Ever notice how many emotions you feel in your belly? Anxiety, fear, butterflies, joy. There’s definitely a reason why gut health is important, and why your gut is considered your second brain.
But what happens to those emotions and your gut health when your digestive tract isn’t functioning as it should? When your food isn’t being properly digested and absorbed, it’s common to feel depressed, anxious and tired.
For some of us, these problems can be so debilitating that we experience symptoms all day long. We shouldn’t have to live our lives in digestive misery. That’s why it’s so important to explore what might be causing your digestive system to go off the rails.
What does gut health really mean anyway?
You may know gut health has to do with digestion, but there is much more to it. It also has to do with chewing, nutrient absorption, keeping healthy bacteria in the large intestine flourishing, preventing acid reflux, consuming adequate dietary fiber, drinking enough water and much more. Simply put, having great gut health means everything from your mouth to the large intestine is working the way it is supposed to while cultivating optimal health in one’s body, such as transportation of nutrients to where they need to be.
We understand guests at Skyterra may present with a host of different symptoms related to poor gut health, but we believe they can be improved. See the tips below for simple ways to improve digestion without relying on complicated supplements or strategies.
Disclaimer: For those with serious symptoms, such as blood in urine or stool, seeking a gastroenterologist is strongly recommended. You may need to meet with a GI specialist to truly find the root of a problem. We also recommend dietitians who specialize in GI disorders and diseases.
What causes issues with gut health?
Finding the solution can be a complicated issue and it can be hard to pinpoint the root of the problem. The gastrointestinal tract starts in the mouth and ends you-know-where. Along the way, your intestinal tract alone is equivalent to the height of nine stories. The lining of your small intestine, if spread out, is roughly the size of a football field.
To add even more intrigue, your microbiome, the vast community of trillions of bacteria and fungi that inhabit every nook and cranny of your gastrointestinal tract, weighs up to five pounds. And your entire GI tract has more nerve cells than your spinal cord. This is a lot of information, but it matters when it comes to figuring out why something could be causing symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, upset stomach, nausea and more.
Step 1: Start with stress management
Chronic stress is also a common cause of digestive issues. It may sound like a copout but it is true. Think back to a time when you had nausea or a lot of stomach pain. It was most likely during a time of stress, constant busy-ness and a sense of feeling overwhelmed. Research continues to show both direct and indirect correlations between stress and GI issues. This is also referred to as the brain-gut connection — what affects your brain also affects digestion.
Stress management is key to optimal digestion because of the havoc stress can wreak on your digestive system. Stress hormones directly affect your digestion. When your body is in fight-or-flight mode, it thinks you don’t have time to rest and digest. During periods of stress, blood and energy are diverted away from your digestive system.
One way to improve GI symptoms is to prioritize stress management. Breath work, yoga, massage, meditation, taking a leisurely walk outside, spending time with a pet, and more can all support GI health. And don’t those suggestions sound better than taking medication?
Stress management, meditation and relaxation training have all been shown to improve symptoms in people with IBS. Other studies have found that cognitive behavioral therapy, acupuncture and yoga have improved digestive symptoms. Therefore, incorporating stress management techniques, such as deep belly breathing, meditation or yoga, may improve not only your mindset but also your digestion.
How to keep your gut healthy and efficient: Steps 2-6
Here at Skyterra, we take gut health seriously and approach your microbiome from a culinary, nutritional support and stress management perspective. Below our experts share tips on natural ways to improve digestion without relying on pro- and prebiotics, as well as how to keep your gut healthy and efficient.
Step 2: Yogurt and kefir contain live and active cultures. This means that once consumed, you are ingesting positive and healthy bacteria to support your microbiome. These foods may cause bloating and gas for those with lactose intolerance, but small amounts may be a way to integrate them. Use yogurt or kefir in your smoothies to pack an added digestive punch.
Try this today: Use Greek yogurt in Skyterra’s apple apricot smoothie recipe.
Step 3: Consume salmon, avocado, nuts and seeds. These foods are packed with healthy fats and other micronutrients that support anti-inflammation. Our bodies do not produce the omega-3 fatty acids these foods provide. For those who struggle with the roughage of nuts and seeds, try eating nut and seed butters, as they are pureed and more gentle on the GI tract.
Try this today: Skyterra’s recipe for ginger coriander crusted salmon with cantaloupe salsa.
Step 4: Soups are typically gentle and easy on the entire GI tract. Carrot soup, butternut squash soup, cauliflower bisque and apple fennel soups are all great options because they allow you to consume plant food without all the chewing.
Try this today: Skyterra’s apple fennel soup recipe.
Step 5: Oatmeal is fantastic, especially as a breakfast option. It is rich in fiber, typically pretty gentle on the tummy, and soothing in a warm way. Oatmeal can be topped with ground flaxseed, berries and other goodies to make it even more nutrient dense. Oatmeal contains a fiber called beta-glucan that has been linked to more consistent bowel movements and heart health.
Try this today: Skyterra’s signature banana oatmeal pancakes
Step 6: Local eggs are great to integrate because they are typically very easy to digest while providing protein, B vitamins, choline and omega-3 fatty acids. For those with IBS or inflammatory GI conditions, eggs typically digest well without causing more irritation.
Looking for more? Join us for Freedom With Food, Skyterra’s signature specialty weeks on overcoming binge eating and emotional eating. Click here for more.