A properly functioning digestive system is critical to good health. In fact, problems with the gastrointestinal (GI) tract can cause more than just stomach aches, gas and bloating or diarrhea. GI issues may underlie chronic health problems that seem unrelated to digestive health, including autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes, skin problems such as eczema and acne rosacea, and heart disease (just to name a few).
Let’s briefly explore some of the crucial functions your gut performs for you on a daily basis:
regulates absorption of nutrients
processes and eliminates hormones, toxins, and allergens intelligently
acts as your “second brain” - more serotonin neurotransmitters are produced in the gut than in the brain (P.S. these are the ones responsible for keeping you happy!)
houses your immune system and acts as a gatekeeper of inflammation
plays a significant role in metabolism and weight management
Pretty important stuff…so you want to keep your gut healthy and functioning optimally! Of course I always recommend working with a professional (ahm, hello, it’s me) but I wanted to address a great list of my top 9 healthy gut must-do’s:
UNCOVER YOUR TRUE FOOD ALLERGENS AND SENSITIVITIES
Eating foods you are allergic or sensitive to damages the lining of the intestine making it very difficult to properly absorb nutrients. HOWEVER, one of the most common mistakes I see is (cheese-and-bread loving) women eliminating dairy and gluten when they don’t need to. It most always leads to over-consuming these foods when given the chance - adding even more bloating and guilt to the equation. To determine your food sensitivities, do an elimination diet with the help of a practitioner.
EAT MORE ANTI-INFLAMMATORY FOODS
The number one thing you can do to heal is replace foods causing inflammation in your gut, with those that reduce it. The top inflammatory foods are processed, refined foods that are high in sugar and fat. I teach my clients that eating processed foods in moderation isn’t bad, but excess sugar and fat are very inflammatory, and feed the bad bacteria in your gut. But instead of thinking about cutting things out, think about the foods you can have MORE of, like natural sugars from fruits and raw honey, and gut-friendly fats from salmon, nuts and seeds, olive oil, and ghee.
SIP ON CCF TEA
CCF tea is cumin seeds + coriander seeds + fennel seeds, about a 1/2 tsp each, steeped in in 4-5 cups of boiling water for about 5-10 minutes, then strained. Sipping this tea throughout the day is incredible for healing the gut lining, improving nutrient absorption, relieving any digestive distress and stimulating the lymphatic system.
EAT LUNCH BETWEEN 10AM AND 2PM
You can think of your digestive system like a fire. Similar to the sun, your digestive fire is strongest in the middle of the day (between 10am and 2pm). Eating a nutrient dense meal for lunch is efficient because you're able to digest and absorb nutrients best when your body is running at full steam. The key is to make sure your lunch is not too heavy, so that you’re able to maintain mental concentration and focus throughout the afternoon. Aim for breakfast to be your largest meal, followed by lunch, and then dinner. Dinner should be your lightest meal, as the evening is when your body is slowing down and preparing for sleep. A big meal at night can disrupt sleep and impede detoxification.
ADD 1 TBSP AVC INTO YOUR DAY
Raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar (ACV) with the ‘mother’ is a great source of probiotics. ACV is also good for weight loss and digestion, because it helps stabilize blood sugar response after meals, and helps the stomach produce acid to digest food. You can add 1 tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar + a squeeze of lemon to a glass of water, mix 1tbsp in with salad dressing, or use it to make homemade pickled vegetables that you can use to top off your meals!
Which brings me to my next point…
EAT FERMENTED VEGGIES DAILY
You can find these jars of veggies in the refrigerated section of the grocery store - but I recommend experimenting with making your own! Pickles and things you find in the center aisles that are unrefrigerated are not lacto-fermented, and therefore not what we are looking for. Fermented veggies, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and pickled onions, are all great. These foods provide your gut with trillions of beneficial bacteria to help rebuild and rebalance healthy bacteria levels. They also contain organic acids which help get your stomach and body in the proper pH for probiotics to grow. You only need a few forkfuls per day to reap the benefits!
Emotional stress can trigger an inflammatory gut response. It literally blocks your body's ability to heal. Figure out the cause of your daily stress and then look at what lifestyle changes or decisions you can make to reduce stress. Incorporate stress management techniques, such as doing yoga, taking an epsom salt bath, walking in nature, meditating, doing breathing exercises, surrounding yourself with positive people, etc.
GET 7-9 HOURS OF SLEEP
Good quality sleep is critical for your body to rest and repair. Create a new sleep routine by powering down all electronic devices an hour before bed and including a 10-minute pre-sleep ritual, such as light stretching, deep breathing, drinking a chamomile tea, legs up the wall, etc.