The Gut Health and Nutrition Connection
How to improve your gut health with the right diet and supplements
Your digestive tract is a massive network of nerve cells composed of 100 million neurons producing over 30 different types of neurotransmitters! The gut has been called the ‘second brain’ because of the bidirectional superhighway connecting the brain and the gut; what happens in one directly impacts the other. There is an undeniable connection between gut health and overall well-being, so let’s dive into how you can improve gut health with the proper diet and supplements.
How critical is a well-functioning digestive system?
Your digestive system plays a significant role in your overall health. It influences almost every other system in the body, from the heart, skin and brain to sleep cycles, immunity, energy levels and mood. How can you tell if your digestion is functioning as it should be? If you are experiencing one or more of the following, you could benefit from some adjustments:
- Diarrhea or loose stool
- Heartburn/acid reflux
- Skin conditions like eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis
- Constantly stressed, tired and anxious
Fortunately, tweaking your supplement regimen, diet, and lifestyle can significantly improve digestion.
*Pro-tip: Consult your healthcare practitioner if you have experienced digestive discomfort for a prolonged time. Get checked out to rule out anything more serious. Please don’t ignore it.
Your gut microbiome, or gut flora, refers to the microorganisms that live in your digestive tract, and it requires an adequate balance of healthy bacteria. When your gut flora is balanced, your body is better equipped to combat harmful bacteria, yeasts, and parasites so that you can focus and perform at your best. Gas, bloating, and indigestion caused by a dysfunctional microbiome can affect your motivation to exercise, performance levels, and overall quality of life.
The use of probiotics can help maintain a healthy balance of ‘good’ bacteria in the gut. Ideally, look for a product with numerous strains of bacteria (including bifidobacteria and lactobacilli) and a CFU count of at least 10-15 billion. Probiotics can repopulate friendly bacteria when taken over a certain period (such as two weeks), followed by a break. As part of your supplement regimen, consider taking a probiotic. Talk to a Naturopath or nutritionist at your local health food store to learn exactly what supplements to take and how long.
Digestive health is heavily influenced by what you eat. The key is to include probiotic-rich foods, eat a variety of nutritious foods, and watch your quantities since too much food eaten at once can overwhelm your body’s ability to break down food. Here are some ways to improve your gut health through nutrition:
- Eat fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, kombucha, kefir, and yogurt. These foods are full of healthy bacteria and a positive addition to your regular diet.
- Consume a diverse range of foods to diversify the range of nutrients and bacteria. Eat lots of fruit, vegetables, legumes, and high-quality protein sources. For ideas of new foods to consume, check out our blog posts Our Top 10 Superfoods We Are Adding To Our Diet and Greens You Should Be Incorporating Into Your Diet.
- Enjoy anti-inflammatory foods, such as leafy greens, olive oil, berries, cruciferous vegetables, and fatty fish.
- Eliminate inflammatory foods as much as possible, such as those high in sugar, saturated fats, and refined carbohydrates.
- Remove foods that can impact digestion, especially if you notice sensitivity, such as spicy foods and alcohol.
- Eat fibre-rich foods, such as flaxseed, lentils, broccoli, berries, whole grain bread and pasta, apples, leafy greens, and Brussels sprouts.
Eat slowly and chew food thoroughly so it is more easily broken down. Take a few breaths before savouring your meal.
How you live your life plays a significant role in digestive health. Here are some changes you can make that will not only improve your workout performance but will enhance your overall well-being:
- Prioritize sleep, getting 7 to 8 hours per night. Lack of sleep causes stress and affects dietary choices. A dark, cool, quiet bedroom is optimal. Create a regular evening routine where you stop eating at a specific time, wind down and get into rest mode to help regulate your body’s circadian rhythm.
- Minimize stress as best you can. When stressed, the body produces hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, that inhibit digestion. The body shifts into ‘fight-or-flight mode,’ focused on surviving, not thriving. Stress can also cause flare-ups of other underlying conditions, such as ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome.
- Incorporate relaxation-inducing activities such as walking, yoga, being out in nature and breathing practices. While your workout routine creates an agile and strong body, it also supports a resilient mind, so you’re better able to navigate life’s challenges.
- Drink lots of water to help break down food, transport nutrients, and avoid constipation.
- Stay physically active to increase blood flow to muscles in your digestive system, improving nutrient absorption.
Support whole-body health, starting with an optimally functioning digestive system.
If you’re looking for more information on which supplements would be right for you, visit us in store and have a chat with one of our experts. We can also be reached on Facebook and Instagram. Now it’s your turn to tell us, how do you incorporate greens into your diet? Be sure to tag us! We are #ReflexNation.