5 Simple Strategies for Better Digestive Health
Hot enough for ya? Summer is, by far and away, my favourite time of year. I love spring flowers and appreciate the crunch and colour of the leaves in fall but I feel most at ease and in balance during the hottest days of the year, for many reasons. I love being outside in nature and summer is usually the only time us Vancouverites get a reprieve from the rain. And as a bit of a workaholic, the heat demands that you slow down and makes afternoon naps seem like the most natural thing in the world. Both of those factors contribute to keeping me calmer and more in balance. The heat also encourages a fresher, healthier diet – I crave salads almost everyday so I know that I am more deeply nourished during the summer months. I have also noticed that hot weather does a pretty good job of regulating my appetite so I feel lighter and stronger, without having to give it much thought.
There is something else that all of these summer behaviours have in common: they contribute to a healthier digestive tract…and that makes for a healthier you. If your digestive system is out of whack, it can lead to pain, sluggish elimination (leading to a sluggish you) and inflammation. Better digestive health requires that you eat right, move more, and stress less and in the fast-paced world we live in, it can be hard to stay mindful on all three fronts. An ideal diet looks different for each person but in general, we eat more processed foods and fewer vital fruits and veggies when the going gets tough – which isn’t good for any one of us. Workouts are an easy appointment to skip when time is crunched and doing so robs your mind and body of the cleansing benefits of exercise. You may also be surprised to learn of the effects of stress on good digestion. We know that stress is caustic to good health but in fact, the link between your mental state and your digestive wellness is far more intimate than you might realize. Stress can alter the movements of the digestive tract, affecting how food is digested and absorbed; it can also rough up the community of healthy bacteria that live in your gut, causing inflammation and a multitude of other health concerns.
Thankfully, there is much we can learn from easy summer living to carry our good digestive health through the cooler months. Here are 5 Simple Strategies for Better Digestive Health
1. Manage stress
Stress avoidance is impossible but managing how you respond to, and frame the stressors in your life can improve your digestive health. Try practicing whichever stress management technique appeals to you – deep breathing, meditation, yoga, hiking, walking in nature or swimming – and do something daily, even if for only 5 minutes in the morning and another 5 before bed.
2. Eat thy veggies
More produce, please! All those fruits and vegetables have phytochemicals which will help calm inflammation in the digestive tract and their fibre will keep your beneficial bugs happily munching away and your digestive tract toned and moving along swimmingly.
3. Eat fermented foods daily
You must, you must, you must increase…the number of beneficial bugs you come into contact with! Eating unpasteurized sauerkraut, kim chee or kombucha are great plant-based ways to get your beneficial bugs. Homemade yogurt or kefir are also great options. And of course, my favourite fermented food is Bio-K+, a clinical strength fermented drink with 50 billion live active bacteria to support good digestive health.
4. Watch the excess sugars
Gnarly bugs like sweets so a diet too high in added sugars might contribute to an imbalance of nasty bugs in the gut, bringing digestive distress and inflammation with them. Ease up on the sugary drinks; choose sweet baked snacks less often than fresh produce and whole foods.
5. Move Mindfully
If you are plagued by digestive troubles, high intensity activities such as long distance running or boot camp-style workouts might aggravate your symptoms. Keep it simple with lower intensity activities such as weight training, walking, hiking or biking.
How do you keep your tummy tamed? Let me know on Facebook, Twitter or in the comments below!