Your gut plays an integral role in your overall health and wellness, a connection that is only beginning to be fully understood and appreciated. Taking steps to improve your gut health could help you stay healthy in other ways, too.
At his practice in Deerfield Beach, Florida, Michael H. Tarlowe, MD, provides patient-centered care to help patients maintain a healthy gut while avoiding issues like hemorrhoids, constipation, and fissures.
Here, learn nine simple lifestyle changes he says could help you improve the health of your digestive system.
1. Focus on fresh, whole foods
Processed foods contain chemicals, additives, and unhealthy fats that wreak havoc on your digestive system. Instead of reaching for convenience foods, stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy, eggs, meats, poultry, and fish to create a balanced diet full of important nutrients.
2. Increase your fiber intake
Fiber keeps your bowels moving regularly, and as it digests, it provides a ready food source for beneficial bacteria. In addition to fruits and veggies, choose whole grains, beans, seeds, and nuts to add fiber deliciously. When buying breads or pastas, look for whole grains rather than refined flours.
3. Cut back on sugar
Americans love sugar. In fact, the average American consumes about 17 teaspoons every day — a little over a third of a cup.
But eating a lot of sugar takes a big toll on your gut health, destroying beneficial bacteria that aid in digestion, while also increasing your risk of inflammation. Sugar also alters special cells in your gut that help protect you from diabetes and obesity.
4. Consider prebiotics and probiotics
Fermented foods like yogurt with live cultures, kombucha, miso, kimchi, and kefir contain tiny microorganisms that help keep your gut healthy. Check the label before buying to make sure the product you choose contains live cultures. Foods like onions, garlic, and unripe bananas offer additional food for your gut microbiome.
5. Stay hydrated
Digestion uses a lot of water, and if you’re even a little dehydrated, it can show up in stomach cramps and bowel changes. Water also helps keep the mucus lining of your gut healthy and functioning properly. Most of us should aim for about eight glasses of water each day, avoiding caffeinated beverages, alcohol, and sugary drinks.
6. Learn to manage stress
Most of us have experienced changes in gut function when we’re stressed — nausea, diarrhea, and stomach pain are all common examples.
Learning to manage stress has a direct bearing on the gut-brain axis, a communication system that connects your gut with the emotional and cognitive centers of your brain. Yoga, meditation, and deep breathing are all simple ways to help manage stress while optimizing this important biologic system.
7. Aim for daily exercise
Regular physical activity benefits your overall wellness, as well as your gut health. Not only can exercise help you maintain a healthy weight and optimize your metabolism, but it also promotes a healthy gut microbiome and reduces harmful stress, too.
8. Get plenty of sleep
Feeling guilty about your weekend naps? Don’t! Getting plenty of rest is important for your gut health, and your overall physical and emotional wellness, too.
Lack of sleep upsets the balance of healthy bacteria in your gut, and it increases stress levels, too. On top of that, feeling tired increases the chances that you’ll make poor food choices that can affect your gut health, too. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night, every night.
9. Don’t ignore subtle symptoms
Gut issues can cause a variety of symptoms, and in early stages, those symptoms can be subtle — or easily confused with something else. Stomach pain, excessive gas or bloating, changes in bowel habits, rectal bleeding, and heartburn are all signs that your gut is in distress.
Instead of ignoring these symptoms or treating them with “home remedies,” it’s important to have them evaluated to rule out more serious underlying problems that require prompt treatment.
Optimize your digestive health
A healthy gut is important for your quality of life and for your overall physical well-being, too. To find out what’s causing your digestive symptoms and how we can help, call 954-210-7127 or book an appointment online with Dr. Tarlowe today.