Powerful habits for a healthy gut

This article will discuss important and simple habits for a healthy gut.

Your gut (Gastro-Intestinal Tract) is an intricate and sophisticated body system that is critical to your wellbeing. The gut starts at your mouth and ends at your anus.  It has 2 important functions;-

  • The absorption of essential nutrients from the food you eat
  • The elimination of waste products produced through your digestion.

Naturopaths and herbalists believe that a clean and well-functioning digestive system is much more important than we have previously recognized.  In fact, your gut is so intricately linked to the optimal functioning of every single other system in your body and especially your immune system and your emotional health.

It is important that you create healthy habits for a healthy gut early.  Here are important habits that help keep your gut healthy

Keep it natural

Highly processed foods, and foods that have been chemically processed, are hard on your digestive system.   The human body has not changed significantly in thousands of years, yet what we eat has become increasingly processed.  The body requires a lot more effort and energy to metabolise highly processed foods.  Consuming high levels of sugar, processed carbohydrates and chemicals play havoc with your insulin and cholesterol levels and increase the accumulation of fat in your live and abdomen. They can also lead to inflammation which is now known to be the cause of many chronic diseases.

Increase your intake of wholefoods, fruits and vegetables and eat foods that are closest to their natural state.

Chew your food slowly

Chewing your food slowly and mindfully helps to break down food so that it is more easily broken down into different nutrients by your body.  Your saliva contacts an enzyme that helps to break down starches from food. It also moistens food so it moves more easily through the oesophagus and into the stomach. While soft foods such as cooked vegetables and ripe fruits break down more easily, other foods such as meat products and highly processed foods, tend to need to be chewed more thoroughly. 

Chew slowly and steadily and wait to consume liquids until after you have finished swallowing.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

Your gut requires water to help keep it functioning and cleansed.  The small intestine is a long and narrow tube that measures over 6 -7 metres.  Water helps to soften food as it travels through your digestive tract.  Your body also uses water to keep cells, organs and soft tissue hydrated for optimal function.  In fact, water helps to maintain many bodily functions as well as your body’s temperature.

Drink water regularly, increase your intake of water-rich foods such as fruit and vegetables.  Drink a glass of water before your meals if you are trying to lose weight and avoid drinking whilst eating.  Wait until you have stopped eating to drink water to allow your body’s natural digestive enzymes to work effectively.

Increase Fibre in your diet

Fibre is so important for your body’s natural elimination processes.  Fibre helps to keep things moving through your digestive tract easily.  As well as fresh vegetables and fruit, other foods containing fibre include legumes and beans, nuts, chia seeds, quinoa and brown rice.

Intermittent Fasting

Giving your digestive system a break every now and then is also important for a healthy gut.  Intermittent fasting is where you do not ingest any food for a period of 10-15 hours between dinner and breakfast. This can give your digestion time to repair & recover from any overload.  Avoid snacking and minimise your intake of heavy foods.

Boost your intake of Fermented Foods

A healthy gut has a fine balance between beneficial / good bacteria and disease-causing bacteria. 

One of the most effective ways to keep a healthy gut is by introducing regular intake of traditional fermented foods which are rich in lactic acid–producing bacteria.

Through the process of fermentation, good flora and bacteria such as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria flourish in your digestive tract. The good bacteria are important because they break down sugars, starches and lactose in the food, helping to make digestion easier.  Once these good bacteria reach your gut, they continue to help the breakdown of the food you’ve eaten and keep out E. coli and C. difficile. 

Some of the best fermented foods for your body include Kefir, Yoghurt, Kimchi, Sauerkraut, Kombucha, Miso, pickles and Lassi.

Focus on your meal & limit distractions at meal times

When you feel stressed, your body moves into a fight or flight response.  This is the body’s natural, instinctual response to danger.  What happens is that the body amps up all its functions necessary to dealing with the perceived danger, whilst “unnecessary” functions, such as digestion are suppressed.  When you’re feeling stressed, your body’s digestion will not operate optimally and it can result in bloating, indigestion and reflux.  Stress can also trigger comfort eating in many people, meaning you could eat much more than you need to.

Avoid watching the news or an action-packed movie when eating. Try to focus on your meal and chew mindfully.  If you are feeling stressed, take several deep breaths in first and release. 

For professional support in getting you on track with a healthy gut, contact us today.  Zoom and phone consultations are available during lockdown.