It might not seem so, but the gut is actually one of the most important areas of the human body to keep balanced and healthy. While we’re taught about the importance of the food you put in your body and how it can trigger weight loss, there isn’t always a discussion early on about how your intestines and stomach are tied to your brain. In fact, the gastrointestinal system and the brain are very closely connected, so maintaining a healthy gut is not only good for your physical health but plays an integral role in your mental health.
While we have all been adjusting to stress and varying work conditions lately, it has been more difficult to prioritize our healthy habits. But if you’ve been experiencing turmoil with your mental health, inexplicable discomfort, symptoms, or weight fluctuations, it could be time to integrate habits to protect your gastrointestinal tract.
1. Take probiotics and prebiotics
The first thing your doctor will recommend to you if you’re experiencing physical discomfort in your intestinal or stomach area is a probiotic. Probiotics are healthy bacteria that, when consumed, help boost the number of good bacteria in your digestive tract.
Probiotics can be found in:
YogurtTempehKefirSauerkrautKombuchaMisoSome cheesesCapsule form. Taking a probiotic capsule will likely yield positive physical and mental results if taken daily.
If you’re really lucky, you’ll get into a good routine taking a probiotic that also includes prebiotic, which is a plant fiber that is food for the probiotics. Many supplement companies are beginning to combine the two, further enhancing the benefits.
2. Upgrade your diet
Your diet can greatly affect your gut’s health, especially since that is how the food is processed. Making sure to get enough leafy greens in your diet – seriously, these are a game-changer – and pay attention to the way even healthy foods make you feel. As your body ages, it can develop intolerances you may have never experienced before. It’s important to pay attention to any discomfort and what it might be triggered by.
Always, always consider reducing the amount of fatty and sugary foods in your diet. Foods high in sugar are linked to bad digestive health, and can greatly affect our mood and physical health throughout the day. (Hello, sugar crash!)
3. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
Making sure you are hydrated will greatly benefit your digestive system, as it promotes your mucus lining, keeps your intestinal tract clean, and your digestive system balanced. Other added health benefits, of course, include aiding with skin elasticity and firmness, clearing up skin issues and decreasing dry skin and eczema. All in all, water will remove toxins from your body and help restore oxygen to your cells, so it’s kind of an all-in-one experience.
As with anything, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Look up the recommended amount for your body type or ask your doctor. Be sure to take smaller sips during meals, as larger gulps of liquid can water down the acids and bacteria inside your stomach that break down food, causing indigestion.
4. Develop a calming habit
When a person is stressed, the gut microbial levels shift drastically, which can negatively impact the gut’s functions. Lowering your stress levels – be it from outside sources, anxiety, or health issues – is key to a balanced and properly functioning gut. Meditation is often suggested to help regulate the body’s stress triggers, resulting in a healthy and balanced gut barrier.
Other popular stress-relieving activities include going on a walk, emotional freedom technique (EFT), breathing exercises, reiki healing, yoga, and more. Any one of these activities will work as natural anti-inflammatories for your body. Trust us, your gut will thank you.
5. Routinely get a proper night’s sleep
We’re not talking 3-4 nights of really good sleep before your doctor’s appointment so they think you are taking care of yourself, or only rewarding yourself with a solid 7-8 hour night of sleep when you feel accomplished enough for it. One of the most common signs of sleep deprivation is a stomach ache or cramping, and sleep just isn’t a luxury for your health or career. Do what you can to give your body and your mind the rest it needs and the time to recover and balance all of its systems. It’s a necessity.