5 Rules for Optimal Gut Health, A Holistic Nutritionist Explains

Photo by Kristin Dahl

The body is ripe with bacteria—most of which lives in our gut and has a huge impact on our overall health. Your microbiome regulates inflammation and immunity throughout your entire body.

That's why I think that tending to your gut is the number one thing you can do to boost your overall health and immunity. Here are five simple ways to boost your gut health today:

1. Remove the possible offenders

In order to rebuild a healthy gut, you have to remove what could potentially be causing the damage. This includes refined sugar, gluten, dairy, and most processed foods. Refined sugar is the worst offender because it feeds the negative gut bacteria and depletes the positive bacteria that support a healthy microbiome.

2. Focus on food

Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, dark leafy greens, easy-to-digest grains (gluten-free oats, quinoa, millet and amaranth), and healthy fats like avocado, flax, hemp, pumpkin seeds, almonds, raw coconut and walnuts. These foods reduce inflammation and support gut health. For alternative sources of sweetness, try pure stevia, yacon syrup, coconut nectar or raw honey.

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3. Bring back the good bacteria

Bring in good bacteria to combat the bad stuff that's wreaking havoc on your gut. Fermented foods like kefir, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi and tempeh are all full of good bacteria, as are prebiotics. I especially love raw asparagus, garlic, onion, leek, bananas and dandelion greens.

4. Count your zzz’s

Sleep has a major impact on the digestive system, as deep sleep allows the digestive organs to rest, repair and replenish. During this time, the body detoxifies itself and gets rid of wastes from the day. Each person requires a different amount of sleep, but aim to get 7 to 8 hours a night to ensure a restorative sleep cycle.

5. Practice stress management

The stress of modern life often triggers the sympathetic nervous system, creating a fight-or-flight response in the body. This response may help you become more alert and focused, but it inhibits your digestion in the process.

Digesting food requires a parasympathetic nervous system response. Balancing the parasympathetic system decreases stress levels, so you can rest, repair, and heal your gut. Engaging in calming exercises such as walking, deep breathing, restorative yoga and meditation can help you do it.

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