With the year’s end rapidly approaching, there’s no time like the present to get your gut back on track. Months upon months of sugary treats, daily stressors, and a few too many happy hours have a funny way of leaving our bellies feeling a little less than optimal. So, why not make a conscious effort to improve digestion and enhance overall gut health before the season of indulgence is truly upon us? By using the following belly-balancing tips, you’ll be able to start the holidays off energized, and a tad more resilient towards whatever festivities December might bring your way!
Start Your Day with Warm Lemon Water
Enjoying a glass of warm lemon water upon rising is the perfect way to start your day! Not only is lemon water incredibly hydrating, but it also helps to prime your gastrointestinal tract by stimulating the secretion of bile and gastric juices required for digestion. As an added bonus, lemon water provides your body with a small dose of vitamin C, an antioxidant that both boosts the immune system (80% of which resides in your gut) and strengthens the tissue lining of the digestive tract itself. For best results, combine the juice of half a lemon, preferably organic, in a full mug of room temperature or slightly warm water.
Eat Living Foods
These days, it seems the popularity of fermented foods is at an all-time high! Kombucha, Kefir, Miso, and Sauerkraut are just some of the delicious “living” foods out there that can greatly enhance gut health. These foods are rich sources of probiotics – ie beneficial bacteria that take up residence in our digestive tract, and help to crowd out harmful microbes responsible for symptoms of digestive imbalances like gas, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. The fermentation process also produces beneficial enzymes that enhance digestion, while making nutrients like fats and proteins more readily available for absorption. Do your best to incorporate these delicious foods into your meals one to two times daily, and give your hardworking gut the TLC it deserves.
Dairy and gluten – they may seem like the makings of something truly delicious, but in reality these foods are more likely the makings of gut troubles! These two are arguably the biggest offenders when it comes to digestive health. It’s suggested that about 65% of adults suffer from some degree of lactose intolerance, which presents itself in the form of nausea, diarrhea, bloating, and/or flatulence. Still, plenty of others experience difficulty in digesting the highly allergenic dairy proteins casein and whey. Gluten can be equally, if not more offensive to anyone’s digestive tract (not just those with Celiac Disease), as it contributes to “Leaky Gut”, a condition wherein damage to the barrier between the digestive tract and the bloodstream occurs, causing a wide variety of digestive and immune related problems. Do your belly a favour, and choose dairy and gluten free alternatives from whole food sources (think coconut products, homemade nut cheeses, and sprouted quinoa or brown rice). Also, avoid highly processed replacement products on the market which bare more resemblance to a science project than they do a food group.
Get Your Zzz's
Don't underestimate the power that a good night's sleep can have on digestive health. A strong correlation has been demonstrated between sleep deprivation and worsening of gastrointestinal symptoms, especially in individuals suffering from conditions like IBS or inflammatory bowel disease. Lack of sleep not only increases inflammation, but also denies cells of the digestive tract and the rest of the body the opportunity for repair and renewal that they require for optimal functioning. Why not take advantage of these short autumn days, and get to bed early? Anywhere between 8 to 10 hours a night of quality sleep is ideal for adults, and practices like turning tech toys off a half hour before bed, or blocking out unwanted light from your bedroom will greatly increase your chances of attaining true "restorative" sleep.