3 simple tips for better gut health
You may have noticed a huge uptick in the mentions of gut health in recent years, and unless you are a nutrition/health/well-being geek like me, you may have just breezed past this news.
So I’m going to bring your attention back to it for a moment.
what’s the big deal with gut health?
Well, it turns out that our gut (think about it as the lower part of the digestive tract) is a crucial part of our immune system.
That’s right! The health of our intestines is intricately linked to the health of our nervous system—literally. The physical connection between our gut and our brain is the vagus nerve, the longest single nerve in our bodies.
If you thought most of our nerve cells reside in that seemingly all-powerful organ, the brain, think again: you have more nerve cells in your gut than in your brain!
Which, when you really consider it, is a good thing for us because we can’t directly “touch” our brains to make them healthy—and we can communicate directly with our guts: we do it three (or more) times a day through the food we put in our mouths.
And, because in my practice, “It’s the food—and it’s more than the food,” I want to add that beyond our food choices, our lifestyle choices can also affect our gut health and, consequently, the health of our immune systems, our nervous systems, and our brain health.
You’ve doubtless heard the expression, “You are what you eat,” the implication being that healthier food = healthier you. Yes, and … I’m going to take it a step further and say, “Your body can only be as healthy as the food it can digest.”
And digestion is the realm of the gut, so if you can’t digest the food you’re eating and absorb the nutrients from it, all the green smoothies in the world won’t do you any good!
symptoms of gut health issues
Many of the conditions that result from gut health problems can share similar symptoms, which include:
- Bad breath
- Brain fog
- Fatigue/low energy
- Food sensitivities
- Gas/bloating and cramping/urgency
- Intolerance of carbs, especially of fiber and/or beansLoose stool, diarrhea, constipation, or a combination of these unpleasantries
- Mucous in the stool
Phew—had enough yet?
Most of my clients are women 40+ experiencing burnout, and those two factors—burnout caused by stress and entering midlife—are two of the primary reasons our gut health can decline.
- Stress—especially the chronic type that is a precursor to burnout—plays a large role in gut health.
- Aging may also causes a shift in gut health due to changes in dental health (including how your teeth fit together—or don’t—after years of use), snowballing of poor diet and lifestyle choices, and medications that are often prescribed as we age.
Our gut plays a big role in the functioning of our endocrine (hormone) system, and as we women hit midlife, it’s especially important to maintain our gut health so that our hormonal changes are as smooth and symptom-free as possible.
having the guts to be healthy
Gut health is a huge topic—way too much for a single blog post!
And if this information feels like a lot of heaviness and hard work, I don’t want you to leave this post discouraged.
There are many actions we can take to improve our gut health—I always recommend you start by reading The Good Gut. It’s written by two scientists who also happen to be married and have kids, so not only do they write in plain, clear English (as opposed to scientese), they also provide very simple recommendations you can put into practice at home with little to no added expense.
Want to get started right away? Here are a few recommendations from me!
- Eat fermented foods: fermented veggies, kombucha, kefir, yogurt. Note that they should be unpasteurized, and that care should be taken with this suggestion if you have issues with histamines/allergies.
- Chew your food thoroughly—20–30 times per bite (!) is ideal. Have you ever counted how many times you chew your food? I’m betting it’s a lot less than 20–30 times per bite….
- Add fiber to your diet, aiming for 35–45 grams per day, preferably from food, not from a supplement. Build up to that amount slowly to avoid constipation, gas, bloating—especially if you don’t each much fiber currently. If you don’t eliminate (i.e., poop) regularly, get ready to poop more!
make the connection
Intrigued? Want to learn more? Join me and the other members of the Foundations of Wellness for Women team—plus special guest Dr. Vickie Modica—for a virtual retreat all about gut health on Saturday, January 16! (At the very least, you will be able to laugh along with me as I do my first virtual cooking demo.)
[Image licensed from Shutterstock]