Every cell of your body depends on a steady supply of nutrients to maintain normal function. Considering that all those nutrients pass through your digestive system, it makes sense that having a healthy gut is critically important for your overall health.
At his practice in Deerfield Beach, Florida, Michael H. Tarlowe, MD, helps patients keep their digestive systems healthy with treatments and health screenings tailored to their needs. If you want to help your gut stay healthy, these eight tips can help.
1. Limit alcohol
While a little alcohol may be OK, drinking too much or drinking on a regular basis can disrupt your bowel’s “microbiome,” the colonies of good microorganisms that aid in digestion and bowel function. Over time, alcohol can lead to bowel irritation and inflammation.
2. Favor fermented foods
Many fermented foods are rich in “good” bacteria that promote a happy gut. Sauerkraut, yogurt, kimchi, and kombucha are popular fermented foods and drinks rich in these tiny, supportive organisms.
Yogurt is perhaps the most widely available fermented food, but beware: A lot of yogurt products are sweetened, which can “cancel out” the benefits from the beneficial bacteria and even lead to weight gain. Not all yogurt products contain live bacteria, so look for the words “live cultures” on the label.
3. Fill up on fiber
Fiber includes the bulk your bowel needs to keep moving regularly. Choose fiber-rich foods, like whole grains, nuts, beans, cauliflower, and green beans, to help “bulk-up” your stool and keep your bowel functioning well, while helping to prevent painful hemorrhoids and constipation.
What’s more, fiber is also a fave food of many of those helpful bacteria in your intestine. When you eat lots of fiber, you help your gut balance its natural colonies of good microorganisms for optimal bowel health.
4. Quit smoking
Smoking is bad for your health in so many ways, so it comes as no surprise that it affects your digestion, too. In fact, smoking affects just about every aspect of digestion, increasing your risks of stomach ulcers, reflux disease, liver disease, Crohn’s disease, pancreatitis, and colon cancer. It can also interfere with the treatment of these diseases.
5. Tame your stress
Everybody knows what it means to have butterflies in your stomach when you feel a little nervous. But when it comes to anxiety, those jittery feelings in your tummy are just the tip of the iceberg.
Stress increases your gut’s motility, which is one reason why diarrhea is a common side effect of stress. It also increases bowel secretions, and over time, that can take a toll on your gut bacteria, too.
6. Get moving
Regular physical activity keeps your digestive system moving, which in turn aids in normal digestion. Plus, getting regular exercise keeps your gut bacteria healthy, and it also supports microorganism diversity, which means your bowel benefits from having different types of healthy bacteria to promote optimal gut function.
7. Skip the sugar
Every day, the average American adult consumes about 17 teaspoons of added sugars. All that sugar increases your risks of lots of health problems, including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. It can also wreak havoc with your gut.
That’s because even though you may like sugar, your gut bacteria do not. If you think you can get around the problem by adding artificial sweeteners, think again: Artificial sweeteners also disrupt your gut microbiome, which means you can still have bowel problems regardless of which type of sweetener you use.
8. Make sleep a priority
Watching what you eat, getting more exercise, and managing stress can take some effort, so here’s an easy, no-brainer way to help your bowel stay healthy: Get some sleep. Sleep affects your gut function and health in several ways.
At a basic level, lack of sleep increases stress, which we know affects gut function and the tiny microorganisms that support a healthy gut. And, if you’re stressed, you’re also more likely to reach for unhealthy foods that take a further toll on gut health.
Lack of good-quality sleep can increase your risks and symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and chronic indigestion, and it may increase symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease, too. Ideally, you should aim for at least seven hours of sleep each night — and for added “points,” some data suggest sleeping on your left side helps your gut function better while you snooze.
If you’re having digestive issues, don’t ignore them — even mild symptoms could be a sign of serious underlying problems. To learn what’s causing your symptoms or to find out what other steps you can take to support a healthy gut, call 954-256-1842 or book an appointment online with Dr. Tarlowe today.