20 Actions for a Healthier Gut
- by James Lovette-Black PhD, RN, RYT
So much effort and massive resources are used in our search for a healthier gut. Evidence is rapidly emerging that the gut-brain connection is one that determines the quality of our health and longevity, as the gut-brain appears to be part of a unified immune system (National Institutes of Health – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15656872 and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17088044 ), functioning as a “seventh” sense.
Here’s a list of actions to promote a healthy gut, strong immune system, and a healthier brain through nutrition and lifestyle changes that embed protecting and nurturing our gut into one’s life.
- Read labels on food items and learn to look for added sugars, the sodium content, the saturated fat content. Buy food items that have low added sugar, minimal sodium, and minimal saturated fat. Buy foods that contain ingredients that are naturally occurring. If you see a lot of additives to food items, get healthier foods, instead.
- Eat prebiotics, root veggies and others that set up your gut to be healthy and produce probiotics, like those found in kimchi, sauerkraut, and yogurt.
- Eat foods that naturally contain probiotics.
- Avoid processed foods that strip phytonutrients and add chemicals.
- Eat adequate amounts of healthy proteins, ensuring that most of it comes from beans, legumes, and non-meat sources, as they are healthier.
- Eat adequate amounts of fiber every day and get it from food. Avoid using fiber supplements unless instructed prescribed for a specific medical condition. Always seek the most natural foods to treat constipation or irregular bowel movements and get medically evaluated if these conditions persist for more than a few days or are short-term and problematic.
- If you eat meat, ensure it is properly prepared and thoroughly cooked.
- Limit the quantity of food you eat, stopping well before your mind tells you that you are full.
- Ensure you are adequately hydrated and make water your number one beverage.
- Avoid drinking beverages with added sugars. This includes fruit juices, carbonated soda, and numerous mixed cocktails.
- Avoid drinking alcohol or minimize the amounts.
- Drink herbal teas and learn which ones are healthy for you.
- Chew your food thoroughly and mindfully appreciate its flavors and characteristics.
- Avoid over the counter (OTC) medicines that negatively impact your gut, by searching online for “NAME OF OTC MEDICINE and impact on gut bacteria”, and limit your use of these substances. These include antacids, probiotics, and numerous common OTC drugs.
- Avoid using laxatives or stool softeners that are OTC meds.
- Avoid eating for at least two-three hours before bedtime. If you are hungry near bedtime, eat a piece of fruit.
- Ensure you have a colonoscopy when your health clinician tells you it is time for one.
- Unless you have no other choice (and there are plenty of other choices for most people), do not blindly seek or accept prescription meds that alter your gut, for instance, as a way to treat reflux or heartburn. Ask the prescriber if this med will cause changes to the gut and seek healthier alternatives.
- Add more walking to your day, as it destresses the body and provides countless benefits to the gut and brain.
- Learn progressive relaxation techniques through studying meditation. There are many apps to help and many places to learn.
Choose to live better by making healthier choices and by slowly integrating changes. Build on health and generate higher wellness.
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