Many of us are taking extra steps to stay healthy right now. And while wearing a face mask and social distancing have become the norm, we’ve also started to look within to develop a deeper understanding of how our current habits impact our health. From diet and sleep to stress and exercise, everything we do plays a role in how we think, feel, and act.
Our gut is linked to nearly every system and organ in our body, including our brain, digestive system, immune system, and hormones. It’s also where nearly 80% of disease stems from. Our gut is so intricately connected to our overall health, there’s a reason they say to listen to your gut when you feel like something is off.
As you explore ways to stay healthy and safe right now, your gut is an ideal place to start, especially because it’s largely impacted by diet and lifestyle. We do have some control over what we eat, the job we interview for, the family we build, the relationships we keep, and the environment we live in, so we can make changes to our current diet and lifestyle that positively impacts our health and overall life.
The best part?
Getting started is easy! Simple tweaks to your daily routine can help boost your immunity, protect your gut, and make you feel better.
Here are five quick and natural tips to up your immunity and gut health right now:
1. Incorporate more prebiotics and probiotics into your diet through quality whole foods.
Prebiotics enhance your gut flora by improving digestion, nourishing good bacteria, reducing inflammation, supporting immune function, improving cholesterol levels, promoting hormonal balance, and lowering the risk of weight gain, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
The benefit of prebiotics is that they are plentiful in food, so you don’t need to add another supplement to your diet! You can find prebiotics in:
Probiotics are beneficial microorganisms that boost your gut flora. While taking supplements is one way to support your gut, ensuring you’re consuming a varied diet high in fruits and veggies is key to increasing microbial diversity! Here are some natural food sources to up your probiotic intake:
2. Make sure you’re staying hydrated throughout the day.
This is one of the easiest and cheapest habits you can start incorporating into your daily routine for a healthy gut. Sipping on warm water throughout the day is thought to help stimulate digestion, clear out ama (an underlying cause of health issues), and boost metabolism.
H20 flushes out the body’s toxins and bad bacteria while helping you stay full longer, promoting mental clarity and digestive regularity, and providing your skin with a healthy glow! And while you’ve likely been told to drink about eight glasses of water daily, bio-individuality is key when it comes to proper hydration! If you’re an active teen who plays basketball after school every day, your water needs will be vastly different than those of a middle-aged woman who’s stationary for most of the day. Nonetheless, the general recommendations are 2.7 liters of water per day for women and 3.7 liters per day for men. Plus, don’t forget that about 20% of daily water needs are met through diet, so it’s also important to eat hydrating foods, such as celery, spinach, pineapple, and grapefruit.
Here are three tips for incorporating more water into your diet:
- Add fruit! Lemon gives water an extra boost of vitamin C, but you can also try berries, melon, or cucumber. These fruits add both flavor and natural sweetener to the water, which may trick you into thinking you’re drinking juice.
- Invest in a BPA-free, reusable water bottle. You can carry it in your bag when traveling or keep it at your desk at work. Sometimes hunger signals can be confused with thirst, so having a full water bottle will ensure you’re never dehydrated.
- Instead of turning on your coffeepot as soon as you wake up, reach for a glass of water first! Quenching your thirst in the morning will help stimulate your bowels and kick your digestive system into gear.
3. Reduce stress. (It’s one of the biggest killers of good gut bacteria!)
We recommend checking in with yourself to better understand what’s stressing you out. Are you consistently under tight deadlines at work? Are you a working mom or dad struggling to juggle both a career and a family? Try pinpointing one or two things that really cause your head to spin and write them down. Then make it a priority to unwind by making one or more of the following lifestyle modifications. Remember, de-stressing looks different for everyone!
- Practice breathing exercises.
- Incorporate physical activity, like running or yoga.
- Silence your phone or disconnect from your device.
- Take a bath with essential oils.
- Treat yourself to a massage or facial.
- Take a nap without guilt.
- Go for a walk or grab coffee with a friend.
- Treat yourself to something nice.
- Get lost in a new book you’ve been wanting to read.
- Have a night out with your partner (or cook something special at home).
4. Get a good night’s sleep.
Don’t skimp on sleep. In Ayurveda, getting a good night’s sleep is crucial to maintaining optimal gut health. When we sleep, we enter the rest and digest state. Remember, the basis of good health is our ability to digest food as well as emotions. Giving your body time to rest will ensure that your digestive and nervous systems have time to recharge for the next day. Ayurveda also recommends sleeping on your left side if possible. This employs gravity to naturally encourage food waste to move from your small intestine to your large intestine and finally to your colon, where it will be ready to be eliminated when you wake up.
Adequate sleep is essential for optimal health, but it is often one of the first things to go when we’re busy. During the winter months, when we may be more exposed to germs, getting adequate sleep can be an important way to support yourimmune system. In fact, a large study found that women who sleep less than five hours a night have a significantly higherchance (70%) of pneumonia compared with women who sleep eight hours. Individuals who sleep less than six hours a night may also have an increased susceptibility to colds.
5. Move more!
Movement supports digestion by increasing blood flow and stimulating the bowels. Have you ever had to hustle to the bathroom during or after certain exercises? There’s a reason for that! Moving for just thirty minutes a day five times a week can improve your gut and overall health. In fact, there are specific exercises you can do to support your microbiome, including yoga, tai chi, and aerobic activities. Certain yoga poses, including seated spinal twist, cat-cow, and child’s pose, focus on stretching, lengthening your abs, and breathing. Plus, taking long, deep breaths in any position helps stimulate your digestive tract! Whether you opt for walking, running, cycling, or jumping rope, there are a variety of aerobic exercises that can help you maintain a healthy weight, relieve stress, and reduce inflammation, constipation, and bloating.
A great way to support digestion is by going for a relaxing walk after meals. Taking just a 15-minute walk after eating cansignificantly help aid digestion. Walking has also been shown to help balance blood sugar levels.
If walking outside is not an option, you can still get steps by walking around your apartment or home!
Article by: Institute for Integrative Nutrition