By Melody Khorrami, PharmD, RPh
As we enter a new year, it is always helpful to take a moment to reflect on the past year. Journaling about your personal progress, both professionally and socially, and re-examining your life vision can help you set new goals. As you assess the past, try to practice grace and gratitude for all the twists and turns of life. Many of us will use this time of renewal to focus on health and wellness goals. Here’s a thought: start with your gut!
Research in the gut microbiome space has erupted in the last couple years. Our gut is home to trillions of microbes that create a dynamic environment which influences so much of our health and well-being. These microbes are responsible for the digestion process, metabolism, and immune function. There are a variety of factors that can affect the gut microbiome which include your diet and lifestyle, environmental changes, the aging process, stress, and the use of unnecessary antibiotics.
Individual variations in the human microbiota are always present, that is why bio-individuality is important in this space. Research has suggested a link to an imbalance of gut bacteria and some common health conditions. These include, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, diabetes, as well as possible links to mental health conditions through the gut-brain axis.
So now you might ask yourself: How can I support my gut health in the new year? Starting slowly and sustainably is key, and as always, be patient with yourself as you make these changes!
Tip 1: Manage your stress
The gut-brain axis has been an important area of research the last couple years. There is increasing evidence that dysbiosis, or an imbalance of gut microbiota, can contribute to anxiety, and depression. Excess stress can also be a trigger for negative digestive symptoms. Research has shown that using mind-body techniques such as mindfulness-based stress reduction practices can assist with managing stress that could be contributing to digestive issues and other conditions.
Incorporating movement in your everyday life can help reduce stress, this includes practices like yoga, which has been shown to lower cortisol, the primary stress hormone. As always, if you feel like your stress and anxiety have gotten to unmanageable levels seeking professional counseling or psychotherapy is an important measure to take. In fact, therapy can be a wonderful way to explore and reflect on the root cause of your emotions and stress and find the tools to learn more about yourself.
Tip 2: Adjust your diet
Have you heard the term you are what you eat? Our gut microbiome is heavily influenced by the foods that we eat. Eliminating processed and high sugar content foods and incorporating more nutrient dense foods are a great first step that will help your beneficial gut bacteria thrive. Some studies have shown that altering your diet can create temporary microbial shifts within just 24 hours. Incorporating prebiotic foods such as garlic, artichoke, onions, asparagus, leeks, bananas, flaxseeds and oats and more fiber into the diet can help modulate the gut microbiota. Some examples of high fiber foods include, pears, berries, chia seeds, avocados, brussels sprouts, lentils and chickpeas.
Working with a nutritionist or dietician can be a great way to figure out food sensitivities, and to find sustainable ways to include more nutrient dense foods into your diet and find a plan that works for your lifestyle.
Tip 3: Consider a probiotic
As research increases around the relationship between the gut microbiome and different diseases the interest around probiotics has also increased.
While you should always start with lifestyle and diet when approaching gut health, incorporating a well-studied probiotic can also be beneficial in certain circumstances. The most used strains are from the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium genera. Other strains such as the Enterococcus and Streptococcus genera are also used in probiotic products.
With so many probiotics on the market it can be challenging to find a product that has its own clinical studies and is a multi-strain product. Probiotics can help your body maintain a healthy community of microbes and can have an influence on your body’s immune response and digestive process. Here are a couple questions to consider when choosing a probiotic:
- Does this specific product have clinical trials to show a health benefit?
- How does this probiotic brand ensure potency of product?
- Does this product contain an appropriate CFU count? (CFU is the unit used to estimate the concentration of microorganisms in the product)
- Does the product have diversity in strains that are used?
Asking the right questions can help you and your healthcare provider make informed choices related to choosing the right probiotic for your needs.
Please note: This article has been written for informational use only. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your health and diet regimen.
