When the cold weather hits, we may find ourselves gravitating towards more comfort foods and taking a break from the gym. While both of those things can be fine in moderation, it can be easy to slip into practices that don’t benefit our gut health. Over the years, studies have found links between our gut health and our mood, immune system, autoimmune diseases, and cancer. Here are some tips to keep your gut healthy and happy.
Lower Stress Levels
Gut health goes far beyond what you’re feeding your body. When under stress, your sympathetic nervous system, which regulates breathing, heartbeat, and blood pressure, goes into flight-or-fight response. When your nervous system enters this state, you can become nauseous or have an increase in acid reflux. In more severe cases, stress can cause a decrease in blood flow to the stomach which causes cramping and an imbalance of gut bacteria. Stress can also worsen GI problems like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or peptic ulcers. By engaging in activities that can relieve stress like working out, meditating or getting a massage, you can help regulate your body and gut.
Massage therapy can lower stress levels and relieve pain and by decreasing the overall stress on your mind and body, your digestive system can get back to its healthy function. In addition, massages can take our body from flight-or-fight response to rest-and-recover mode. It also relaxes the sphincter muscles within our GI tract and increases intestinal activity. This can all lead to relief from constipation and gas.
Change Your Diet
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with splurging and treating yourself every once in a while, but it’s important to feed your body fresh, clean foods and lean protein. In addition, consuming high-fiber foods that are rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables can improve your diet. Fiber can help to keep food moving through your digestive tract and will make you less likely to get constipated. A high-fiber diet can also prevent issues like IBS and hemorrhoids.
Take Prebiotics and Probiotics
Probiotics increase the amount of good bacteria in your digestive tract and keep the body healthy. Probiotics can also enhance your nutrient absorption and strengthen your immune system. For example, when you’re sick, bad bacteria increases and enters the body. The good bacteria works to fight off the bad and restore balance within your body. Probiotic-heavy foods include yogurt, kefir, and kombucha, or you can take a probiotic supplement.
Prebiotics serve as “food” for good bacteria to grow in the gut. Prebiotic rich foods include asparagus, bananas, oats, apples, and flaxseed.
Exercise and Stay Hydrated
Not only does physical activity help decrease your stress levels, but it’s great for your gut. Regular exercise helps to keep food moving through your digestive system. Drinking plenty of water can also help regulate bowel movements, in addition to breaking down foods with stomach acid and enzymes. Your body needs fluids to help food move through your system, and if there isn’t enough, you can become constipated or bloated. In serious or prolonged cases of dehydration, you can develop stomach ulcers or acid reflux.
Your gut contributes to and is affected by a lot more than you think! By making small changes to your diet and lifestyle, you can greatly improve function throughout your digestive system. If you have questions about how massage therapy can benefit you, give us a call today, we’re happy to help! (414) 332-3260