You’ve probably heard of the phrase, happy gut, happy life.
A healthy digestive system is fundamental to health, both physical and mental. Without good digestive health, a whole host of uncomfortable symptoms can arise. Things like indigestion, gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and more.
Whether the symptoms are short or long-term, they can significantly impact your quality of life.
The good news is that there are adjustments you can make to your diet and lifestyle that can help keep your digestive system running smoothly.
Here are five things you can do to improve your digestive health.
1. Keep Your Diet Clean
Choosing nutrient-dense, whole foods over processed foods promotes healthy digestion.
Whole foods are unprocessed (or minimally processed): whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, meat, chicken, eggs, and some dairy products.
But, in order to be considered a “whole food”, it needs to remain as close as possible to its state found in nature. For example, a baked potato is a whole food, whereas packaged potato chips are not. Corn on the cob is a whole food, and corn flakes are not.
Replacing processed foods with whole foods can keep chemicals, unhealthy additives, and preservatives to a minimum. In some cases, minimal processing is acceptable.
For example, nut butters contain just nuts and salt or unsweetened yogurt. Remember to check the food label of packaged foods. Reading the ingredients list can help you identify the extent of processing and check for added sugars or any other unhealthy additives.
2. Adequate Fiber Intake
Dietary fiber is essential for a healthy functioning gut. It keeps food moving through the digestive system, promoting regular bowel movements and reducing constipation risk which could sometimes lead to hemorrhoids. If needed, a hemorrhoid cream can help treat hemorrhoids along with a good fiber intake to prevent further gut problems.
Fiber also promotes a healthy balance of good bacteria in the gut. Good gut bacteria are crucial for optimal digestion, proper immune function, and for protection against inflammation.
You can get plenty of fiber in your diet by eating a variety of plant foods: vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. A good strategy to help increase fiber intake is to include a vegetable or fruit with each meal and snack. For example, carrots and cucumbers with hummus, celery with peanut butter, smoothie with kale or spinach, sprouted toast topped with avocado, and jicama with guacamole.
3. Increase Intake of Prebiotics and Probiotics
Both prebiotics and probiotics play a role in promoting a healthy gut.
Prebiotics are plant fibers that feed the good bacteria in your gut. Food sources of prebiotics are apples, oats, barley, artichokes, asparagus, cabbage, bananas, garlic, onions, fennel, legumes, dates, chicory, seaweed, and mushrooms.
Probiotics are living bacteria from foods or supplements that add to the population of good bacteria in your gut. Food sources of probiotics are yogurt and fermented products like kefir, buttermilk, kimchi, sauerkraut, soybeans, miso, and kombucha. You can also take a probiotic supplement. But check first with a doctor before taking any new supplements.
You can add a gut-friendly powder like this gut health supplement from Naked Nutrition to smoothies, shakes, or smoothie bowls for convenience.
Naked Gut contains both prebiotics and probiotics. Plus it contains additional nutrients like glutamine, which is one of the best gut health supplements to optimize digestion.
4. Stay Hydrated
Drinking plenty of water is vital for proper gut function. Water is involved with every gastrointestinal function: digestion, absorption, transportation, and elimination. Proper hydration supports and protects the mucous lining of the gastrointestinal tract. It also promotes a balance of good bacteria in the gut.
Plain water isn’t the only beverage that can keep you hydrated. Good alternatives are lemon or lime water, unsweetened iced tea, and sparkling water. It’s best to avoid sugary drinks for hydration.
5. Exercise Regularly
Regular activity not only keeps your body fit, but it also promotes good digestion. Exercise helps to stimulate the gut, increase intestinal activity, and promote regular bowel movements.
The timing of exercise is important. Your body needs proper time to digest a meal before exercising. A leisurely walk after eating is fine, but it’s to avoid intense exercise right after a meal.
You can customize your exercise plan to fit your lifestyle. Try a 30-60 minute walk, hike, or bike ride if you enjoy the outdoors.
If you love water, go for a swim. If you are limited with time try a 20-minute walk in the morning and a 20-minute walk in the evening. Just keep your body moving.
A healthy gut is foundational for physical and mental well-being.
When things go wrong with digestion, quality of life can suffer. Fortunately, there are a number of things you have control over that can help support optimal gut health.
Things like keeping your diet clean, choosing whole foods rich in fiber over-processed foods, staying hydrated, moving your body, and getting enough sleep.
Please note, if you are experiencing any persistent digestive problems, consult your doctor right away. It may be a sign of an underlying problem that needs medical attention.