Have you jumped into extreme health mode on the first of January, only to fall back from your new diet a few weeks later? For many of us, the New Year is the time to get our goals in order and begin with a fresh face. However, the most successful resolutions are always made in slow and decisive steps. This year, we recommend taking smaller steps toward a healthier lifestyle.
Start with building a healthy gut that can support you as you make healthy choices over the coming year. Your microbiome is the centre of your body, and imbalance can cause serious issues such as digestive upset, illness, and mood changes. If you begin a drastic diet change without thinking of your gut health, you are bound for discomfort––which is unlikely to encourage you to continue. If you want to start your year on the right foot, continue reading to learn how to improve your gut health.
What is the gut microbiome?
Your body is a wild organism, and the gut microbiome is at its centre. Right from the moment you are born, your body is populated with microorganisms that will continue to be the foundation of your health throughout your life. From how you digest food to how quickly you recover from a cold to healthy hormone production, your body’s microbiota is essential. While your gut population is largely stable after the first few years of your life, you can benefit from a regular intake of probiotics and the healthy foods that support them.
Most of your microbiota are located in your large and small intestines, but there are essential microorganisms living in and on your body that help protect your health. Research shows how vital a diverse microbiome is to your immune system, mental health, and leading a long, healthy life.
How do you know if your gut is healthy?
Balance is the key to a healthy body. While the microbiome is filled with beneficial microbes, it is also home to harmful ones. When the body is out of balance, it can cause a myriad of uncomfortable symptoms, including:
- Indigestion (such as IBS, constipation, heartburn, and diarrhea)
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Sleep issues
- Sugar cravings
- Allergies and rashes
- Unexplained weight gain or loss
One reason we tend to forgo our resolutions is that they don’t appear to have an immediate benefit. When we view our body as a system, we can more easily tackle our goals by creating a healthier and more symbiotic environment––starting with building a healthy gut in slow, measured increments. Set small goals you can achieve throughout the year to develop healthier habits and feel good in your body.
Build a healthy gut microbiome to support your body and your resolutions.
If your New Year’s resolutions include healthy eating, better exercise habits, or fitness goals, a healthy gut is the place to start. Your body needs the care to support your resolutions this coming year!
1. Change your diet slowly
The first rule of building a flourishing gut is to introduce foods slowly; a sudden increase in fibre without the necessary microorganisms to digest it can be very hard on your digestive system and cause discomfort, excessive gas, and bloating––this is especially true if you have gastrointestinal sensitivities such as IBS. In addition, the discomfort you feel can deter you from making positive changes to your lifestyle. Changing over time is a better method for creating long-term habits.
2. Incorporate more fermented foods into your diet
Kimchi, kefir, and kombucha are more than a fun alliteration. Fermented foods are a powerhouse for your digestive system! These foods, which also include yogurt, tempeh and miso, are chock full of probiotics which can boost your immunity, help you digest food more efficiently, manage your weight, and significantly reduce symptoms of IBS. Our changing diets can damage our healthy microbiome leading to vitamin deficiencies, discomfort, and illness. You can support this essential system by having at least two servings of fermented food daily!
If you are going to add fermented food to your diet, opt for refrigerated products; their shelf-stable counterparts are pasteurized with heat, reducing the amount of beneficial live bacteria. Never buy fermented foods from unregulated sources –– especially if they ship, as foodborne illnesses are a serious health concern, especially when they are subject to fluctuating temperatures. You can learn to make your own fermented foods at home –– just ensure you practice good food-safe habits like sterilizing jars and work surfaces and following recipe directions.
3. Slowly increase fibre
Simple ways to help support the healthy bacteria in your guts is to feed them tasty fibre from whole grains, legumes, bananas, dark leafy greens (kale, seaweed, dandelion), onions, asparagus, and garlic. These foods can be hard on your tummy all at once; every week, add or swap in one new high-fibre ingredient on your grocery list to keep your lower intestine happy.
High-fibre diets are a significant indicator of health and longevity. The fibre remains undigested in the stomach and moves to the intestines, where your gut flora enzymes digest it and convert it into short-chain fatty acids (scfa). SCFAs are made when beneficial bacteria ferment fibre-heavy foods in your intestine. These fatty acids are the primary source of energy for your colon and play a role in reducing your risk of heart disease, colon cancer, and diabetes.
Here’s to a healthy and gut-happy new year!
Taking care of your gut flora will help support your goals for 2023 by providing a solid foundation for your mind and body. Remember that small changes can result in a big difference. This New Year, try to set incremental goals that you can sustain throughout the year–– all you have to do is sit back and enjoy a delicious bowl of yogurt.