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Gut-Friendly Routines

digestive health gut health holistic nutrition stress management Jan 19, 2023
healthy routines

How your gut functions plays a huge role in how you feel throughout the day, mentally and physically! Feeling bloated? Your day might not be the greatest. On the days when you’re not bloated and uncomfortable, you feel like you can accomplish anything. 

Building daily routines that support gut health is crucial for maintaining those good days! 

Consistency and your gut

When it comes to healing your gut, consistency is key! Your body thrives with routine and structure. Why? Because a routine is essentially an order of actions with expected results. If your routine doesn’t have gut-supporting habits within, the outcome is poor digestion and the accompanying symptoms. When you build your routines with gut health support front of mind, you can expect improved digestion and more energy to tackle your day—plus you’ll feel more comfortable in your body.

Additionally, having structure and a sustainable routine helps alleviate stress by removing the guesswork and decision-making from your day. When gut-supporting habits become second nature through consistent routines, your mind and body can rest knowing that you’re doing everything you can to feel good.

Building gut-friendly routines

Establishing a healthy routine can be difficult. Let’s be honest, it’s easier to pick up a bag of chips than it is to ensure you’re hitting your daily vegetable intake. Routines are uncomfortable and require planned effort. When you push your body out of its comfort zone with new habits or a different routine, it desperately wants to get back to what it knows. Then, your mind plays tricks on you to get back to your comfort zone. These tricks come in the form of cravings, negative self-talk, lack of motivation and anything else that prevents you from reaching your goals. 

It helps to remember your “why”! If you set the intention that you’re building a gut-friendly routine to heal from the inside out, it makes everything a bit easier. If you rush through your routine, feeling like these to-dos are chores, then you won’t see your desired results.

Gut-healing habits to incorporate into your routine

Here are my top habits to integrate into your daily lifestyle that will support your healing. It’s not just about adding more gut healthy foods into your diet!

1. Wake up and drink warm lemon water.

You could use limes if you prefer as well! According to ayurvedic teachings, lemons and limes help loosen toxins in the digestive system. Warm lemon water also supports digestion by stimulating the gastrointestinal tract and peristalsis—the waves of muscle contractions within the intestinal walls that keep things moving. Additionally, starting your day with warm lemon water balances the pH in your body because of the lemon’s alkaline nature. That’s right! Lemon juice is acidic until it’s metabolized in the body. 

2. Eat balanced high-fiber meals

Eating low-fiber foods, or relying on the same fiber supplement every day can damage your gut microbiota and the health of your mucus wall.

A proper fiber diet feeds and makes the bacteria inside the gut thrive. When those good gut bugs thrive, they increase and form new types of good bacteria. When you have a variety of microbes, the mucus wall within the stomach and intestines can thicken, which then lowers inflammation and better protects the body from the busy bacteria population. 

Incorporate a large array of fresh fruits, grains, and vegetables with every meal throughout the day and your gut will appreciate the variety!

3. Eat without distractions and/or being rushed

Taking a break to eat a meal should be a time for you to focus on healing. Eating while stressed or distracted prevents your body from entering its rest and digest mode.

The gut-brain connection is no joke! The Automatic Nervous System has three systems within that enable your brain and digestive system to remain in constant communication—the Sympathetic Nervous System, the Parasympathetic Nervous System and the Enteric Nervous System. 

The Sympathetic Nervous System is responsible for our “fight or flight.” When you find yourself in a stressful situation, this system stimulates blood flow to the major muscles and the brain. Unfortunately, this slows down peristalsis and moves blood away from the digestive system. Studies have been conducted to dive deeper into the relationship between over-activated stress response and digestive disorders.

Rest and digest mode is controlled by the Parasympathetic Nervous System. This is where you want your body to be a majority of the time! Energy is conserved, heart rate slows down, peristalsis is working efficiently and your gut has the blood it needs for good digestion.

The Enteric Nervous System, also known as the “second brain,” is an autonomous, intrinsic nervous system of the gastrointestinal tract. It can detect the physiological condition of the gastrointestinal tract, and uses the information to control gut movement, fluid exchange between the gut and its lumen, and blood flow. This system has extensive, two-way, connections with the central nervous system, and works in unison to control the digestive system by processing gastrointestinal and whole-body physiological demands. 

Guide your body into a parasympathetic state before you eat. Firmly plant your feet on the floor and take five deep, belly breaths to help you to relax before you begin your meal.

4. Slow down, breathe, chew, and drink some water

This habit goes hand in hand with the one above. Being calm before starting your meal is important and so is maintaining rest and digest mode throughout the meal. Stressed eating = stressed body and digestive system. 

Chew your food 15 to 30 times, minimum. Your stomach doesn’t have teeth to break down your food. Doing the extra work with your actual teeth will relieve some of the extra work your digestive system has to do later on. 

Pause in between bites to slow your eating and allow time for your brain and gut to communicate proper hunger and satiety cues. It takes roughly 20 minutes for the brain and gut to determine if you are satisfied, so aim for meals to last 20 minutes or longer. Missing these cues can cause overeating, which adds more stress to digestion. Research shows that when you stop eating at 80% fullness, your body has the proper amount of time to receive hormonal signals that help avoid getting too full and feeling uncomfortable after the meal. 

Keep water to a minimum while eating. Too much water can dilute your stomach acid, digestive enzymes, and bile—three chemical compounds that are vital for healthy digestion.

5. Leave 3-4 hours between meals/snacks

The migrating motor complex needs time to clean out the gut so the risk of food staying in the digestive system and fermenting decreases. When food does not move through the gut properly, bloating occurs! This bodily function can’t happen when meals are too close together or you’re constantly snacking. 

My recommendation—do not overhaul your existing routine and replace it with a bunch of new habits all at once. Your body is likely already stressed—overwhelming it with new habits will not help! Incorporate one or two gut-supporting habits at a time to allow your body to adjust to the changes. Once the new habit feels comfortable, slowly integrate another one. 

Here’s to healing!

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