Healthy Gut, Healthy You
Ever heard the phrase "You Are What You Eat"?
While that's true, more accurately we are what we DIGEST and ABSORB.
That's where having a healthy gut comes into play. We have to be able to break down our food in order for it to be transported into our blood stream so we can absorb all the nutrients. We also have to be able to break down food small enough so we can eliminate our food.
It is SO important to have a healthy gut- not just for BM purposes but for your skin, your mood, your hormones, and your immunity (just to name a few). Digestive health is so much more than eating fiber or supplementing with probiotics. Stress, environment, emotions, and food all play a role in optimal digestion.
Did you know…
-Nearly 80% of your immune system lives in your gut!
-Your gut is literally filled with TRILLIONS of microorganisms and thousands of different kinds of bacteria- in fact the bacteria in your gut weighs around FIVE pounds!
-More than 90% of the body’s serotonin is in the gut. The saying happy gut, happy life is legit!
When it comes to having a healthy functioning gut, the most important thing is being in a parasympathetic state or what’s known as your rest and digest state. We live in a society that glamorizes “I’ll rest when I’m dead”. We are constantly on the go and live high stress lives. We eat meals in the car, in front of the TV, or while we rush out the door.
The answer to having a healthy gut isn’t always probiotics (and please stop taking laxatives)… more often than not it comes down to learning how to chill and prep our digestion when we eat.
So how can we best get into that ‘rest and digest’ state? Follow these tips:
1. Take three deep breaths before you eat your meal. Not only does this calm down your nervous system but it also preps your brain and intestines for digestion. Did you know that digestion actually starts in the brain!? Think of it as a north to south process. When you take those deep breaths you smell and see the food- this allows your brain to tell your body to start amping up those digestive juices.
2. Stimulate your vagus nerve. Your gut is often referred to as your second brain and rightfully so as it has it’s own nervous system called the Enteric Nervous System. Your gut primarily communicates with your brain through the vagus nerve. Stimulating the vagus nerve can help our bodies get into a parasympathetic state. Simply rub right behind your jaw bone in a circular motion to help jumpstart digestion. You can also hum, sing, gurgle some water, or laugh to help stimulate the vagus nerve.
3. Eat calm and without distractions. Digestion is essentially a north to south process- it begins in the brain and ends in elimination (see tip 1) so if we are distracted by our phones or eating standing our brain cannot communicate with our gut that it’s time to break down some grub. Eating mindlessly, distracted, or on the go essentially puts our bodies in a sympathetic state or ‘fight of flight state’. In this state our brain and body shut down our digestion- if you were running from a labor tooth tiger you wouldn’t want to have to worry about dropping the kids off at the pool am I right!? “When we are in a state of sympathetic dominance we produce less saliva and our stomach doesn’t receive the proper messages to release hydrochloric acid and gastric enzymes, etc. Cortisol is released from the adrenals when we are in fight or flight mode. As the level of this stress hormone rises in the body, this will cause a slow down or full-on cease of all parasympathetic systems.”
4. Put your fork down between bites and chew slowly. It is necessary to be able to properly break down our food so our stomach and intestines can actually metabolize it. Slowly chewing your food allows your body to produce necessary enzymes to break down your food. It starts in the mouth with salivary amylase and your teeth helping break your food into smaller bits, then the stomach produces HCL, and the intestines further break down the food (this is where majority of digestion occurs). Eat mindfully, take time to express gratitude for the nourishing food on your plate, chew until your food is mushy, take notice of the different textures and tastes of your meal etc.
5. Give your digestive tract a break. No you don’t need to take up intermittent fasting but I would encourage eating full, nutrient dense meals instead of snacking all day long.
Bonus tip: Find ways to manage your stress! "The mind-gut connection is not just metaphorical. Our brain and gut are connected by the extensive network of neurons and a highway of chemicals and hormones that constantly provide feedback about how hungry we are, whether or not we’re experiencing stress, or if we’ve ingested a disease-causing microbe. This information superhighway is called the brain-gut axis and it provides constant updates on the state of affairs at your two ends. That sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach after you get some very bad news is a vivid example of the brain-gut connection at work. You are stressed and your gut knows it—immediately." Beth Manos Brickey
Take care of your gut! Healthy gut, healthy you!
Nutrition coach Kelly Phu will not only help you make better decisions when it comes to nutrition, she will help you create a healthier relationship with food and habits that are sustainable long term. Get started with her by scheduling your free consultation below!
Kelly Phu, Tucson Nutrition Coach
Bachelor of Science Nutrition, Dietetics Emphasis
Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certified
Being actively involved in the health and fitness industry for over 8 years, Kelly has the knowledge and experience to help others achieve their goals no matter what their stage of life or level of ability. Kelly encourages clients to reach outside of their comfort zones to grow physically and mentally. Kelly loves helping others to find their strength, accomplish their goals, and lead better lives.