“Gut health” is a huge buzzword in the wellness industry right now. But what exactly does it mean? Why does it matter? And what’s the best way to try to heal your gut? Read on to learn about your gut and how to take a holistic approach to healing it.
What Exactly IS Your Gut?
Let’s start with the basics. What is your gut? When we talk about the gut, what we’re referring to is your body’s gastrointestinal system. It’s more than just one body part—it’s made up of a group of organs that work together to perform the essential role of digestion. These organs include the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, colon and rectum.
Your brain is also in constant communication with your gut, and the two systems work together to digest your food. The intricate connection between the brain and gut is an amazing phenomenon, and you can learn more about it in this post.
The Gut Microbiome
The gut consists of trillions of microorganisms that play a role in digestion, immunity, brain function and more. This is what we’re referring to when we talk about the gut microbiome (you might also hear about “gut bugs” - same thing).
When the microbiome is healthy, diverse and functioning properly, it contributes to a healthy body and an effective immune system. When it is unhealthy, it can lead to a slew of problems—everything from mood disorders, to food sensitivities, fatigue, and IBS.
Taking a Holistic Approach to Gut Health
There are a lot of companies out there with products and supplements that claim to improve gut health. Some of these products can be helpful. Others not so much.
In truth, cultivating a healthy gut is a process. It’s not always as simple as taking one supplement, or eliminating one type of food. Because the gut is such a complex system, it can take some investigative work to find out what is off balance.
Here are 5 ways to begin your holistic approach to a healthy gut:
Reduce stress. Stress is a leading cause of inflammation in the body, and it also inhibits your body from being able to digest food properly. A holistic approach to gut health MUST include some form of stress management. Consider incorporating meditation, a mindfulness walk, and/or a journaling practice each day to help bring down your stress levels. It’s also important to make sure your body is in a state of rest when you’re eating, so that your gut can adequately digest your food and extract the nutrients from it. Take the time to sit and eat your food, and try to avoid shoveling it in at red lights or during stressful conference calls.
Eat the rainbow. That diverse collection of microorganisms in your gut needs a diverse array of nutrients to stay healthy and function well. Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to ensure your gut is getting the micronutrients it needs to perform optimally.
Get your Vitamin D. Make sure you’re getting out in the sunshine for at least 15 minutes each day. Vitamin D helps to keep your microbiome diverse and keeps pathogens at bay. It’s also tied to mood improvements! You may also consider supplementing Vitamin D, especially if you’re deficient (you can have this checked next time you get blood work done).
Move your body. Staying active is important for maintaining a healthy gut. Whether it’s a walk or an intense workout, all types of movement are beneficial for your body and can help improve your gut health.
Get plenty of sleep. Not getting enough restorative, uninterrupted sleep can throw off your gut microbiome. Aim to get plenty of quality sleep each night. Avoid screen time right before bed, as the blue light can suppress melatonin and lead to poorer sleep quality.
Take Action on Your Gut
Ready to improve your gut health and start feeling better in mind and body? I’ve got something for you! Click here to download my FREE workbook: 10 Steps for a Healthy and Happy Gut.
The content found on Integrative Counseling and Nutrition Consulting platform is not intended to be a substitute for professional therapeutic advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your psychiatrist, therapist or other qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding a mental health condition.