5 Free Gut Health Hacks
By Tyler Woodward
An estimated 11% of people worldwide suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, 10% of Americans deal with chronic constipation, and nearly 1 in 5 deal with bloating. But don’t you worry we’ve got you covered with 5 free gut health hacks.
1. Go For A Post-Meal Walk:
If you want to get things flowing… one of the best things that you can do is to get moving! Through the physical act of movement, walking helps to promote peristalsis, the wave-like contractions of the intestines, through the physical act of movement and shaking Without adequate peristalsis food can sit for too long in your digestive tract, leading to bacteria in the gut to ferment the food that resides there. This may lead to bacterial overgrowth which can be a contributing factor of bloating, constipation, diarrhea, stomach pain, among other symptoms of poor digestion.
One study found that walking reduced constipation in middle-aged women. Another study found that walking successfully increases the rate of gastric emptying (the rate at which the stomach empties). A third study found that aerobic exercise including walking increased gastrointestinal motility and decreased transit time.
Plus walking has the added benefit of allowing you to spend more time in nature and in the sun which brings us to our next point…
2. Get Outside:
While you may not expect it, spending time in nature can have profound effects on your gut health. First and foremost there’s the aspect of sunlight. This study found that when patients with low vitamin D levels were exposed to UVB light it not only increased their levels of vitamin D in their blood, but they “found a significant effect on the microbiota composition” (Bosman et. al, 2019. The researches also hypothesized that correcting a vitamin D insufficiency may have also helped to strengthen the intestinal barrier, helping prevent “bad bacteria” from leaking through the gut into the bloodstream.
Another study performed on patients with IBS found that vitamin D supplementation significantly improved their reported quality of life in the short-term, but further studies were needed to evaluate the long-term benefits. Lastly, this study found a significant correlation between the circadian rhythm and the gastrointestinal system, suggesting that there is a strong link between the two. Due to the sun’s properties of setting our circadian rhythm, it likely also plays a huge role in regulating our bowel movements, peristaltic contractions, gastric emptying, etc.
In addition to getting in the sun, spending time in nature also allows you to interact with the environment around you. Although we tend to think of the soil as nothing more than dirt, the soil is filled with living organisms, bacteria, fungi and insects that in some ways make the soil as alive as you and I. So it should come as no surprise that spending time outside can have significant impacts on the diversity of your gut.
- One study found that children who played outside for a month experienced significant changes in the diversity of their microbiome.
- Another study performed on Finnish adults found that spending time gardening had positive effects on their microbiome.
3. Avoid Gut Irritating Foods:
This might just seem like common sense, but avoiding the foods that irritate your gut is a sure-fire way to improve your gut health. Whether it’s gluten, dairy, nuts, grains, beans, seeds, ect, if it’s giving you the hershey squirts or on the other hand clogging you up, it’s likely best to avoid it as much as possible. It’s worth mentioning that there are also a number of potential gut irritants found in many processed foods today that are commonly used as preservatives. These include: guar gum, carageenan, and xanthan gum. Additionally, many artificial sweeteners such as stevia, aspartame, xylitol may also negatively affect the microbiome, but additional evidence is needed.
4. Meal Timing:
One of the last things you want to do when eating is rushing to eat. Rushing to eat may cause you to inadequately chew your food, as you ‘inhale’ it rather than chew it. The more you break down your food with physical digestion, mastication or chewing, the easier it is for your body, stomach and intestines to digest it further down the line via chemical digestion.
In addition to not rushing to eat, it’s also important to time your meals properly. While the old saying wait 20 minutes after you eat to swim isn’t exactly true, it definitely has a bit of wisdom hidden in it. When your stomach is full of food and you begin to exercise you’re quite literally shaking up your insides, particularly as blood is prioritzed to other areas of the body. This can often result in a phenomenon known as exercise-induced leaky gut. Most commonly seen in distance runners, but even in sprinters and many other sports, exercise-induced leaky gut causes “bad bacteria” in your gut to leak through into your bloodstream.
5. A Carrot A Day:
Last, but certainly not least we have the daily carrot. While a carrot is technically not free, this gut health savior costs pennies on the dollar and can even be grown for even less in a garden at home. Regardless, carrots are a highly insoluble fiber, meaning that neither we nor the bacteria that resides in our colon are capable of breaking them down. This type of fiber helps to quite literally push things along our digestive tract, in addition to binding to toxins and helping to prevent estrogen and bile from being reabsorbed back into the bloodstream. Other forms of fiber insoluble like cooked white button mushrooms or bamboo shoots also have similar properties to carrots without many of the anti nutrients or digestive inhibitors found in other forms of vegetables. If you’re interested in reading more about the daily carrot, make sure to check out my article, “The Benefits Of Carrots - The Carrot Cure".
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