7 habits to support healthy digestion*
Erin Stokes, Naturopathic Doctor, MegaFood Medical Director | February 2019
Small shifts, big results
Occasional bloating, gas, and even restless sleep; these can be signals from your body that something’s not quite right in your gut. But did you know you have power to shift your microbiome, and your digestive health, simply by changing some small daily habits? The microbiome is a sensitive system, and thus an impressionable one. So, once you’ve decided it’s time to give your gut a little more love and attention, consider adopting these habits for healthy digestion:
1 - Food first
Healthy choices for good gut health begin with healthy foods! Aim for a diverse balance of whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables. Also consider adding fermented foods to replenish your gut bacteria and promote probiotic diversity in your gut. Kombucha, yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, and tempeh are all easily accessible examples.
2 - Please feed the flora
Adding probiotic-rich foods into your diet is a great start- but do you know about prebiotics? Prebiotics are what your probiotics like to eat; it’s their food! You can increase prebiotic availability by eating whole grains like quinoa, buckwheat, and millet. Oats, or legumes like beans and lentils, are also great prebiotic-rich foods. Prebiotic herbs like dandelion and burdock have the fibers to support probiotic health and also contain digestive-promotive compounds.* In fact, all fruits and vegetables have the kind of fiber and sugars that feed your probiotics, so do your best to get the recommended daily intake of five servings a day. If you can eat more, bonus points!
3 - Promote those probiotics
One of the most important things you can do to support optimal digestive health is to maintain a healthy balance of probiotics in your system. If you can promote a thriving population of friendly bacteria, they’ll return the favor ten fold. To that end, consider including a probiotic supplement into your daily supplement routine.
Probiotics perform multiple roles in your body, like helping to produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that nourish the cells lining your gut. They also help produce specific B vitamins and vitamin K.¹ Even more, probiotics can help support your immune system by working to maintain the balance of beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract.*
4 - Slow down on sugar
Bacteria has a sweet tooth, too! Too much sugar negatively impacts your gut flora, and contributes to inflammation in the body. Sugary drinks (and that includes juice!) are major culprits in increasing sugar intake. When needing some sweetness, consider substituting with local honey, maple syrup, or dates.
5 - Avoid herbicides like Glyphosate
Did you know glyphosate is the number one herbicide being used in the United States? It is a weed killer, and there’s a good chance it is on the food you eat. During harvest, it is sprayed directly onto conventional crops – like oats and wheat. Studies have shown when ingested in even small amounts, it disrupts the healthy bacteria in the gut. Organic and regenerative agricultural practices don’t use glyphosate, so buying from such farms can reduce your risk. Refer to the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists (put out each year by the Environmental Working Group) for details on the prevalence of herbicide and pesticide levels per food crop, so you can choose your produce wisely.
6 - When antibiotics are unavoidable...
Sometimes, antibiotics are necessary. But, they sure do rock the boat when it comes to a healthy balance of gut flora. So when your health care practitioner prescribes antibiotics, it’s a good time to up your consumption of fermented beverages and foods, or take a more intensive probiotic (one with a high CFU count) to help restore your compromised gut flora to a more balanced state.*
7 - Don’t forget the simple foundations
We all know a healthy exercise routine, and getting plenty of sleep, are cornerstones of feeling great. But you might not realize that they promote a healthy microbiome, too. If yoga’s your thing, incorporate daily poses that specifically nourish the intestines, like cat-cow or downward-facing dog. (And if it’s not- these are great beginner poses to try. You just might fall in love with a new morning routine!)
Supplements to maintain, support or restore*
Whether you’re looking to maintain, support or restore the balance of your microbiome, supplements can assist you on your journey to a happy gut.* Knowing what to look for, as well as identifying your own personal gut health goals, are key to finding the right supplement for you.
Feeling motivated? Continue your journey towards a happier gut.