A Healthy, New You
After the holiday season, you might be feeling a little sluggish and/or bloated, or you may have even put on a few pounds. First of all, don’t stress about it. What’s done is done, and beating yourself up over it is not going to help. Second, now is the perfect time to start nourishing your body with healthy foods and plenty of water. Getting back into proper exercise and sleep regimens is also important.
Whether or not you have made New Year’s resolutions, committing to healthy lifestyle habits will not only make you look and feel your best, but it will also go a long way for increasing your gut health and, by extension, your overall health.
Gut bacteria plays a huge role in our health. When our gut bacteria becomes imbalanced due to poor diet, stress, unhealthy lifestyle habits and antibiotic usage, it can result in uncomfortable symptoms like bloating, cramping and diarrhea. Even worse, poor gut health can lead to bigger problems such as obesity, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, liver disease, cancer and other chronic illnesses.
How do you know if you have an unhealthy gut? Depending on the severity of the imbalance, you can experience one or two symptoms or a range, which may include:
- Abdominal pain or cramping
- Gaining or losing weight unintentionally
- Increased inflammation
- Poor-quality sleep
- New skin conditions or worsening of existing skin problems
The good news is that with the right diet and cultivating other healthy lifestyle habits, you can improve your gut health dramatically. Eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of regular exercise, getting good-quality sleep, reducing stress, taking care of your mental health and avoiding antibiotics are all ways to reduce inflammation within the body and to help balance your gut bacteria. While all of these factors can improve gut health, one of the most influential ways is what you feed it.
Here are our top 10 tips for improving your gut health through nutrition:
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. Eating a majority plant-based diet with a wide variety of fresh produce is one of the best things you can do for your gut.
- Reduce your consumption of sugar, fat and processed foods.
- Make sure you are getting enough fiber. Fiber feeds your gut, helping gut bacteria to proliferate (in addition to helping with stool-elimination). High-fiber foods include whole-grains, beans, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
- Get more prebiotics in your diet, preferably from food rather than supplements. Prebiotics help promote the growth of good bacteria. Foods that contain prebiotics include garlic, onions, whole-grains, bananas and asparagus.
- Eat foods containing probiotics, which are live microorganisms that help populate your gut with good bacteria. Probiotics can be found in fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi and other fermented vegetables.
- Get enough omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 may help encourage gut bacteria diversity and overall gut health, and it can easily be included by eating fish/seafood, nuts and seeds.
- Go organic. When you can, choose organic produce and meats to avoid exposure to pesticides, fertilizers and antibiotics, all of which can disrupt the balance of your gut bacteria.
- Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water not only helps with digestion and elimination, but it also helps balance gut bacteria and improves the mucosal lining of the digestive tract.
- Slow down. Eating your meals slower and chewing food properly allows you to fully digest your food.
- Check for food intolerances. Sometimes, gut problems are triggered or worsened by eating foods that your body has difficulty digesting. Common trigger foods are gluten and dairy.
GastroIntestinal Specialists, A.M.C., treat multiple conditions and diseases of the GI tract. Our Board-Certified physicians have over 150 years of combined experience in providing quality care you can trust. To schedule an appointment, call (318) 631-9121 or click here.