3 Habits I'm Adopting For Daily Gut Health, Recommended By A Gastroenterologist
Spring cleaning season has arrived, and I've already donated old clothes, reorganized my drawers, and dusted all of the previously neglected nooks and crannies of my apartment. As soon as I accomplished all of that, I started wondering what other environments I could help restore (once I'm in my cleaning mode, it's hard to break me out of it!). Since all of the external spaces were in order, I decided to go internal.
The first stop: my gut microbiome.
Now, my mission to "spring clean" my gut had nothing to do with a cleanse or diet—I simply wanted to take stock of my current habits and see how I could better optimize them. For a little inspiration, I turned to advice from gastroenterologist Niket Sonpal, M.D. Here are three gut-friendly habits he prioritizes:
1. Paying attention to nutrition.
Sonpal previously told me that he plans to be more mindful of his own food choices by following a 16:8 intermittent fasting regimen and incorporating more probiotics, prebiotics, and antioxidants into his dishes. Here's what that might look like:
- Probiotics: While Sonpal says he already gets plenty of certain strains of probiotics through yogurt, he wants to increase the diversity of his sources. Adding more fermented foods and drinks, like kimchi, kombucha, miso, and tempeh can help do the trick. Taking a high-quality probiotic supplement daily is also a good insurance policy for your gut health.*
- Prebiotics: Less talked about, but equally important, are prebiotics. These unique fibers "bolster the good bacteria so they can push the bad bacteria out," Sonpal explains. Prebiotics can be found in foods like apples, sauerkraut, asparagus, garlic, onion, leafy greens, artichokes, and green bananas, to name a few.
- Antioxidants: "The role for antioxidants is vast," Sonpal tells mbg. "Primarily, for their protective role against oxidative stress that occurs through general day-to-day activities." Good sources of antioxidants include berries, salmon, spinach, red bell peppers, dark chocolate, and turmeric, which Sonpal says he will likely incorporate into his tea. Increasing intake of turmeric supports anti-inflammatory pathways, overall and also in the gut, he says. "[I am a person] who comes from India, [and] turmeric is a big part of our culture," Sonpal adds.
2. Moving every single day.
The overarching stress of "having to work out" actually discourages most people from doing it. Rather than putting so much pressure on it, Sonpal reminds us that "you can get a 20-minute workout at home, every day." No need to worry about getting yourself to the gym or blocking out an hour (or more) on your schedule.
Rather than setting lofty fitness resolutions, Sonpal recommends simply committing to daily movement. Going for a walk, taking a few downward dogs, or playing recreational sports are all effective ways to sneak in exercise.
Since I prefer being guided through my workouts, I'm partial to mindbodygreen's mbg moves series, which highlights different trainers teaching super-effective workouts—with everything from HIIT to Pilates and even dance cardio.
3. Managing stress.
Though the stress hormone cortisol has its benefits, "too much of a quote-unquote good thing, is not such a good thing," he states. And because gut health and mental health are so interconnected, limiting stress may support healthy digestion, promote regularity, and ease bloat.
"Exercise, yoga, therapy, mental health exercises, sex—do whatever it is that you need to do to reduce that emotional burden," Sonpal advises.
Spring cleaning can encompass more than just your living environment. Take stock of the things that will help declutter your mind and your body, too. For me, that looks like adopting these three gut-friendly habits, as recommended by Sonpal.
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.