SMALL STEPS FOR A HEALTHY GUT
We’re all familiar with heart health and bone health, but what about another important part of the body: the gut? The gut is so complex and distinct that scientists call it a “microbiome.” It’s like a miniature eco-system hosting trillions of bacteria inside the body. This complicated system is finally getting more attention from doctors and researchers, who are recognizing the importance of gut health and how to improve it. At Vikasa, we address gut health with every decision made in the creation of our incredible Life Cafe menu as well as in our specialized Vitox program. This program is designed to give your body a break from the chemical additives that so often fill up our food and heal your body from the inside out.
The Importance of Gut Health
A healthy gut prevents all kinds of unwanted stomach issues, including bloating, constipation, heartburn, and abdominal pain. But gut health is about much more than just the stomach. Research has shown that the gut affects everything from the immune system to sleep quality to the skin. If you experience frequent stomach trouble, interrupted sleep, or skin conditions, your gut microbiome may be the source.
How to Improve Gut Health
Fortunately, we now better understand how to improve gut health, and a few lifestyle changes can make a big difference.
Change your diet.
Changing how you eat is the most effective way to improve gut health. Excess amounts of sugar, fat, high-fructose corn syrup and processed foods wreak havoc on the gut. Transitioning to a diet of more whole, natural foods will make a big difference. Make sure you’re eating foods with both probiotics (namely fermented foods like miso, sauerkraut, tempeh, and yogurt) and prebiotics (like garlic, onions, leeks, and oats). Fiber intake also improves gut health, so try to eat more dark-colored vegetables and whole grains as well.
How you eat isn’t quite as important as what you eat, but it’s still key to improving gut health. Eating slowly, chewing thoroughly, and taking breaks between bites all help promote digestion, which leads to a happier gut.
Hydration also affects the body’s ability to digest food and helps keep the gut healthy. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water, especially during exercise or if you live in a warm climate. Try to limit your intake of coffee, soda, and alcohol as well. Eating watermelon, cucumber, and other foods with high water content also improve hydration.
Get enough sleep.
Poor gut health can harm sleep quality – but poor sleep can also damage the gut. Make it a priority to get enough shut-eye, and try to improve your sleep hygiene. That means going to bed and getting up at the same time each day, avoiding screens during the hour before bedtime, and keeping work and other stressors out of the bedroom.
Reduce your stress level.
High stress levels make it difficult for your body to digest properly. If that sounds like you, taking measures to reduce your stress will help improve gut health. Effective techniques for stress reduction are different for different people, but many people benefit from yoga, meditation, massage, exercise, time outside, adult coloring books, and connecting with loved ones (human or animal!). Reducing caffeine and limiting time on electronic devices can also help reduce stress.
Even your yoga practice has the potential to enhance your gut health. Check out this article next and dive into five yoga poses that are designed to assist with digestion and cleanse the body!
Take the ultimate step towards a healthier and happier you at one of our Signature Yoga Vacations right here in paradise!
About the Author
Jen is a freelance writer, blogger, and yoga teacher who left her office job in Boston to travel the world with her husband. She previously worked in international development and academic research, and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Rwanda. Some of her biggest passions include promoting responsible and mindful travel and helping her students develop their personal yoga practice.