release.
#3 DRINK MORE WATER
Everyone is dehydrated. We think we drink enough water but we don't. The general rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in water every day. If you weigh 100 pounds, drink 50 ounces. Water helps keep things moving! In fact 60% of our bowel movements are water. Constipation is a clear sign that you need to drink more water.
#4 GET A FOOD ALLERGY/SENSITIVITY TEST
You may be thinking, why would I take a test for food allergies or sensitivities? If I am allergic to something my body will tell me. Yes and no. Sometimes, it is really clear that a food does not agree with you. For example, as I got older, when I would eat yogurt, I immediately had gas, bloating and needed to go to the bathroom. So I knew that dairy was a trigger for me. However, it is not always so clear. Taking a food allergy test can identify what foods you should either eliminate from your lifestyle or just reduce from your routine. A popular way to try to figure out food allergies is to eliminate foods from your diet and then slowly introduce them and see how you feel. A food allergy test is faster and definitive. The test results are good for 5-7 years. Since our bodies change over time, our sensitivities to foods can change as well.
#5 EAT MORE FIBER
Fiber is the key ingredient to better gut health. Fiber is what helps move food through our bodies. It helps to bind waste and remove it from the body. Plus, fiber is the fuel for the good bacteria in our gut. When our gut bacteria is out of balance because we are eating processed foods that are high in sugar and fat, digestive health suffers. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables every day. A great goal to have is to try to eat 10 servings each day. It sounds like a lot but it isn't. Especially if you incorporate mid-morning and afternoon snacks into your routine.
Those are the simple activities you can add to your routine to promote a healthy gut. Which ones do you think you will try? Leave me a comment below and I'll be sure to respond back to you!
Do you think you may need help to resolve your gut health issues?
I'm a Certified Holistic Nutritionist specializing in helping people resolve their gut health issues so they can get back to living their best life.
Looking for healthy living tips and recipes? Join our email list here.