3 Simple Practices To Achieve Better Gut Health In 2021
One of the greatest lessons from 2020, but also one of the hardest to accept, is that most things in life are out of our control. In order to manage anxiety surrounding that truth, it's helpful to take back power over the things we can.
If the stressors and changes of this past year wreaked havoc on your digestion, your eating habits, and your sleep, one unifying factor that you can take control of is your gut. These three simple, expert-approved practices will help you make 2021 the year of better gut health:
Start taking a daily probiotic.
If you're wanting to set healthy resolutions for the new year, incorporating a daily supplement regimen may be a good place to start. For gut health, in particular, a daily probiotic helps good bacteria flourish in the microbiome, which can manage gas and bloating and enhance overall digestion.*
"Probiotics create an environment favoring a healthy-functioning gut with minimal inflammation," registered dietitian Ella Davar, R.D., CDN, once told mbg. These changes have been shown to improve headaches, lessen depression and anxiety, and clear up skin inflammation.*
Spending time outside can support gut health in a couple of ways. For one, nature has been shown to improve mental health1 by lowering anxiety, improving mood, and boosting self-esteem. Because of the gut-brain axis, improving mental health will have positive impacts on gut health as well.
More directly, board-certified family physician Patrick Hanaway, M.D., says fostering a connection with nature is critical for a healthy gut microbiome. Right now, "the nutritional density of plant foods is 50% less than it was 50 years ago," functional medicine doctor Mark Hyman, M.D., previously told us. Modern agricultural practices and a disconnection from the land on which our food is grown have led to a depletion of soil health2, which thus reduces diversity in the gut microbiome.
The takeaway? The more time we spend in nature, the greater an appreciation we'll have for it. This, in turn, can influence the way we grow, shop for, and eat our food.
3. Prioritize daily movements.
Incorporating micro-movements throughout the day, whether it be through dance, a walk, or a quick 20-minute workout, can benefit physical, mental, and gut health. "Regular exercise can actually help strengthen your digestive tract," naturopathic doctor Jaime Schehr, N.D., R.D., once told us. "The amount of blood diverted from your digestive system decreases because your muscles are more efficient when you exercise."
The thought of starting a regular exercise routine can seem daunting—especially if you've recently fallen out of, or never had the chance to start, one. This anxiety many of us feel about working out is likely due to a misconception we have about health.
"If health means exercising regularly, I agree," certified Pilates instructor Helen Phelan, writes. "However, if it means exercising with the sole intent of weight loss, you'll probably start to dread it and see it as punishment." Focusing on intuitive exercise, or exercise that actually brings you joy and makes you feel good, is much more sustainable.
Abby Moore is an editorial operations manager at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine. She has covered topics ranging from regenerative agriculture to celebrity entrepreneurship. Moore worked on the copywriting and marketing team at Siete Family Foods before moving to New York.