| OWL Venice
If you’re reading this, it would be safe to assume that you have experienced occasional digestive interruptions - you’re not alone. We all have. Whether it’s in the form of bloating, gas, upset stomach, heartburn, abnormal bowel movements, even acid reflux, these occurrences are inevitable.
However, if you have chronic digestive upsets, such as Chrone’s disease or IBD, these side effects are frequent fliers in your life. For many, they are a burden and can cause major life disruptions. And no one is safe from the health impacts of a disgruntled digestive system.
Fortunately, we have compiled a list of fourteen research-based changes that can improve your gut health. Try a few (or all) of them on for size!
What You Consume (And How You Consume It)
1. CONSUME WHOLE FOODS
Promoting a prolific community of good gut bacteria is what keeps your microbiome in balance, therefore allowing for productive digestion. Eating food rich in nutrients that your body was built to thrive off of is the best gift you can give your gut to protect against dysbiosis. This means consciously consuming plants in their closest-to-natural state, meats that are responsibly raised, and products with a short and easy-to-pronounce list of ingredients. If there are seventy-nine syllables in one ingredient, it’s more than likely not good for your gut.
2. AVOID REFINED SUGARS & ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS
Artificial sweeteners have been found to alter the gut microbiome and as a result, our good gut bacteria are killed off. This makes it difficult for the digestive process to run smoothly and thoroughly. Similarly, refined sugars and artificial sweeteners can lead to inflammation in the body, which does not blend well with great digestion.
3. EAT MORE FIBER
Not just a doctor’s advice for the elderly. Probiotic fiber - like beans, oats, nuts, and seeds - hangs around in your intestines and ferments to create short-chain fatty acids which have anti-inflammatory effects on the body (of course this is fantastic for digestion). It also helps your digested foods absorb water and move along easily through the digestive tract.
Prebiotic fiber - such as fruits, veggies, and grains - gives energy to your good gut bacteria that ferments the probiotic fiber in order to do its job.
4. INCLUDE HEALTHY SNACKS
A high intake of omega-3 fatty acids is associated with a lower risk of developing Ulcerative Colitis and other chronic digestive issues. Fatty foods to reach for include flaxseeds, chia seeds, fatty fish, and nuts - preferably walnuts.
5. CHEW YOUR FOOD THOUGHTFULLY - MINDFUL EATING
The digestive process begins in the mouth. Taking plenty of time to chew your food thoroughly and allowing your saliva to start breaking down the firm structure of what you're eating, means that you’re giving your digestive juices an easier job. Swallowing large chunks of poorly chewed food can lead to indigestion and slow down in the entire process. This can leave you feeling uncomfortable and sluggish while your body sorts through everything it needs to do to make sure your food is properly digested.
Mindful eating is another way to make sure you slow down, chew thoroughly, and don’t over eat. The practice of mindful eating includes:
- Intentional forking of each bite
- Taking note of the texture and temperature of your food
- Turning off distractions such as the TV and your phone as you eat
- Eating slowly
6. WATER IN SIPS, NOT GULPS
While there is no evidence that drinking water before or after a meal interferes with the breaking up of food within your stomach, there is an effect of feeling bloated if you gulp down your glass of hydration. This is due to taking in air as you force down large amounts of water in a short amount of time. Another effect of feeling full after drinking water is that it does in fact take up space in your stomach resulting in a reduced appetite.
It is recommended that you sip your water as you eat (and don’t forget to eat slowly!) so that you don’t take in air and contribute to an uncomfortable, bloated, gassy feeling.
7. STAY ON TOP OF YOUR HYDRATION
Keep your body (and therefore all of your organs) hydrated. When solid food enters the intestines, it absorbs water to keep it thick and soft enough for comfortable elimination. When there is no water to draw on, the result is constipation. That’s never a fun situation.
Lifestyle: Helpers & Inhibitors
Daily movement, in concert with gravity, helps move things along. Taking a romantic walk on the beach after your dinner date has more than just for ambiance and scoring brownie points - it’s practical too!
One study showed that 30 minutes of brisk walking plus a short in-home workout relieved symptoms of chronic constipation in middle-aged adults. Not to mention the anti-inflammatory effects of regular exercise - we already know how much this helps in promoting stellar digestion.
We mentioned in one of our previous articles that the gut-brain axis is highly involved in determining what happens with the microbiota all over your body. Stress can do a number on the diversity of flora within your gut and leads to dysbiosis if left unchecked. The term “sick with worry” stems from the science behind the connection between your mental health and your gut health. Relaxation practices such as stress management, meditation, and body awareness therapy displayed promising results in people with IBS. Try some of these methods to help soothe your stomach.
One study shows that smoking is largely associated with gastro-oesophageal reflux - also known as acid reflux. Furthermore, the same study revealed that those who smoked daily for twenty years or more had a 70% higher risk of developing acid reflux than those who smoked for less than a year. If you’re experiencing stomach issues and are a smoker, take into account that quitting may help tremendously.
Don’t worry - if you really want it, you can still have that glass of wine with your steak dinner. But, as with most things in life, moderation is the key.
Studies also show that alcohol leads to bad bacteria overgrowth and dysbiosis in the gut microbiome. When good bacteria can’t do their job, you end up with a grumpy gut.
Additionally, the link between dysbiosis and the breakdown of the gut barrier to the blood proves that excessive alcohol consumption leads to intestinal permeability and therefore increased blood toxicity.
12. LATE-NIGHT SNACKING
Chances are that if you’re eating late at night, you’ll probably be lying down before your body has had the chance to process much of what you ate. This leads to the weakening of the lower esophageal sphincter causing the rise of acid and regurgitation of food (acid reflux). Aim to be finished with your meals by around 6pm so that your system can move everything along before you get to bed.
At OWL, we are huge fans of probiotics. They are just downright fantastic for your flora. They promote the growth of good bacteria, help reduce the growth of bad bacteria, and mitigate many mild digestive issues. In the long run, they help balance your microbiome for longterm gut health.
14. OWL DIGESTIVE BITTERS
As we said before, digestion begins in the mouth. Our Digestive Bitters formula stimulates the receptors in your mouth and throat which is the equivalent of ringing the dinner bell for your brain and body. It promotes the secretion of saliva to begin the breakdown of food particles. It also jumpstarts the production of bile in your liver, and the digestive juices and enzymes needed for an easy journey through your digestive tract.
This is just a supplement aid, however. If you find yourself reliant on bitters every time you eat, you should definitely look into making some of the eating and lifestyle changes suggested above.
Love Your Gut
Your gut has so much influence over the rest of your body - even your mental health. Proper gut maintenance goes beyond wanting to feel better after eating. It’s an investment in you. It’s an investment in your health. And you are a most worthy cause.