The way we live our everyday lives can significantly impact our bodies digestive system, and feeling the slightest bit of abdominal pain, cramps or acid reflux may mean it’s time to make a few lifestyle changes.
More than 40% of the population worldwide suffer from symptoms not related to diagnosable gastrointestinal disease.
As part of Optibac’s latest report ‘Gut Health in the US’, the team has teamed up with Dr. Alex Ruani, Chief Science Educator at The Health Sciences Academy, on 5 simple nutritional and lifestyle adjustments you can make today to boost your gut health and overall mood.
💁Improve your quality of sleep
Your gut has a direct link to your brain and poor quality sleep can disrupt the rhythmic production of hormones in the body, including gut hormones like ghrelin which make us hungrier during the day.
Research has found that just two days of sleep deprivation increased the chances of fat gain, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
Dr. Ruani says, “To ensure sufficient, quality sleep, it helps to build a relaxation routine before bedtime, limit the use of blue-light devices in the evening and activate screen filters, and avoid caffeine consumption at least six hours before bedtime so falling asleep doesn’t get delayed.”
Health experts also recommend paying attention to portion control, as larger portions can disturb digestion and avoid eating late at night as your body will start converting food into energy and eat something before your body starts to wind down.
However, also avoid sleeping on an empty stomach causes blood sugar levels to drop and interferes with the body’s ability to sleep well. Kiwis are one of the best fruits to eat before bed, rich in serotonin and antioxidants, research found that people who ate two kiwis one hour before bedtime found that they fell asleep faster and had better sleep quality.
Gut health and mental health are interconnected, as the cells in our gut are responsible for most of the production of serotonin, known as the ‘happiness hormone’.
High levels of stress can increase your heart rate, shutting down non-essential bodily functions like digestion.
Dr. Ruani highly recommends exercise as a stress management mechanism. “Try to engage in physical activity and in relaxation techniques like controlled breathing. It is equally important to work on our coping skills to build internal strength and resilience to life stressors. This can help dim the stress response in the body and its negative effects on gut health.”
💁Alter your diet
What you eat has such a big impact on your gut, and too many excess sugars, high-fat foods or citrus-rich foods can prevent you from absorbing the essential nutrients.
Consuming more fiber-rich foods, such as whole grains, dark green vegetables and chia seeds will help food move through your system more easily or quickly.
To help boost serotonin levels, consume foods rich in tryptophan such as;
- Eggs- high levels of protein in eggs can significantly boost your blood plasma levels of tryptophan
- Cheese- another great source of tryptophan
- Pineapples- for decades have been known to boost serotonin levels
- Tofu– a rich source of tryptophan and calcium
- Salmon– high in tryptophan and helps balance cholesterol and lower blood pressure
- Nuts and seeds– an excellent source of fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants
Try to limit excessive sugar consumption as much as possible, including sweetened fruit juices, fizzy drinks, cookies, cakes, sweets, and sweetened dairy products are some of the most irritable choices.
💁Try a low FODMAP diet
For those who suffer from problems such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), it is best to avoid any FODMAP foods. These are fermentable foods that contain simple sugars, found naturally in fruits and milk, or can be produced commercially and added to foods to sweeten or prevent spoilage.
High FODMAP foods include:
- processed foods containing high fructose corn syrup, sorbitol, and other artificial sweeteners
- fruit juices
- agave, honey, and many other sweeteners
- condiments, such as jam, relish, and hummus
Unfortunately, many highly nutritious foods, such as figs, apricots, and avocados, are also high FODMAP foods. You may want to follow a low FODMAP diet if you are experiencing problems with your gut, meaning cutting these out from your diet completely and then gradually adding them back in, allowing your digestive system to gradually tolerate anything irritable.
Dr. Ruani says, “If there are foods you may suspect you’re not tolerating or not digesting well, try keeping a food and symptoms diary to see if you notice any patterns between your intakes and the severity of your digestive symptoms. If you notice current symptoms worsen, the next step is to make an appointment with your doctor or a gastroenterologist as soon as possible.”
💁Repopulate your gut
Everyday life is a battle for the gut, as it is constantly fighting any harmful bacteria we may ingest along with antibiotics which can kill both the good and the bad bacteria.
Fortunately, you can begin to change your gut flora with your next meal.
Research shows that our gut bacteria are very responsive to what we eat and bacterias begin shifting almost as soon as you change your diet, which includes eating more probiotic-rich foods.
Dr. Ruani says, “When fiber is ingested by gut bacteria, the byproducts they release include butyrate, a substance that is associated with the repair of our gut lining and the reduction of gut inflammation.”
Ingesting helpful bacteria directly from probiotic-rich foods will also help gut repair. These can include:
- Fermented milk– kefir, yogurt, cottage cheese
- Fermented vegetables– sauerkraut, miso
- Fermented cereals– sourdough bread
There are also several great probiotic shot drinks. These are ideal in the morning with an empty stomach, as well as liquid or freeze-dried probiotic supplements. Optibac Probiotics One Week Flat is a recommended short-term 7-day course of natural bacteria that can be taken daily in a glass of water.