Last updated on October 5th, 2019 at 08:13 pm
Improving your gut health can have enormous health benefits – weight loss, clear skin and happy brain are some of the major ones! This post is about some often ignored habits we need to work on and develop in order to have healthy digestion. These are 7 habits that can restore your gut health and rebuild your microbiome. This article isn’t specifically about a healthy gut diet – because this is very individual as different foods work for different people.
So let’s start with the very basics. Let’s start with the one thing we need a healthy gut for. Digesting food.
But then let’s research more, what is food, really? Well, according to my highly accurate research on the Google, here’s what it is.
You see food is really basically fuel. We need food to maintain life.
But Food Is Useless, Unless…
we can break it down. If we were unable to break down the food we eat to its very very tiny components called nutrients, it would be useless.
The body, our cells, need nutrients to function right. They need them for energy, for the ongoing maintenance inside the body, for us to be able to walk, talk, think, do anything.
Now, if you were to just throw a piece of broccoli at a cell without breaking it down to its nutrients, a cell wouldn’t know what to do with it.
And here we are. Evolution came up with a solution (omg that rhymes), far greater than any nutritionist or pharmaceutical company could ever do. Your gastrointestinal tract, or GI tract. That system inside your body is responsible for so many things we never think of while eating those burgers at McDonald’s.
The major to do of the GI tract is to take the food we buy, cook or plant, extract the nutrients from it and make those nutrients available to the body along with water and electrolytes, so your body can live.
If that’s not happening, if we’re not getting those nutrients, the body would not have anything to work with and we’d be literally falling apart.
Therefore people aren’t that dramatic with their claims that most diseases start from an unhealthy gut (although, it’s still a little dramatic). If your gut isn’t working right, your body will not get the fuel it needs every day to maintain itself.
Some health issues that come with an unhealthy gut include:
- chronic inflammation
- inadequate immune function
- cardiovascular disease
How to heal your gut for weight loss, better skin and healthier brain
Now let’s take a look at some basic and free things you can do to improve your gut health.
Somewhere along the way, we forgot that our mouths have a more important function than just talking and tasting food. The oral cavity is the first part of your digestive system. It’s where we break down that food using our teeth, the tongue and lots of saliva. Between 0,75-1l of saliva/day to be exact and fascinating. That saliva is an important part of the digestive process – it contains natural disinfectants (like IgA and lysozyme) and enzymes that help break down the food so that it can be then further processed in the stomach.
If you don’t chew your food and don’t break it down to a very smooth consistency – the next parts of the gastrointestinal tract – your stomach, small intestine and large intestine are going to get in trouble and have to work harder to try to digest and absorb something from that piece of carrot you didn’t chew.
Now, I’m not perfect with this and I don’t chew nearly enough. But once I read more on this topic I started doing it. I said I will chew each bite at least 15 times (I noticed on average I chew 4-5 times, so that’s a big step for me).
You know what happened?
- I don’t want to eat so much – it gets boring.
- The things that taste good when you actually chew them more than twice are fruit and vegetables. Not kidding, try to chew a cupcake 15 times. It’s disgusting.
- I can’t stuff my mouth with so much food. In order to be able to chew and not choke, I need to eat smaller bites – which again helps eat less. And well, if you read this article, you already know – helps you live longer.
So if you want to improve your gut health for weight loss, better skin and healthy brain – I highly, highly recommend to start chewing more. Start with 10 times, then go up. My goal is 30.
2. Try to relax
You’ve probably heard there’s a gut-brain axis and how your gut health affects your brain (here’s an article on this). While there’s undeniably a connection between your gut and your brain health, we don’t really know much at this point. I mean, no, there isn’t an evil genius bacteria sitting inside your gut telling your brain what to do or what not to do.
It’s far more complicated than that. It’s not a one-way street. It’s not like you eat something bad, your gut bacteria changes and you start being depressed all of a sudden. After all other things happen in life besides just eating.
So what I mean by that is that stress can also affect your gut flora and it’s diversity (the bacteria inside your gut) and this, in turn, can affect your mental health. It’s very much like a cycle.
So try your best to eat healthier, but also to reduce stress. Go on daily walks, spend time with people who make you happy, don’t sweat the small stuff and know everything will pass.
3. Get Moving
Another thing that can affect your gut health and your gut microbiome is exercise. It’s been shown in mice that exercise can change their gut microbiota – and these changes are different than the changes you’d get from just changing your diet. (study)
Regular physical activity has also been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer. (study)
So stay active throughout the day, don’t sit for hours at a time and walk more.
4. Practice intermittent fasting
I talked about caloric restriction and how it can extend your life, but it turns out – eating less and spacing out your meals can help your gut heal and recover.
In fact, intermittent fasting, again, changes the diversity of the bacteria inside your colon, which can then affect your brain health, your weight and your skin. With intermittent fasting, I find the simple 16:8 hours split works best for me (16 hours fasting, 8 hours eating).
Don’t go a week sleeping 6 hours a day – that’s not good. Sleep is probably the most important thing you can do for your body to heal. It’s a restorative process. It’s important for your immune system (which is also related to longevity), for repairing the damage that happens to our bodies throughout the day. And your gut and the microbiome are not an exception to that. Here are 7 things you can do to sleep better.
6. Get hydrated
And when I say that I mean drink water, but also consume more water-containing foods, obviously – fruits and vegetables. Because you might be drinking water, but if you’re also consuming dehydrating foods like coffee, chocolate, soy sauce, fried food – you’re not doing yourself, your gut and skin health any favor.
So make it a point to eat more foods that hydrate like cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli – pretty much most vegetables you know.
7. Choose the right diet for you
When it comes to digestion you’re the only one who can figure out which diet works for you. Some people need more fiber, while others don’t do well on so much fiber. Some people feel great following a vegan diet, others like the paleo diet. Both are known to positively affect the bacteria inside your gut. However, this doesn’t mean that you need to do either of these diets to be healthy.
In general, animal products do affect the gut microbiome negatively, while plants affect it positively.
Something else you want to look into is consuming prebiotic and probiotic, fermented foods like sauerkraut, yogurt, kimchi.
Practice these habits and be mindful of how different foods affect your body. When you notice something isn’t working for you – don’t keep consuming it. Not worth it. Eat more of the food that makes you feel alive.