When your gut is not healthy, the rest of your body suffers. Our gut helps regulate our immune system by providing nutrients needed by the body to stay healthy. If we are eating the standard American diet which is full of processed foods with very few nutrients, the gut cannot help the immune system stay healthy. In fact, when eating the standard American diet, the gut and immune system become inflamed and weakened. Disease and illness start setting in when the immune system is weakened.
Keeping your gut healthy and strong does not have to be hard. Below are 9 easy ways to restore your gut health.
#1 EAT MOSTLY PLANT-BASED
What we eat is the easiest way to restore our gut health. By fueling the body with mostly fruits and vegetables, we give the body nutrients to make energy. When our body makes energy, the digestive and immune systems are strong enough to keep disease and illness away. Eating plant-based does not mean you can't have meat or fish. It simply means that you are choosing smaller portions of meat or fish and larger portions of fruits and vegetables. If you want to experiment with not eating meat or fish, try one day a week. I find it much easier to eat mostly plant-based during the week. Weekends become a little bit harder since social activities may mean that fruits and vegetables are not largely available.
#2 EAT ORGANIC
When I tell people that I eat organic, the very first thing they comment on is how expensive organic food is. But things have changed! There are times that I can buy organic food cheaper than non-organic food. Organic options are found throughout the food store and prices have dropped. Eating organic helps you avoid chemicals and pesticides, which keeps your gut healthy. I strive for each meal to be at least 80% organic. I recognize it isn't always easy to find every ingredient with the USDA symbol on it. If you commit to buying organic for the staples you are always eating, it will help your gut health significantly.
#3 TAKE VITAMINS
While the food we eat provides necessary nutrients for our overall health, our food supply does not contain high enough levels of vitamins and minerals. The overuse of farmland means the soil is depleted of nutrients. Fast Company reported that growing a single crop on the same patch of land–saps the soil of nutrients that more diverse crops deliver. If the soil is depleted, the plants grown in it don't develop high levels of nutrients. Taking vitamins helps give the body high levels of nutrients that keep the gut healthy.
#4 MOVE YOUR BODY EVERYDAY
Are you surprised to learn that exercise is linked to a healthy gut? We mostly think about exercise as a way to strengthen our muscles, lose or maintain our weight and build endurance. But moving your body everyday results in a healthy gut. A six week study was done on adults measuring the good bacteria in the gut pre and post a regular exercise routine. The study showed an increase in short-chain fatty acids in the gut, which help reduce the risk of Type 2 Diabetes, obesity and heart disease. (Source: Healthline) Exercising does not have to mean spending hours at the gym. Even just 30 minutes of brisk walking is a great way to move your body daily.
#5 DRINK CLEAN WATER
The simple fact is that there are pollutants in our water supply. While some of it is added to keep it clean, such as chlorine, a lot of the pollutants are from chemicals used in the surrounding land. Chlorine has a harmful effect on our gut because it destroys the good bacteria. You can find out which chemicals are in your local tap water by going to the EWG Tap Water Database. The website has an article on what water filters to buy to help keep the water you are drinking and cooking with as clean as it can be. To keep water an exciting drinking option, put slices of lemon in it. Lemons are high in pectin, which is a prebiotic that feeds good bacteria in the gut.
#6 REDUCE EXPOSURE TO CHEMICALS
This is a hard one! Our lives are surrounded by chemicals. It has been reported that we have plastic in our bodies and babies are born with plastic in their bodies. While you will not be able to eliminate chemicals from your life, you can reduce your use. Here are some ideas to help reduce your exposure:
Shop with reusable shopping bags to eliminate plastic shopping bags from your house
Use mesh produce bags for loose fruits and vegetables
Buy beauty products that do not contain key chemicals such as triclosan and ethyl alcohol
Say no to handling receipts - ask for them to be emailed
Do not reheat food in a plastic container
#7 THROW OUT TEFLON COOKWARE
Teflon toxicity is real! The teflon coating on cookware only lasts about 5 years. Then it starts to degrade and leak into the food we are cooking. I don't know anyone who throws out cookware after 5 years. Buy either stainless, a great brand that I use is Homi Chef, or a ceramic coated toxic free brand such as GreenLife. Another great option is to use glass cookware for baking. Think about it this way, when you are buying clean, organic food, why would you want to cook it in toxic cookware?
#8 PRACTICE MINDFULNESS
Stress has a horrible, debilitating effect on our bodies. Harvard Health reports stress (or depression or other psychological factors) can affect movement and contractions of the GI tract, make inflammation worse, or perhaps make you more susceptible to infection. By taking time to relax, breathe deeply and calm the mind we are healing our gut. To start practicing mindfulness, carve out 5 minutes a day to sit down, close your eyes and focus on breathing deeply. I use a timer to ensure I don't stop too early or too late. It also helps me relax. If you have trouble keeping the mind clear of thoughts, there are plenty of free guided meditations online.
#9 ENGAGE IN SELF-CARE ACTIVITIES
It can be really hard to put ourselves first. We have to take care of the family, work, the house and try to remain social. With so many demands on our time, it is difficult to do activities that we enjoy just for ourselves. But it is really important that we do. By nurturing ourselves we reduce stress, become happier in our lives and can give more to others. Self-care is anything you like doing for yourself. It could be cooking, baking, exercising. gardening or getting a pedicure. Take the time to schedule some "me time" every week. When we take care of ourselves, our health improves.
I hope this article inspires you to incorporate the 9 ways you can use to restore your gut health. If you don't know where to start, just pick one and incorporate it into your routine. It is so much easier to stick to a new habit if you start small. Maybe you schedule practicing mindfulness two times per week. When you are comfortable with that routine, add a third day. If you try to do all 9 all at once, it will be overwhelming.
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