Habits I’m Adopting For Daily Gut Health, Recommended By A Gastroenterologist
Gut health may not always be at the forefront of our minds, but as someone with a keen interest in wellness and holistic living, I am on a continuous journey to prioritize my health from the inside out. I recently had the good fortune to consult with a renowned gastroenterologist who offered an array of expert advice on maintaining optimum gut health. Today, I want to share with you the habits I’m adopting, based on his recommendations.
The first thing the gastroenterologist emphasized was hydration. Drinking plenty of water daily facilitates digestion by helping to break down food, allowing your body to absorb nutrients. Aim for at least eight glasses a day. As a bonus, staying well-hydrated can also contribute to radiant skin and overall bodily functions.
Eat A Fiber-Rich Diet
Fiber is a true champion for gut health. It aids digestion and fosters a healthy environment for good gut bacteria to flourish. My diet now consists of more whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes – all rich sources of fiber.
Eating a fiber-rich diet is essential for maintaining a healthy digestive system. Fiber, which is found in a variety of plant-based foods, helps to keep our digestive system running smoothly by adding bulk to the diet and facilitating the movement of material through our digestive tract.
There are two types of dietary fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber can dissolve in water and turns into a gel-like substance in our intestines, which can help to slow digestion and make us feel fuller for longer. It’s found in foods like oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, and psyllium.
Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, does not dissolve in water. It adds bulk to the diet and can help to prevent constipation by promoting the movement of material through our digestive system. You can find insoluble fiber in foods like whole wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans, and vegetables like cauliflower and potatoes.
To ensure a fiber-rich diet, it’s advisable to:
- Start your day with a high-fiber breakfast. This could be a bowl of whole-grain cereal or oatmeal topped with fruit.
- Incorporate vegetables into meals. They not only add color and texture but also provide a good source of fiber.
- Opt for whole fruits instead of juice. The skin of many fruits contains high amounts of fiber.
- Choose whole grains over refined ones. Whole grains contain all parts of the grain — the bran, germ, and endosperm, thereby offering more fiber.
- Add legumes to your diet. Foods like beans, lentils, and chickpeas are excellent sources of fiber.
Remember, it’s important to increase fiber intake gradually to give your body time to adjust and to drink plenty of fluids since fiber works best when it absorbs water.
Incorporate Probiotics And Prebiotics
The gut is home to trillions of bacteria, which comprise the gut microbiome. To maintain a healthy balance of these bacteria, the gastroenterologist suggested including more probiotics (live beneficial bacteria) and prebiotics (food for these bacteria) in my diet. Foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha are rich in probiotics, while garlic, onions, and asparagus are excellent prebiotic sources.
Probiotics and prebiotics play crucial roles in maintaining gut health by encouraging the growth and proliferation of beneficial gut bacteria. They are widely recognized for their health benefits in both the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US). Let’s discuss what they are and how they are consumed in these regions.
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health, particularly your digestive system. They’re often referred to as ‘good’ or ‘friendly’ bacteria because they help keep your gut healthy.
Common sources of probiotics in both the UK and the US include:
- Yogurt: This is one of the most familiar sources of probiotics. To ensure you get these benefits, choose yogurt with active or live cultures.
- Sauerkraut: Made from fermented cabbage, sauerkraut not only has probiotics but is also rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
- Pickles: Pickles (cucumbers that have been pickled in a solution of salt and water) are a good source of probiotics. Note that pickles made with vinegar don’t contain live probiotics.
- Cheeses: Certain types of cheese, like mozzarella, gouda, and cheddar, contain probiotics.
- Kefir: This is a fermented probiotic milk drink. It is made by adding kefir grains to cow’s or goat’s milk.
- Kombucha: This is a fermented black or green tea drink.
Prebiotics are types of dietary fiber that feed the friendly bacteria in your gut. This helps the gut bacteria produce nutrients for your colon cells and leads to a healthier digestive system.
Common sources of prebiotics include:
- Garlic: Garlic acts as a prebiotic by promoting the growth of beneficial Bifidobacteria in the gut. It also prevents disease-promoting bacteria from growing.
- Onions: Similar to garlic, onions also have a high prebiotic content and are known to feed beneficial gut bacteria.
- Bananas: Bananas contain small amounts of fiber and resistant starch, which have prebiotic effects.
- Oats: Oats are a source of beta-glucan fiber, which has impressive health benefits. They improve blood sugar control, lower cholesterol levels, and increase feelings of fullness.
- Apples: Apples are rich in pectin fiber. Pectin acts as a prebiotic and is fermented by beneficial bacteria in the gut.
The use and popularity of probiotics and prebiotics in both the UK and the US have grown substantially over recent years. As understanding of the gut microbiome expands, more and more people are incorporating these foods into their diets to support digestive health. Both countries also have a wide range of over-the-counter probiotic and prebiotic supplements available. However, as with any supplement, it’s always best to consult a healthcare professional before beginning any new supplement regimen.
The key difference lies mostly in dietary habits and local food preferences rather than a fundamental difference in the understanding of probiotics and prebiotics. For example, foods like kimchi, a type of fermented cabbage, are a popular source of probiotics in the US due to the influence of diverse cultures. Meanwhile, in the UK, probiotic products like Yakult, a probiotic dairy product, are quite popular.
In summary, while the specific sources of probiotics and prebiotics may vary slightly between the UK and the US due to dietary preferences and cultural differences, the overall recognition of their importance to gut health and general wellbeing is universally acknowledged.
Limit Intake Of Processed Foods
While indulging in fast foods and sugary drinks occasionally won’t harm, consistent consumption can wreak havoc on your gut health. Processed foods often contain additives and high levels of sugar that can disrupt the balance of gut bacteria and lead to inflammation. My new habit involves making conscious choices about what I eat and limiting my intake of processed foods.
An active lifestyle contributes to a healthy gut by helping to regulate bowel movements and reduce inflammation. Regular exercise, even a brisk walk or yoga, can have substantial benefits.
This one was a game-changer. The gastroenterologist highlighted the importance of eating slowly and chewing food thoroughly. This practice aids digestion, reduces the amount of air you swallow (which reduces bloating), and even allows you to enjoy your meals more.
Chronic stress can lead to a variety of gut problems such as indigestion and heartburn