If there’s one aspect of our health we don’t think about nearly enough, it’s our gut health. Your gut is basically its own ecosystem, and millions of bacteria work super hard to help you break down food and use it to fuel your body. In fact, your gut health affects your whole body! An unhealthy gut can lead (or contribute) to anxiety/depression, chronic pain, and a weakened immune system, to mention a few. This means it’s really important that we do what we can to keep our gut ecosystem happy, healthy, and thriving!
Fortunately, this doesn’t have to take a lot of work! Simple changes and additions to your routine can go a long way in making sure you have a healthy gut. Here are 5 super easy, super effective ways to keep your gut in tip-top shape!
Eat Fermented Foods
Fermented foods are loaded with probiotic bacteria (the good bacteria!) and adding some into your diet is an awesome way to ensure a constant supply of healthy, hard-working gut bacteria. You can buy fermented foods like kimchi, kefir, probiotic yogurt, sauerkraut, and kombucha at most grocery stores, and they’re often way cheaper than buying probiotics.
I like to make my own fermented foods at home! They’re really easy to maintain and definitely the most cost-effective way to incorporate fermented foods into your diet. Here are a few of my favorites, along with some resources to help you get started:
Milk Kefir: the only things you need to buy for this are kefir grains (which you can find here — they’ll multiply over time so you only need a tablespoon or so to get started) and organic whole milk. I love making kefir smoothies for a quick, daily probiotic boost. Here’s a super helpful article that covers all the basics of making milk kefir.
Fermented Veggies: That’s right, you can make your own fermented veggies! They make a great addition to salads or can be eaten alone, as a tangy snack or side dish. All you need are your veggies of choice, salt, water, and some mason jars. This article is an awesome beginner’s guide!
Homemade Sourdough Bread: Sourdough bread has a bunch of prebiotics in it that promote gut health, and making your own sourdough will make you feel like a pro baker! You can read more about the health benefits of sourdough here, and check out my beginner’s guide to sourdough here.
Eat More Plant-Based Foods
Your gut loves lots of leafy greens, veggies, and whole grains! These foods are naturally stocked with prebiotics and will help populate your gut with healthy bacteria. One of my favorite easy go-to meals is white rice and roasted veggies (and some organic free-range chicken if I have it on hand!).
I even feel a noticeable difference in my body after eating lots of veggies and whole grains — I have way less brain fog and am generally more energetic. This doesn’t mean there’s no place for red meat, dairy, or even the occasional dessert in your diet! Moderation is key, and because the typical Western diet contains way more processed, sugary, meat- and carb-based meals, moderation is something we need to be especially cognizant of.
You knew this one was coming, right? Exercise is on virtually every list that has to do with healthy habits, but you may not be aware of how much exercise affects your gut health. When you move, your body keeps moving (if you know what I mean), and exercise helps diversify the bacteria in your gut.
I’ve honestly never been naturally inclined to exercise. I know it’s important, but I’ll take a book and a couch over a treadmill any day. A few years ago, however, I started practicing yoga, and it was so thrilling to find a type of movement that I look forward to doing! Here’s a great yoga routine specifically designed with gut health in mind:
Get on a Regular Sleep Schedule
Sometimes you’ll have a super late night or a really early morning, and you likely feel a little off the following day. That’s because your body — all of your body — really appreciates routine! Just like a disruption to your routine causes you to feel a bit off-kilter, major disruptions to routine (or just a lack of routine altogether) can negatively impact all aspects of your health, including your gut health.
Try getting on as regular a sleep schedule as you can. This means going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time every day (yes, even on weekends!). You’ll probably still have the occasional night out and that’s totally fine — fun and quality time with friends are super important too! But if you can stay on a regular sleep schedule most of the time, your body will thank you.
Cut Out the Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners have been marketed as a healthier alternative to regular sweeteners, but that’s not the case when it comes to gut health. In fact, artificial sweeteners can be pretty toxic to those good gut bacteria. This includes sweeteners like aspartame, which is commonly found in products like diet soda and sugar-free ice cream. Honestly, no sugar is great for you, but when it comes to gut health your best bet is to stick with foods containing natural sugar (as an occasional indulgence, of course!).
Bonus Tip! Avoid Antibiotics if You Can
Sometimes antibiotics are necessary to fight off infection, and you definitely shouldn’t avoid them if they’re needed. Nowadays, though, doctors tend to prescribe antibiotics preventatively or as a “cure-all” rather than to treat an active infection. Antibiotics kill all the bacteria in your body — the good and the bad. You should only take them when you’ve exhausted your other options, and make sure to add probiotics into your routine while you’re on antibiotics to replenish the good bacteria in your body. Take antibiotics and probiotics on an alternating schedule — if you take your antibiotics in the morning, take probiotics at night, or vice versa.
We hope this provided some helpful insight into the importance of gut health! Are you going to incorporate any of these tips into your routine? Let us know in the comments!
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