So What's Holistic Gut Health?
If one of your goals is to improve your gut health, you’re probably focused on eating lots of fiber, low-FODMAP foods and probiotics. If so, congratulations! You’re doing the exact right thing, and we’re cheering you on. But – record scratch – that’s not all there is to keeping your gut and its billions of denizens happy. So strap in, because today, we’re talking about holistic gut health, and what other lifestyle elements can contribute to a healthy gut microbiota.
It’s All in the Zzzzzzzzzz’s
According to the American Psychological Association, most Americans live with some degree of sleep deprivation, meaning that they do not typically get the recommended eight hours or more of sleep per night. This can have consequences for mood, concentration and memory, and can even increase the possibility of accidents. However, one of the less-understood risks of sleep deprivation is its effect on your gut.
While research is still shedding light on the link between lack of sleep and poor gut health, there are a few links which suggest that a good night’s sleep is a good idea for your digestion. The most obvious is that your digestion functions better on a good night’s sleep, because, well, everything just works better when you’ve had enough rest! But in more technical terms, sleep helps keep your gut health in check indirectly by helping your body produce leptin, the hormone that tells our brains that we are full. Lack of sleep, on the other hand, results in the production of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, which can lead to more impulsive, less informed food choices.
While the exact science of sleep and holistic gut health is still being uncovered, our advice is this: get that beauty rest! For more on making healthy food choices even when your brain might be telling you otherwise, check out this article that takes the decision making out of meal prep.
Eat Mindfully and Reduce Your Stress
The gut is often referred to as the second brain due to its impact on the way we feel, both mentally and physically. But the gut-brain connection is a two-way street, and if your gut can affect your stress levels and mood, the reverse is also true.
Stress can have a number of effects on the gut, from causing us to eat emotionally to actually causing uncomfortable physical symptoms. Particularly for people who live with gastro-intestinal conditions such as IBS, stress can reduce intestinal blood flow and even trigger inflammation in your immune system. In addition to its potential negative effects on your gut, chronic stress can have a whole host of devastating consequences on your overall health, which means that stress reduction isn’t just a part of holistic gut health: it’s a part of holistic health, period!
What if stress, aggravation or just boredom have you reaching for snacks all day long? While the occasional snack won’t do any harm, constant munching between meals can throw your body off balance and can cause you to overdo it on inflammatory, high-FODMAP foods that will do more long-term harm than good. If this sounds like you, then mindful eating may be a part of holistic gut health that can help improve your overall wellness. By listening to your body, obeying its signals and making snack choices that promote your overall well being, you’re taking one more step towards holistic gut health.
To learn more about stress reduction and mindful eating, check out these articles:
- The Connection Between IBS and Stress (It’s a Strong One!)
- How Stress and Digestion Work Together – Against You
- How To Calm A Nervous Stomach
- Five Unique Ways to Reduce Stress
- Mindful Snacking, Gut Health, and You
Don’t Forget to Move It, Move It!
“Ok, ok”, you’re probably thinking, “exercise is good for you. Duh”. Well, yes. But when it comes to holistic gut health, exercise is way more than just a way to work up a sweat. In a recent article, BBC Future lays out the case that exercise can actually increase the overall amount of beneficial bacteria in your gut, leading to better health overall, including a better metabolism. Even more surprising? According to the same article, active people also tend to have more diverse populations of gut microbiota compared to people who do not exercise.
New to exercise? Have no fear! Check out these resources to get started:
The takeaway? If you want to attain true holistic gut health, sleep enough, rest and de-stress, and move your body in addition to consuming a bloat-free, gut-friendly diet. As a bonus, consider learning more about alcohol and gut health, and the effects of sugars and sweeteners on digestion, in order to further educate yourself and inform your lifestyle and diet choices.
Remember: holistic gut health is a lot more than what you eat! Your gut takes care of your whole body, and your whole body has to take care of your gut. The more you learn about holistic gut health, the easier it is to make beneficial lifestyle choices that will keep your body and your gut microbiota feeling good!
To learn more about gut health, explore our blog, and to discover hundreds of gut-friendly recipes that can kick-start your holistic gut health journey in style, visit our recipes section. From all of us at Fody, keep it up!