By Melody Khorrami, PharmD, RPh
As the holidays approach, many of us look forward to gathering with family and friends to celebrate and enjoy delicious meals. We are eager to feast on seasonal treats like turkey, stuffing, potatoes, and rolls; not to mention all the desserts! While all this food and company is wonderful, it can be overwhelming to our digestive systems. Fear not! There are steps you can take to help ease the digestive process. This is supposed to be a fun day and you shouldn’t feel any stress or shame about indulging and enjoying the festivities!
Starting your morning off with fiber rich foods can help keep your bowels moving regularly and feed the good bacteria in your gut to help keep your microbiome healthy. Having regular bowel movements is important in eliminating toxins, keeping your hormones balanced, and reducing constipation. The last thing you want is to be constipated on the holidays, right before enjoying your meal. Fiber is naturally found in most fruits and vegetables. So, make sure to include a variety of these in your meals!
Drinking enough filtered water throughout the day is an important step in preventing dehydration, keeping your bowels moving, and digestion. According to studies
inadequate hydration has also been linked to elevated BMI and obesity. Starting your morning with a glass of filtered water or lemon water upon waking is one of the best things you can do you start your day. This is because your body is in a fasted state while sleeping and can be dehydrated upon waking. Lemon water can help with digestion by increasing the production of HCL, also known as hydrochloric acid. Our stomach secretions are made up of hydrochloric acid
, and digestive enzymes that help us digest and absorb nutrients such as proteins in our foods.
Need I say more? Finding the right movement for your body is important to many aspects of your overall health and wellness. Improved digestion is just one!
Take a walk the morning of your dinner plans and perhaps a second one with family and friends about 15 minutes after eating
Daily walking can help reduce bloating, aid in digestion, and help balance your blood sugar after a meal.
Incorporating movement such as yoga not only can be beneficial for mental health but can also help with constipation, insomnia and healthy aging
Consider a quick yoga session during the day or in the evening! Certain poses can aid in regulating the bowels and decrease bloating. Some yoga poses
that could be helpful for the digestive system include:
- Child’s pose, camel pose
- The twisted lunge
- Revolved chair pose
- Bridge pose
- The supine twist
If certain poses are uncomfortable, you should not overextend yourself, there are usually modifications to the movement you can do and still receive great benefits!
can help manage the stress of Holiday season by reducing the sympathetic response of the nervous system which is our “fight or flight response”, when we go into “fight or flight” it can negatively affect our digestive
system and in turn cause the digestive system to function improperly. When the stress response is activated, the central nervous system shuts down digestion which causes the slowing down of the digestive muscles and decreased secretions necessary for optimal digestive processes. This can lead to bloating, gas, and constipation.
The digestive system cannot work optimally if the body and mind are constantly stressed.
Practicing a mix of yoga and breath work techniques have many benefits for mental and physical health and this includes aiding in proper digestion. So, grab a yoga mat, and start moving and breathing!
The gut microbiome houses trillions of microbes that play important roles in our digestion and overall health. These microbes help us breakdown the foods we eat and help with absorption of critical vitamins. When there are more bad bacteria than good bacteria present, it results in a condition known as dysbiosis. When you experience dysbiosis, digestion can become harder and you may have more negative GI symptoms after eating such as bloating, gas, and burping.
can help ease the discomfort associated with bloating, and gas and help your body digest the foods that you eat. Before you start taking a probiotic remember that each person is different, and your needs may not match the needs of the people around you.
Bio-individuality is key in determining which probiotic strains are best for you. Probiotics have very little regulatory oversight, so it is important to identify reputable brands that offer evidence-based research related to their specific product.
I hope you find these GI tips useful on Turkey Day, stay safe, and enjoy!
***The following article is not medical advice. Please talk to your doctor before making changes to your wellness routine. ***
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Holidays may interrupt our typical healthy habits, disrupt our regular diet andor bring additional stress and anxiety. Here a few tips to deal with all the holidays repercussions that you might feel in your guts.