In terms of our physical well-being, two primary factors that have a direct correlation on our health pertain to our gut health and inflammation in our body. From aches and illnesses to the onset of certain diseases, quite often, we find that these symptoms or conditions can be linked back to these two important health issues.
While some people run to the Doctor for a prescription when they experience a physical problem, my mindset is the opposite. Instead of reaching for pharmaceuticals to treat my symptoms (which often cause other side effects and problems), I prefer to figure out the root cause and eradicate the source of the problem (naturally). Over the past few weeks, I have been spending more time doing research on gut health and inflammation, as these are often related to many common health problems.
Easy Ways To Improve Gut Health & Reduce Inflammation
To enhance your overall wellness and increase your ability to naturally heal yourself, here are 4 easy ways to improve your gut health and reduce inflammation in your body.
Drink More Water
You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again – drink more water! In order for all of our organs to function properly, we need to stay hydrated. Most people don’t drink enough water, which leads to digestion problems, lack of energy, an inability to focus, and even increased appetite.
As reported by the Mayo Clinic, “The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that adequate daily fluid intake is:
- About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids for men
- About 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women”
Factors that can influence how much water you personally need include exercise, outside temperature, overall health, and if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. For example, when you work out, your body perspires, which means you need to increase your water intake to replenish the water you just sweated out of your system.
As shared on Medical News Today, here are 15 benefits of drinking water:
- It lubricates the joints.
- It forms saliva and mucus.
- It delivers oxygen throughout the body.
- It boosts skin health and beauty.
- It cushions the brain, spinal cord, and other sensitive tissues.
- It regulates body temperature.
- The digestive system depends on it.
- It flushes body waste.
- It helps maintain blood pressure.
- The airways need it.
- It makes minerals and nutrients accessible.
- It prevents kidney damage.
- It boosts performance during exercise.
- It may help with weight loss.
- It reduces the chance of a hangover.
Often times, when we eat salty foods, take certain medications, or even drink alcohol, our bodies tend to retain excess water (which makes us look bloated and can cause inflammation). That’s why drinking water helps us to regulate this by keeping us hydrated.
If you don’t love drinking water, a couple of easy ways to make it taste more enjoyable are to drink unsweetened sparkling water (such as SodaStream) or to add natural flavoring to your water, such as squeezing a lemon or lime juice (which also boost your body’s detoxification ability).
Increase Your Daily Probiotics
As reported by Harvard Health, “Probiotics can aid digestion and help maintain gut health. A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that you can treat and even prevent some illnesses with foods and supplements containing certain kinds of live bacteria. Northern Europeans consume a lot of these beneficial microorganisms, called probiotics (from pro and biota, meaning “for life”), because of their tradition of eating foods fermented with bacteria, such as yogurt. Probiotic-laced beverages are also big business in Japan.”
NOTE: When taking probiotics, you must consume fiber-rich foods (like fruits and vegetables) at least 30-minutes before. Think of it like this – imagine you are putting hungry ladybugs into your garden. If your garden has no flowers or plants for them to eat, they won’t be able to do their job. Probiotics (or “friendly gut bacteria”) act similarly. In order for them to combat the “bad bacteria”, they need to consume nutrients.
Eat More Anti-Inflammatory Whole Foods
From avocados and cucumbers to broccoli, berries, and pineapples, eating anti-inflammatory whole foods not only helps to improve your gut health, but it can dramatically reduce your body’s inflammation. As reported by Harvard Health, “Your immune system becomes activated when your body recognizes anything that is foreign—such as an invading microbe, plant pollen, or chemical. This often triggers a process called inflammation. Intermittent bouts of inflammation directed at truly threatening invaders protect your health.
However, sometimes inflammation persists, day in and day out, even when you are not threatened by a foreign invader. That’s when inflammation can become your enemy. Many major diseases that plague us—including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer’s—have been linked to chronic inflammation.
