How to Keep Your Gut Healthy & Happy
I’m teaming up with Nature’s Way to bring you some of my favorite tips on maintaining a healthy gut, because let’s be honest: a happy gut = a happy life. This post is sponsored by Nature’s Way.
“You are not what you eat, but what you digest and assimilate.” - Tony Robbins
I’ve read numerous books and literature on the importance of maintaining a healthy microbiome -- but like most things, the reality of this importance didn’t set in until I was experiencing these symptoms myself through fatigue, digestive discomfort, burnout and poor nutrient absorption in my gut.
After being diagnosed with small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) last year, I knew it was time to get serious about my gut health. This diagnosis is given when the bacteria from the large intestine make their way to the small intestine and cause an imbalance in the small intestine microbiota. As a result, this displacement of bacteria can inhibit the digestion and absorption of nutrients, causing symptoms such as the ones I experienced, among others.
Over the last couple of years, I have learned some key tips to support my gut health -- especially when I am on the go and traveling. Before I share my top tips for keeping your gut happy and healthy, I want to share some foundational information about the gut that might inspire you to bump it up on your priority list.
The gut has been dubbed the “2nd brain” because it can operate autonomously from the central nervous system and contains over 100 billion neurons that release neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, glutamate and norepinephrine. This second brain is what is known as the enteric nervous system, which is largely regulated by the body’s parasympathetic and sympathetic response. The enteric nervous system is connected to the brain/spinal cord through the vagus nerve.
80% of your immune system resides in your gut. Its main function is to protect you from pathogenic bacteria, viruses, and toxins from the food that you consume. Specifically, its lining protects you from unwanted particles entering your bloodstream, releases immunoglobulin antibodies (IgA, IgG) that identify and defend against those pathogenic invaders, and helps produce antibiotic-like substances to ensure homeostasis and harmony within.
90% of serotonin, commonly known as the “happy chemical,” is produced in the gut by our enteric cells. In addition to influencing our mood, sleep, and behavior, serotonin also assists with important GI functions such as peristalsis and overall digestive health.
Now that we’ve shined a light on these important immune / emotional / and mental health components of your gut health, here are some tips to keep it happy and healthy.
Tips to Keep Your Gut Happy:
Try digestive enzymes before your meals. Enzymes are responsible for a large part of the chemical breakdown of nutrients from the foods we consume. More specifically, an enzyme is a protein that catalyzes a reaction to speed up, slow down, or change a small number of chemical reactions. Typically enzymes end with “ase” or “in” and their names are associated with the foods they break down. For example, lactase is responsible for the breakdown of lactose (dairy), and lipase is responsible for the break down of lipids (fats). Therefore, in order to digest and absorb our nutrients, we must ensure we have the proper enzymes for digestion. I take my Nature’s Way Digestion with Enzymes with me everywhere I go because it’s a synergistic blend of enzymes and herbal bitters to help with my digestion!*
Stay hydrated, always! I can’t stress this enough. When we are hydrated we keep everything flowing.
Chew your food thoroughly. Through chewing alone you can signal your brain to release the important enzymes and gastric juices it needs for the proper breakdown and assimilation of your food. Aim for 25 chews prior to swallowing.
Notice how you feel after eating certain foods. When we explore the relationship our guts have with certain foods we become aware of what triggers symptoms and what leaves us feeling good. This awareness allows us to make informed food decisions that support a happy tummy.
Eat with intention. Digestive function is largely influenced by the body being in a parasympathetic state. Taking a moment to get present, breathe and give gratitude for the food you are about to eat can support your body in activating this rest and digest mode :]
Since adopting all of these tips and eating a whole-foods based diet I have been able to turn my gut health around and find a balance that works for me. When we are moving through a lot in life or feel stressed, our gut’s are likely going to let us know -- I know mine does. When it does, listen... and support it by taking some rest, eating foods that are easy to digest, and of course support your digestion with the help of enzymes.
I’m curious -- what has worked for you in supporting your gut health? I would love to hear from you in the comments section below.
More gut goodness is coming for you,
*This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.