How can you improve the health of your gut?
There are a number of ways to improve the health of your gut, number one being: You have to take care of what you put into your body. There are specific foods that you should strive to make part of your daily food intake, and others that you should avoid as much as possible—however, it’s not just about your diet.
“My top tip that I give everyone is to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate,” says Regina. “Drink a ton of room temperature or warm water, and then drink some more. Make sure it’s warm so that your agni [the Sanskrit term for your digestive fire] can stay in balance. Sip warm water throughout the day, and drink 12 ounces before meals in addition to your sips of water throughout.”
Of course, the food totally matters, too. Processed foods are a major culprit of an unhappy gut, so you’ll want to cut these out as much as possible. “The degree to which you [cut out processed foods], will depend on how much effort you want to put into improving your gut health,” says Regina. “In a perfect world, folks stop eating restaurant food and start growing their own organic food to cook all of their meals with.” However, that’s not possible for most of us, and with delivery app after delivery app making a slew of restaurants available at the click of a button, on top of all the temptation to go out with friends after work, it’s hard to want to cook for yourself all of the time. “Restaurant food is made in large quantities with saving money in mind—which usually translates to mystery ingredients and a low-quality product. Save your nights out for special occasions,” suggests Martone. We know it’s hard to resist the allure of Seamless or that new restaurant on the corner, but it’s all about the effort you put in to get the results you want to see.
Overall, a gut-friendly diet will consist of no processed sugars, grains, dairy, or meat. According to Regina, everything you do consume should be as close to organic as possible (especially meat and dairy, if you choose to eat it at all, which should also be grass-fed with no added hormones and antibiotics). Cook with coconut or avocado oil while absolutely avoiding canola, soy, or corn oils. Grains should be ancient grains and/or sprouted—such an einkorn, faro, spelt, amaranth, quinoa, millet, and hemp hearts. According to Ayurveda, raw or cold food puts out your digestive fire, so keep things cooked (or, cue in the warm water). However, cooking food can also remove its natural enzymes, making it hard to digest, so Martone suggests taking digestive enzymes along with your food. While this is pretty much a given, alcohol and coffee consumption should also be minimized.
Additionally, the intake of probiotics—aka good gut bacteria—is crucial to improving and maintaining gut health. “Because most of us can’t grow our own organic food, it’s vital to improve and maintain gut health via probiotics,” says Regina. She suggests getting your daily probiotics from foods like organic, grass-fed, non-GMO kefir, kombucha, beets, fermented veggies, and kimchi. The good gut bacteria in these foods can improve your ability to process hard-to-digest foods like wheat and dairy.
Pill forms of probiotics exist, however, they’re not deemed as effective as getting them through food—at least, according to both Regina and Martone. “As a practitioner, I only recommend store-bought or prescription probiotics when a person is suffering from severe gut imbalances—in which case I usually recommend Premier Research Labs Probiotic,” says Martone. “Otherwise, I believe acquiring your beneficial bacteria from fermented and cultured foods is far superior.”
Also, since stress can negatively affect your gut health, try taking the time to relax and calm down. “This will balance our serotonin metabolism in the gut,” says Dr. Kogan. This means that you should feel okay about splurging on a nice massage, getting into yoga, or even planning a vacation, because these things will make some improvements to your gut and your overall well-being. Noted!