You think about health and wellness constantly, you work out regularly, you try to eat right, and maybe you even follow the most awesome health experts on social media...
...so why do you have that occasional “gut feeling” that something is not quite right with your gut?
Yes—even those of us who are extra focused on our health can develop digestive issues or experience stomach discomfort. According to Johns Hopkins gastroenterologist Gerard Mullin, M.D. “As we age, the natural cycles slow down and don’t work as well.” Mullin says this results in heartburn, gas, bloating and constipation.
Fortunately, there are some simple ways to improve your digestive system, no matter your age. Reducing stress is probably the most important single thing you can do. Here are other helpful tips:
1. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
You’re probably tired of hearing this, but you need plenty of fluids to keep your digestive system healthy. I know...it’s about as basic as reminding you to breathe. But if you notice even a slight change in your gut health, the FIRST thing you should do is hydrate—even if you think you already drink enough water. Try making it a habit to drink a full glass of water during or after every meal. Water helps break down food so that your body can absorb the nutrients. It also softens the stool, which helps prevent constipation.
2. Substitute plant-based pastas.
Mamma Mia! I know some of you out there are gonna get a ladle upside the head for suggesting this to the cook when the work starts on that Sunday “gravy” (a.k.a. pasta sauce). But hey…even many Italian families are making the switch from traditional, carb-heavy pastas to more nutrient-rich, plant-based ones—and it’s not just the vegan Italian families (if there is such a thing).
And it makes sense. Gluten-free chickpea pasta has up to 40 percent fewer carbs than regular pasta, and it offers prebiotic fiber. Lentil pasta and black bean pasta both have good fiber per serving.
3. Pack the probiotics.
Taking care of your gut health can help your body’s natural defenses to combat stress and imbalances. And there are so many easy ways you can get healthy bacteria for the digestive tract these days. For instance, a daily probiotic can naturally help gut & intestinal health, curb gas & bloating AND boost your immune system.
Who knew? Sauerkraut is not just great on top of your hot dog, but also great for your gut because it’s loaded with prebiotics. While probiotics are live microorganisms intended to lend benefits to gut health, prebiotics are a group of non-digestible fiber compounds in food that help beneficial gut bacteria grow and keep harmful bacteria in check. Prebiotics decompose in the body and in the process, help produce other important compounds that improve your body’s ability to break down food. Sauerkraut also can increase your feeling of fullness and help with weight loss. Eat more sauerkraut!
5. Eat Reishi mushrooms. For hundreds of years in many Asian cultures, Reishi mushrooms have been used for many medicinal uses, including digestive health. The active ingredients in the Asian mushroom can change the bacteria in your stomach for the better. According to a 2015 study, researchers have found that by altering gut bacteria, Reishi mushrooms prevent and reverse symptoms of obesity in mice, including weight gain and insulin resistance.
6. Miso soup does more than you think.
Real miso is increasingly regarded as a protective superfood with numerous benefits that enrich quality of life and immunity. Fermentation of miso turns proteins into all eight essential amino acids for easy assimilation, and carbohydrates to simple sugars. It imparts beneficial phytonutrients, enzymes and vitamins. The fermentation process also breaks down trypsin inhibitors in soybeans, so they can be fully utilized. Good miso aids in digestion of all food, and you know how soothing and potently beneficial it is if you have had some in the past.
7. Take Apple Cider Vinegar every day.
Apple Cider Vinegar has been used for thousands of years as a way for many to take a detox cleanse and help the digestive tract. Havasu Nutrition’s Apple Cider Vinegar capsules offer a home remedy that can work for weight loss and for relief of occasional indigestion, heartburn and even dry skin. The gluten-free capsule helps you eliminate unhealthy gut bacteria, lower blood sugar, and gently cleanse the intestines and liver while promoting better circulation.
8. Know the difference between good fat and bad fat.
Put the candy bars and cookies away, and CUT BACK on the fried foods and red meat!
High-fat foods are not always conducive to a healthy digestive system. But there are some foods high in fat that will help your stomach feel better. These fats are in foods such as salmon, avocado, walnuts, coconut oil, ghee and cold-pressed olive oil. You may also add eggs to help increase the healthy fats in your diet. Slowly start to increase these foods in your diet and you will notice the healthy benefits!
9. Get up and move.
When you feel bloated or are experiencing stomach discomfort, I’m assuming the last thing you want to do is get up and move.
But a casual stroll around the neighborhood can help relieve the pain or discomfort. Even the smallest exercise routine increases blood flow towards the muscle, which can help move food through the digestive tract. It can also alleviate heartburn, gas, stomach cramps and constipation.
A healthy life means taking care of your insides, just as much as your outside. And these are just some of the many easy and often-overlooked steps you can take toward better digestive health. :)