I'm writing from Schuyler Grant's Kula Yoga teacher training up in Connecticut. It's an intense week of lots of asana, tons of sweat, great vegetarian food, and minimal toxicity, meaning no booze and none of the stresses of running around NYC for a change. One thing I’ve noticed here is how happy my belly feels in this rather radically different environment. If you ever have the occasional tummy troubles, however mild, it’s awesome to experience NOT having them. Here is a brief tutorial on how to keep your gut happy and healthy with some easy straightforward everyday steps.
1. Move. A sedentary lifestyle shuts down digestion. Walking, yoga, jumping jacks or whatever gets you jazzed. Move every day in a vigorous way for at least 20 minutes. Easy if you’re a New Yorker!
2. Fiber. Avoid baby food. Food that comes in a package or is in any way processed is essentially predigested. Real whole foods like vegetables, fruit, grains and nuts literally give your gut something to work with, while even relatively healthy snacks like fitness bars and juice drinks can put it to sleep. Keep your gut awake with whole foods.
3. Water. If you throw back a ton of fiber and don’t add enough water you are destined for a traffic jam. Don’t forget to keep up water intake along with all those healthy grains and veggies.
4. Detox. Booze throws it’s own wrench into your digestive socket, either sending your gut into overdrive or shutting it down, depending on your personal constitution. At least 3 days a week without even one drink will really help keep you system on track. Try it and see the difference.
5. Probiotics. Good flora and fauna are essential. The latest scientific research is proving the power of probiotics by showing how the right bugs can help or even cure diseases like irritable bowel disease and ulcerative colitis. Even if you don’t have something as serious, get your hands on a regular regimen of yogurt, kombucha teas, juice-based drinks like Good Belly, and/or the probiotic pills. In my view, always go cold – the refrigerated options are alive, in a good way.
6. Relax. This is perhaps the most important. Your gut literally is a second brain -- 95% of the serotonin in your body is housed in your intestinal tract’s own separate neurological system, which evolved to keep humanity focused on the key to survival today – food – in the interest of making it to tomorrow’s ultimate goal – procreation. Ever notice that tension and anxiety manifest in your digestive system before anywhere else? Even if you just take 5 minutes to sit in in a quiet place and breath into your soft belly with your eyes closed, you could see dramatic results in the happiness quotient of your gut.