February is the month of love. It is also commonly known as Heart Health Month, but today we are going to dive into gut health.
Why is your gut so important?
Well, did you know that 75% of your immune system is in your gut? And that the secret to getting sick less and improving your daily mood lies in your gut?
Gut health impacts not only your immunity (how often you get sick) but also your mood and mental health. In fact, your gut affects (produces) the levels of the serotonin, which is also known as the happiness neurotransmitter. So if you’ve been feeling blue lately, you may want to read on to see how focusing on your gut health can help!
Now that you know how important gut health is, lets get practical.
First, it is important to remember that digestion begins the moment you see/smell food. Here are some easy to implement habits to get you on your way to a happy gut:
:: Chew your food slowly and with intention. No more eating in the car or in front of the TV. Take at least 15 – 20 minutes to eat. Trust me, your gut will thank you. Try eating without distraction; close that laptop and turn off your phone!
:: Lemon Water. This may be the most practical and effective habit that you can start today! If you forget everything else you read here, don’t forget this tip. Lemon water boosts your immunity because of its vitamin C, it alkalizes your body which can help prevent cancer, it speeds up enzyme production for digestion by encouraging your liver to produce more enzymes, it’s a powerful antimicrobial and helps flush your colon, and it makes your skin pretty as it clears out toxins. Drink up!
:: Include fermented foods (miso, tempeh, kimchi, sauerkraut, pickled veggies, and kombucha) in your meals. The process of fermentation produces enzymes, b-vitamins, omega-3 and probiotic strains which all aid in making your gut happy. How cool is that!?
Second, think about what’s missing from your diet. These days it is challenging to stay away from antibiotics or to make enough time to eat or even to consume fermented foods on a regular basis. So, look at your diet and determine what nutritional gaps exist. For optimal gut health you may want to consider filling those gaps by including probiotics and digestive enzyme supplementation into your daily routine.
Here are my go-to items to help fill the gaps and improve my digestive health:
:: Probiotics: these little guys help balance gut flora and restore the healthy bacteria in our gut. Make sure you choose probiotics that have at least 2 billion bacterial colonies and that are high quality, pharmaceutical grade (not store bought!). I recommend USANA probiotics because they have over 12 billion bacterial colonies, it comes in powder form and can easily be added to water or any drink. They are also dairy free and sugar-free.
:: Digestive enzymes: Enzymes, by definition, help breakdown nutrients in our body. These will help support normal digestion and nutrient absorption. It will also support digestion of foods that may otherwise cause bloating, indigestion or discomfort from eating out or over eating. They also help digest foods many people may be intolerant to including dairy and fried foods. I take these regularly and recommend them to my clients!
This February, take care of your gut and watch your digestion improve, your spirits rise, and your skin glow!
This article was written by Monica Parodi, MS, RDN. If you would like to connect with Monica directly, you can reach out to her on Facebook.