3 Easy Ways to Optimize Your Gut Health (and Immune System!)
Did you know an adult GI tract can be up to 30 feet long? The gut is one of the most vital systems in our bodies and is responsible for our digestion and absorption of nutrients, mental health, and immune system function.
How does our gut have anything to do with immunity? Think of your gut as a barrier between substances you consume and your body. Research has shown that our guts represent as much as 70% of our immune system.
Our microbiome (trillions of microbes living in our GI tract) not only help digest and absorb food, they also keep our gut cells healthy, which is vital for maintaining a strong immune response.
How can we support these hard-working guts of ours? Here are 3 ways:
- Focus on Fibre
Fibre is your gut’s favourite food – and for good reason!
Fibre not only feeds our gut bacteria, but also keeps our gut cells healthy. Fibre benefits go far beyond just our microbiome; increased fibre intake can help control our blood sugar, decrease our cholesterol levels, and promote bowel regularity.
Studies show Canadians are not getting enough fibre in their diet. Women need ~25 grams/day and men need ~38 grams/day.
Fibre comes from vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Here are 3 tips to boost your fibre intake:
- Aim for ½ of your plate to be filled with fruit or veg.
- Sprinkle seeds and nuts into your oatmeal, yogurt, salads, and smoothies!
- Swap out meat for protein-rich plants like lentils (great in soup, chili, and pasta sauce), chickpeas (versatile in pasta, rice bowls, and salads), or edamame beans.
**Note: Increasing fibre intake without increasing fluid intake can lead to unpleasant gut symptoms like gas and bloating. Make sure to drink lots of water!
- Diversify your diet
Research shows that having a diverse assortment of foods in the diet is key to gut health – so switch things up!
- Try picking up a NEW veggie or fruit that you have never tried each week at the grocery store!
- Experiment with herbs, canned beans or frozen veggies.
Not only will your gut thank you, it also keeps things exciting in the kitchen and can lead to new-found favourite recipes!
- Prioritize your Mental Health
Ever heard of the “gut-brain connection”? More and more research is finding a connection between our brains and our gut, meaning stress and anxiety are actually causing negative effects on our gut health.
You have probably noticed this connection before. Many people experience symptoms like diarrhea or constipation when stressed or feel nauseous when anxious.
Practicing self-care, getting good quality sleep, and exercising is vital for stress-reduction.
Poor sleep can negatively impact your gut health. Try to keep your sleep consistent (our guts LOVE routine) and check in on your sleep hygiene (avoid screens right before bed, watch caffeine intake, follow a bedtime routine).
Exercise has countless whole-body benefits, so it’s not surprising that movement also helps our guts stay happy, promoting regular bowels, and keeping our microbiome healthy and diverse. Find a movement that is enjoyable for you – this could include something as simple as going for a walk, gardening, cleaning the house, yoga, and more.
Gut issues impact us all. Want more support on transitioning to a gut-health promoting diet? Not sure if you should take a probiotic? Looking for relief in your gut symptoms?
Our Registered Dietitian can help. Book today to take a step towards a healthy, happy gut and a strong immune system!