Gut Feelings

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[title subtitle="A Guide To Digestive Health"]You Are What You Eat[/title] Let’s face it, digestion isn’t a fun thing to talk about. But, we can’t talk about wellness without talking about the importance of digestion. So, let’s just get down to the nitty-gritty, shall we?

Your digestive system, commonly referred to as your gut, is made up of nine unique parts—each of which play a crucial role in maintaining your overall health. Individually and collectively, they reap the nutrients from the food you eat. We’ll get into what I call “gut-healthy” foods in a bit, but I want to begin my pointing out the important link between your mental health and your digestive system.

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[title subtitle=""]Is "Gut Stress" a Thing?[/title]

We’re all stressed out about something. Whether it a final exam, relationship, or pimple, stress is both an unfortunate and inevitable part of life. Believe it or not, emotional stress can often lead to digestive stress. Yes, your feelings can affect your gut. Last week, we talked about how essential oils can help keep your mental wellness in check before your anxiety wrecks your insides. This week we’re going to talk about what happens when that anxiety can’t be prevented.

To put things into perspective, your gut is responsible for 95% of your body's serotonin production. Serotonin, for those who don’t know, is the chemical responsible for your mood, memory, and sleep. Basically, if your digestive system isn't functioning at optimal levels, your body won't produce enough serotonin needed for you to be the awesome and happy person you’re meant to be.

What REALLY Happens to Your Intestines

Stress causes the walls of our intestines to become inflamed. Because our intestines are responsible for the majority of our water and nutrient absorption, we definitely need them to function properly.

Intestine

The inflammation of our intestinal walls compromises the villi—a.k.a. the teeny tiny protrusions on the walls of our intestines that start the nutrient transportation process. At the same time, inflammation also clogs the lymph drainage system. What happens when the lymph (fluid that travels within and around our body collecting waste) drainage system doesn’t work properly? Well, everyone’s worst nightmare of course! Skin irritations and breakouts. Fun.

Unfortunately, chronic stress also affects our output of digestive enzymes which are responsible for breaking down food in the small intestine and pancreas for proper nutrient absorption. The older we get, the fewer digestive enzymes we produce—a perk right next to hot flashes and grey hair.

What Happens Inside Your Liver

Liver

When our gut isn't doing its job, our liver overcompensates by performing waste-removing duties that aren't being met by the rest of our digestive system. As a result, it doesn't cleanse our blood like it normally would or should. Dull, lack-luster, eczema, and breakout-prone skin are telltale signs your liver is in overdrive.

Why All Of This Matters

Digestion is important not just for your waistline, but also for your beauty! In the up-coming weeks, we're going to be talking a lot about health and eating your way to beautiful skin. Sure, products help, but real beauty always starts on the inside.

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[title subtitle=""]Gut Healthy Nomz[/title]

Hope is not lost. There are tasty and gut-healthy foods that can be introduced to your diet immediately.

[infobox subtitle="" bg="green" color="white" opacity="off" space="30" link="no link"]Fermented Foods[/infobox]

By definition, fermented food is food that has already begun to break down or exposed to natural yeast and bacteria. While this may sound unappetizing, fermented food has trillions, yes, trillions of healthy bacteria that help fight infection and inflammation. Miso, Kimchi, Kefir, Kombucha, and Tempeh are common examples of fermented food. Kefir is a thinner, tangier yogurt that contains beneficial yeast and probiotics that are oh-so-important for your gut health. I, for example, recently started substituting almond milk with kefir for my smoothies. Kefir is 99% lactose-free! It’s also a great source of protein—9 grams per cup!

[infobox subtitle="" bg="orange" color="white" opacity="off" space="30" link="no link"] Herbs & Spices[/infobox]

You don't need to look far. Take a peek into your pantry! Ginger is an easy root to introduce to your diet because it not only keeps your digestive system chugging along but it also reduces nausea and inflammation. Lo's recipe for Ginger Tea From Scratch would be a great place to start. Otherwise, fennel, licorice, turmeric, dandelion, and peppermint will also have your gut saying thank you.

[infobox subtitle="" bg="red" color="white" opacity="off" space="30" link="no link"]Probiotics[/infobox]

Probiotic supplements are designed to make it to your intestines before releasing the beneficial bacteria that keeps your gut healthy. There are different strains of probiotic bacteria available, the industry hasn't proven which is best. Experts recommend looking for Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. 

[infobox subtitle="" bg="yellow" color="white" opacity="off" space="30" link="no link"]Raw Fruits & Veggies[/infobox]

Our mothers didn't make us eat our veggies for nothing! Raw fruits and vegetables contain enzymes that encourage our body to break down and take in nutrients. It's best to eat fruits and vegetables raw because the enzymes are destroyed when you cook them.

[infobox subtitle="" bg="blue" color="white" opacity="off" space="30" link="no link"]Other Tips & Tricks[/infobox]

Get ready, this is probably the only time you'll hear someone comparing exercise to eating. Just like the way you warm-up your body when you work out, you have to warm-up your digestion system before you eat. Drink a glass of water 15 minutes before your meal to hydrate your digestive tract. This helps the intestinal villi (the protrusions on the intestinal walls we talked about before) perform their best.

This next tip is especially tricky for me, who, mind you, can finish a meal in six minutes flat. Since the digestion process begins in your mouth, experts recommend recommend chewing your food, even if it's a green juice or a smoothie, 20-30 times before swallowing. By doing so, you're releasing special enzymes that help spark the start of the digestive process.

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[title subtitle="We talked about your gut like adults!"]Congratulations[/title]

Now, that wasn't too bad, was it?