Although diet is always a key part of healthy digestion, many other factors influence what goes on in your gut. Sleep, hydration, and stress all play a role in how well the digestive system is functioning. Here are six healthy lifestyle tips to keep your gut working at its best.

1. Slow down and chew

Chewing food thoroughly is an often-overlooked aspect of healthy digestion. Spending more time chewing per bite is linked to better digestion, as well as nutrient absorption.

Chewing food breaks it into smaller pieces, allowing it to better mix with important digestive enzymes in saliva.

Chewing kickstarts the whole down-line digestive process, telling the brain to begin releasing enzymes from the pancreas so the small intestine is ready and waiting for the food coming from your stomach. The better digested your food is, the more nutrients your body will extract from it.

On the other hand, swallowing food without much chewing gives the stomach a lot more work to do, which can contribute to digestive problems such as bloating, cramps, gas, and indigestion.

How much time should you spend chewing each bite? It depends on the type and texture of the food. Although the most common advice is to chew EACH BITE 30-40 times before swallowing, you should really be aiming to chew until food has a soft, smooth texture similar to applesauce or thick soup.

2. Stay hydrated

Water is critical to the digestive process, because it keeps food moving through the digestive tract and benefits the mucosal lining of the intestines.

Not only does water help the digestive process, it also supports a healthy gut flora – the tiny microbes that live in the gut.

These microbes support several essential functions in the body, including nutrient absorption, waste elimination, and immune function. Poor hydration is a common cause of constipation. So keeping up your water intake helps your whole system run smoothly.

3. Get some exercise 

Exercise is another factor in maintaining a balanced and healthy gut microbiome. Studies show that regular exercise positively changes the quality and quantity of the composition of the gut microbiota.

Exercise also keeps your gut strong – and we aren’t referring to your six-pack.

Regular workouts contribute to a more toned and efficiently functioning gut. This is believed to be due to better blood flow, improved nutrient absorption, and healthy elimination.

One caution: overtraining can actually cause gastrointestinal problems, so moderation is important when it comes to exercise and the gut.

4. Manage stress

Chronic stress is hard on the body; it can adversely impact your health in many ways, including your gut health. Frequent high stress levels can decrease the beneficial types of bacteria in the gut, such as the Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus bacteria species, while allowing the levels of the pathogenic bacteria, such as E. coli and Enterobacteria, to increase.

Stress can also alter the communication pathways between your gut and your brain, sending signals that can weaken gut immunity and motility.

So managing stress is one of the most important things you can do to keep your digestive system healthy. To find out if your stress levels are too high, consider testing your hormone levels that are related to stress to see if there is more you can be doing to manage your stress response.

5. Get enough sleep

Poor sleep habits hinder the health of your gut, specifically the gut’s microbiome. Some studies indicate that adults who have poor sleep quality also have less than an optimal gut microbiota.2

To support the health of your gut, get 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night.

If you have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep, then try testing the biomarkers related to sleep to determine why you are experiencing difficulty.

6. Use supplements that support gut health 

Taking high-quality nutritional supplements helps promote good digestive health.* If you are looking for an easy place to start, then Thorne’s Gut Health Bundle contains three products that support three different aspects of your digestive well-being.*

Thorne’s Gut Health Bundle contains a shelf-stable probiotic that promotes digestive and intestinal health; a prebiotic fiber formula that helps maintain regularity and a balanced gut flora; and a unique botanical and nutrient product that helps maintain a healthy inflammatory response in the gastrointestinal tract, soothes the gastrointestinal tract's mucus membranes, and supports regularity.*

A healthy gut equals a healthier you

The human gastrointestinal tract is a complex system that affects practically every other area of your health. By practicing the six healthy lifestyle habits described above, you are not only supporting your gastrointestinal health, you are also setting a foundation for better overall health.


References

  1. Monda V, Villano I, Messina A, et al. Exercise modifies the gut microbiota with positive health effects. Oxid Med Cell Longev 2017;2017:3831972.
  2. Anderson J, Carroll I, Azcarate-Peril M, et al. A preliminary examination of gut microbiota, sleep, and cognitive flexibility in healthy older adults. Sleep Med 2017;38:104-107.