Have a Happy Gut in Three Easy Steps

It's smooth sailing when your gut's healthy!

It's smooth sailing when your gut's healthy!

The gas, the bloating, the tummy pain, the not so fun dash to the bathroom episodes – let’s face it, these complaints are pretty common.  And as a Naturopath, digestive complaints are a daily topic with patients in the clinic.  Regardless of whether or not you have obvious digestive issues, so many conditions can benefit from a little gut healing.  After all, as Hippocrates once said, “All disease begins in the gut.”

So what can be done? 

While we are all unique and proper treatment plans should be customized to each person, there are a few steps that can provide relief to those who need it.  If you’re one of these people, read on.

Ditch the sugar.

Did you know that the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends no more than 5% of your daily caloric intake to be from sugar?  That’s about 25 grams (or 5 teaspoons) of sugar daily for the average adult and includes products such as table sugar, syrups, fruit juices and concentrates, soft drinks and pasta.  Choose whole fruits and vegetables over processed foods and foods with added sugar to keep your daily intake below the 25 gram limit.

Try a probiotic.

There is so much emerging research out there in the world of functional medicine on the health benefits of probiotics.  We now know that not all probiotics are the same, with some strains being more beneficial for certain conditions than others.  Optimal gut flora is incredibly important for proper gut health and the easiest, most cost-effective way to get good sources of probiotics is through your diet.  Choose foods such as unsweetened kefir or yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi or fermented vegetables (my favourite are fermented pickles – check out my website to learn how to make them yourself).

Stress management

Stress can wreak havoc on many different systems of the body and the gut is no exception.  I’m sure many of us know what it’s like to have “butterflies” in our stomach or feel nauseous when we’re nervous.  Chronic exposure to stress has been shown to have a significant impact on gut function and can be linked to multiple digestive concerns including heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).  It’s important to find something that you enjoy in your life that helps you decompress.  My favourite way to unwind is with yoga – it’s the perfect integration of mindfulness and movement and is pretty easy to implement into anybody’s daily routine.

Small dietary and lifestyle changes can create such a positive impact on overall health.  From becoming more conscious of what you’re putting into your body (read: more whole, fresh food and less packed, processed “stuff”) to adding in daily stress reduction techniques, gut health is certainly attainable and can benefit a wide array of further health concerns.

References:

Kresser C. (23 March 2012). How stress wreaks havoc on your gut – and what to do about it. Retrieved from: http://chriskresser.com/how-stress-wreaks-havoc-on-your-gut/

CBC News. (5 March 2014). Lower sugar intake to less than 5% of daily calories, WHO says. Retrieved from: http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/lower-sugar-intake-to-less-than-5-of-daily-calories-who-says-1.2560639