When you think of improving gut health, it is typically geared towards decreasing that bloat, and having daily predictable poops - eliminating that distention, constipation and/or diarrhea. Most of us have dealt with these issues at some point in our life, whether it’s situational or has unfortunately turned more chronic. This discomfort can affect everything from how you feel in your clothes, to your confidence living your life.
The good news is that there are many things you can do to help create a healthy gut.
Creating a healthy gut comes down to eating a diverse diet that supports a healthy microbiome. This means fibre, probiotics, and nutrient-rich foods. Here are a few other important tips to know when wanting to support a healthy gut.
1. Increase insoluble fibre like green beans, steamed cauliflower and nuts. These foods are not digested in the small intestine, they go directly into the large intestine where it is broken down by the bacteria that live in your gut. This process creates healthy by-products and lowers your risk of constipation and intestinal conditions like diverticulosis, hemorrhoids and colon cancer. Insoluble fiber also draws water into your colon, making it softer and easier to pass with less strain on your bowel.
2. Probiotics (aka the good bacteria) are essential for keeping good balance. You can find them in yogourt (even dairy free yogurts, such as coconut!) and other fermented foods like miso, tempeh and kombucha. Prebiotics help encourage the growth of probiotics in our gut. Now before you race to get a probiotic supplement, make sure you create a healthy environment for the good bacteria by eating prebiotics foods like whole grains, vegetables, nuts and fruit such as bananas (as green as possible) and nectarines.
3. Food intolerances: certain types of foods can create an irritable gut, a good indication of this if you feel the discomfort right after a meal. However some experience other symptoms like skin flare ups, dipped energy levels, and even joint pains - so watch out for these symptoms too. Dairy, gluten, and sugar are common offenders. Food intolerances can show up even 7-10 after ingesting, so make sure you talk to your integrative health provider to test you, if you wish to investigate further.
4. Hormones - As if we don’t have to deal with enough! For women, gut issues can happen right before and during your period. This is a result of a hormone imbalance between estrogen and progesterone, especially in what’s called the ‘luteal phase’ of your cycle. This hormonal imbalance can lead to water retention, that bloat feeling, and increased carbohydrate cravings. This is also a time when energy seems to dip - making those sugar and caffeine cravings even more tempting. One tip is to fill your plate with healthy carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, squash, and healthy fats like avocado, especially that one week before your period. If you are post menopausal, incorporate these foods at least once a week. Choosing foods that build progesterone will help balance your system, and alleviate many of the gut related symptoms associated with PMS.
If your gut symptoms of bloating, diarrhea and constipation seem to linger or get worse, please visit your health care practitioner for further testing, to make sure there are no serious underlying conditions.
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