One of the most powerful tools to combat inflammation comes not from the pharmacy, but from the grocery store. “Many experimental studies have shown that components of foods or beverages may have anti-inflammatory effects,” says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.”
Below are a variety of delicious anti-inflammatory whole foods you can add to your daily diet:
- olive oil
- green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and collards
- nuts like almonds and walnuts
- fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines
- fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges
In addition to consuming more anti-inflammatory foods, you’ll want to cut back (or eliminate) all inflammatory foods. This includes processed foods, fried foods, sodas, refined carbs, bad fats, and processed meats.
Increase Your Daily Fiber Intake
The old saying goes, “An apple a day keeps the Doctor away”. Well, there’s truth to that statement. As apples are high in fiber, they help to improve your gut health, reduce inflammation, and keep your digestive system on track.
As shared by Eating Well, here are 10 health benefits of increasing your daily fiber intake:
- You’ll lose weight. “Fiber-rich foods not only fill you up faster and keep you satisfied longer, they also prevent your body from absorbing some of the calories in the foods you eat.”
- Maintain a healthier weight over time. “People who got more fiber tended to be leaner overall-while those who were obese got an average of almost 1 gram a day less fiber than normal-weight participants, according to a study at the Medical University of South Carolina.”
- Cut your Type 2 Diabetes risk. “A recent analysis of 19 studies, for example, found that people who ate the most fiber-more than 26 grams a day-lowered their odds of the disease by 18 percent, compared to those who consumed the least (less than 19 grams daily).”
- Lower your odds of heart disease. “For every 7 grams of fiber eaten daily, your risk of heart disease drops by 9 percent found a review of 22 studies published in the BMJ.”
- Have healthier gut bacteria. “As your gut bacteria gobble up fiber that has fermented in your G.I. tract (delish), they produce short-chain fatty acids that have a host of benefits-including lowering systemic inflammation, which has been linked to obesity and nearly every major chronic health problem.”
- Reduce your risk of certain cancers. “Every 10 grams of fiber you eat is associated with a 10 percent reduced risk of colorectal cancer and a 5 percent fall in breast cancer risk, says a study published in the Annals of Oncology.”
- Live longer, period. “Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health recently found that people who often ate fiber-rich cereals and whole grains had a 19 and 17 percent, respectively, reduced risk of death-from any cause-compared to those who noshed on less fiber-heavy fare.”
- Be more, well, regular. “Constipation is one of the most common G.I. complaints in the United States,” says Tanya Zuckerbrot, R.D., author of The F-Factor Diet.
- Get an all-natural detox. “Fiber naturally scrubs and promotes the elimination of toxins from your G.I. tract.”
- Have healthier bones. “Some types of soluble fiber-dubbed “prebiotics” and found in asparagus, leeks, soybeans, wheat and oats-have been shown to increase the bioavailability of minerals like calcium in the foods you eat, which may help maintain bone density.”
In addition to apples, here are several fiber-rich foods you can add to your daily diet.
- Black Beans
- Sweet Potatoes
- Chick Peas
- Green Peas
- Brussels Sprouts
- Chia Seeds
As reported by Healthline, “A 2017 study found that the importance of fiber is intimately tied with the importance of our gut microbes. A proper fiber diet literally feeds and makes these bacteria thrive. In turn, they increase in number and kind. The more microbes we have in our intestines, the thicker the mucus wall, and the better the barrier between our body and our busy bacteria population. While the mucus barrier lowers inflammation throughout the body, the bacteria aid in digestion, creating a dual benefit.”
By modifying your diet to include gut-healthy ingredients and anti-inflammatory foods, you’ll not only feel better, but you’ll start to look better. In addition to enhancing your physical wellness, these dietary changes can vastly improve the appearance of your skin and boost your overall vitality and youthfulness.
To learn more about healthy foods that can optimize your wellness, check out the Diet & Nutrition section on I&C.
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[Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. Consult with a registered dietician or medical doctor for personal nutritional advice. Disclosure: Affiliate links included.]