I'm A Gastroenterologist & This Is My Daily Gut Health Routine
When it comes to maintaining a healthy gut, there's no such thing as instant gratification. Implementing a range of healthy lifestyle measures is critical for gut and overall health. While this can look different for everyone, incorporating nutrient-dense foods, movement, and mindfulness techniques are just a few ways to optimize gut health.
These are the gut-friendly measures I prioritize in the morning, afternoon, and evening to support my own gut microbiome every day.
Four targeted strains to beat bloating and support regularity.*
After waking up in the morning, the first thing I do is drink at least one glass of water. Hydration supports not only digestion but also immune functioning and brain health. While it's not critical, some days I'll add a splash of lemon to stimulate motility.
While I enjoy a nice warm brew of organic coffee, I generally limit myself to one cup in the morning. Caffeine can be dehydrating, which can undo any previous water intake.
Breakfast is never part of my morning routine, mainly because I'm not hungry when I wake up. Plus, intermittent eating (a phrase I prefer to intermittent fasting) allows the digestive system plenty of time to rest. Fasting has also been shown to balance the microbiome and help manage inflammation.
Instead of spending time making breakfast, I dedicate 20 minutes to meditation and breathwork every morning. The gut microbiome is responsive to stress reduction, due to the gut-brain axis. Meditating is a great way to set intentions and set the tone for the rest of the day.
Since I don't eat breakfast, I make sure to pack plenty of nutrients into my lunch with one massive salad.
Though salads can get a bad rap as boring bowls of leaves, I pack mine with nuts, seeds, and a wide range of veggies. The serving of vegetables most people try to eat in one day (four to five) I'm usually able to pack into just one meal. As the microbes in your gut begin to digest the fiber from these vegetables, it helps produce short-chain fatty acids. These fatty acids are critical for managing inflammation in the body and supporting overall health.
More importantly than simply eating a salad is making the salad different every day. One day the base may be kale, and another day I may add extra leafy greens, cabbage, or shredded Brussels sprouts. Variety in the diet not only increases diversity of the gut microbiome, but the change of pace also helps mentally—no one wants to feel stuck in a rut.
I am not a morning person, so I save my exercise for the evening. Staying physically active is important, and the time of day you choose to exercise does not change the benefits—what matters is keeping it consistent. It's been proved that people who exercise tend to have a more diverse microbiome.
After exercising and before getting quality sleep (also critical for gut health), I meditate for another 20 minutes. Opening and closing the day with this similar, mindfulness practice, is a helpful stress management ritual.
As mentioned in the beginning, there's no quick-fix for a healthy gut. Supplements, vitamins, and probiotics can help manage imbalances in the gut microbiome and support overall digestion and discomfort.* However, they should be taken in conjunction with healthy lifestyle measures, not in place of them.
Mindfulness, stress reduction, nutrient and fiber-rich diets, movement, and quality sleep are helpful tools to incorporate throughout the day, which can lead to a healthy and more resilient gut.