A look into why fixing your gut health goes way beyond digestion
The millions of bacteria that live in our gut affect nearly all systems in our body. Researchers have found that there is a direct correlation between our gut microbiome and the interaction it has with hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and corticosteroids. Improvements in gut bacteria can go a long way when it comes to improving overall health. The foods we choose to consume on a daily basis can either support and improve the gut or can weaken and inflame the gut. But, did you know that apart from food, there are other ways to boost gut health as well? While I recommend focusing on food—which plays a huge part in gut health—I also recommend incorporating these simple steps into your daily routine.
Did you know that sun exposure can benefit your gut health? Yes! It is a critical fact in maintaining gut health. And, the human body was made to need sun exposure, getting enough Vitamin D does not only help in boosting gut health but also offers other positive health benefits. Getting adequate exposure to the sun can help in various ways with regard to gut health:
- Reduces inflammation in your gut
- Diversifies your microbiome
- Lowers stress levels and boosts mood
There are actual receptors in the eye that connect directly with the hypothalamus of the brain, which resets our circadian rhythms for the day based on our light exposure, which is why it’s important to get morning sunlight.
The composition and functions of your gut bacteria are enhanced by exercise and physical activity. Studies have shown that even little changes can yield results. For example, increasing the frequency of little exercise from never to daily leads to a boost in gut health. It is important to keep the digestive system working on a regular basis and when we exercise, our intestines naturally contract thus eliminating waste through our system. Another important thing to keep in mind is that the vast majority of our immune system is found in our gut, which is why exercise is one of the key ways to keep sickness at bay. Besides dedicating a specific amount of time to a workout, which is beneficial, you also want to focus on your daily all-day movement. This means getting movement throughout the day and aiming for 10,000+ steps.
Studies show that stress can actually alter your gut bacteria and inhibit its ability to ward off threats to your immune system. It also shuts down communication between your brain and gut, thus making it more difficult to tune into one’s natural hunger cues. Stress causes inflammation in the gut, which can change the gut bacteria's make-up, causing an imbalance. Our stress system is called the HPA Axis. When you activate the HBA Axis, you not only get poor gut health but you also get poor hormonal health—it’s all connected. Nature-based walking, mindfulness (prayer, gratitude, meditation) and adequate sleep is a great way to lower stress levels.
Drinking enough water is key for gut health. Water is a key component of digestion and drinking plenty of water has been shown to balance the good bacteria in your gut. Drinking water during or after a meal actually aids digestion and helps break down food so that your body can absorb nutrients. Water is also needed to break down fibrous foods, softening stool and preventing constipation. Try drinking a large glass immediately when you wake up and aim for a total of half your body weight or more in ounces.
It may not seem very essential but maintaining dental hygiene is good for boosting gut health. Our mouth is the easiest way to get all kinds of bacteria into our body and when there is an imbalance, in the sense that there are few good bacteria and too many harmful ones, it causes various symptoms to occur throughout the body. There are easy ways to reduce the risk of poor oral health like daily brushing and flossing, which will ensure healthy gums. They remove food particles and reduce plaque buildup around the teeth and tongue. This in turn helps with boosting gut health. But, remember that you don’t want to use antibacterial mouthwash or toothpaste because you’re killing the microbiome of the mouth, which is important to keep.