New year’s resolutions are key to set yourself up for success throughout the year. Here are our top picks to help you achieve better gut health in 2020. Reach out to us with any other ideas at email@example.com
Resolution #1: Get a handle on stress
The gut and the brain are closely connected through a wide network of neurons and neurotransmitters. It’s not surprising that many people report stress as a significant trigger for digestive symptoms, while their digestive symptoms can be a trigger for stress. Talk about a vicious cycle! Though stressful events cannot be wished away, how we respond to stress can make all the difference. Several studies have shown meditation and mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques improve digestive symptoms. Talk to your health care provider if stress is impacting your health. Your gut will thank you.
Resolution #2: Listen to your gut
Ok, maybe don’t literally listen to your gut, but your digestive symptoms might be trying to tell you something. Large meals making you uncomfortable? Are there certain foods that cause bloating? rmdy’s clinically backed ingredients help break down difficult to digest foods like dairy, complex sugars, and carbs that may lead to bloating and discomfort. Heartburn or poor sleep a reminder that you can’t handle large, late meals anymore? Does your gut give you the first tell-tale signals that stress (see above) is getting the best of you? Be a detective and try keeping a log of digestive symptoms, food choices, activity and other factors.
Resolution #3: Fuel a Healthy Microbiome
Don’t take for granted the important activity happening in your gut. Your gut microbiome (the trillions of gut bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms) plays an important role in digestive symptoms, blood sugar, weight, immune response, and even brain function. Reduced microbiome diversity (fewer number of species in the gut) is associated with increased inflammation and metabolic syndrome risk. A diet rich in fiber and prebiotics (“gut fuel”) supports a desirable increased microbiome diversity.
The average fiber intake is 16 grams/day in the US, well below the recommended 20-35 grams/day. If increasing fiber is your goal, increase gradually, as it takes time for your gut to adapt. Great sources of fiber include beans (½ cup kidney beans = 6 grams), whole grains (½ cup oatmeal = 3 grams), fruits (one cup raspberries= 8 grams), vegetables (1 red bell pepper = 3 grams), and seeds (2 Tbsp ground flaxseed = 4 grams).
While all prebiotics are fiber, not all fibers are prebiotic. Prebiotics are types of fiber that support the growth of beneficial bacteria in our gut. Rich prebiotic sources include oats, bananas, onions, legumes and chicory root.
Resolution #4: Try herbal options
Feel like you’ve tried everything with no results? Help for your bloating and discomfort might be found from natural sources. The most common herbs used for digestive soothing are ginger, peppermint and fennel. These herbs are frequently used in cooking and in teas, for both flavor and health benefits. Rmdy Daily Digestive Essentials contains blend of these natural soothers in a chewable tablet.
Resolution #5: Keep hydrated
You need enough fluid to prevent constipation and support optimal digestion. Imagine trying to squeeze a tube of dried-out toothpaste. It’s hard work, and similar to what our digestive tract experiences without enough liquid.
While “6-8 glasses of water/day” has been debunked as a one-size-fits-all recommendation, it is a good place to start. Coffee and tea (sorry, not alcohol) count as fluids, though caffeine causes digestive irritation for some. Need a quick hydration check? Your urine should be pale yellow (think the color of a light beer vs a dark ale).
Committing to resolution # 2? Beware that adding fiber can actually increase your risk of constipation if not accompanied by increased fluids.
Resolution #6: Take time for your gut
Taking time for your gut starts with the first part of the digestive journey: your mouth. Slow down. Chewing your food more thoroughly will make digestion easier and will allow you to better enjoy your meal. Put down your fork in-between bites. Try playing relaxing music and removing distractions to slow down the pace.
Take time on the other end of the journey as well. Rushing out the door in the morning with “no time to go”? Unfortunately, ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement can cause problems later. With time, the stool becomes dryer and harder to pass. While everyone has a different “routine”, bowel movements are more likely in the morning. Build in time for this important task!
Sue Heikkinen MS, RDN, CDE
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist; Certified Diabetes Educator
Sue has 20+ years of experience providing Medical Nutrition Therapy in a clinical setting. She completed her Master’s Degree in Nutrition Science and Dietetic Internship at the University of Minnesota. Sue enjoys helping clients find practical strategies to meet their wellness goals. She believes a healthy, guilt-free relationship with food is an essential part of good nutrition. Seeing people improve their quality of life by managing their digestive symptoms is one of the most rewarding aspects of her work.