What should you be eating? A question relevant and as present as the day itself, or the night following it. We all know the importance of good food on our health. But have you ever stopped to realize that when you are eating you are not alone, but you are feeding trillions of bacteria that reside in your gut. So, if you are making resolutions for a stronger and healthier body, mind and immune system, especially during this COVID era and beyond, you need to reset your gut. Because good health starts in the gut.
Why a healthy gut flora matters?
The rich array of gut microbes (called the gut microbiome) operate on a daily rhythm and manage the ebb and flow of enzymes, absorb the nutrients, prevent leaky gut and inflammation, and remove waste. A loss of balance in the gut microbiota, or dysbiosis, has been associated with many chronic disorders. And the list keeps getting frightfully longer.
- Heart Disease
- Irritative Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Ulcerative colitis
- Depression and anxiety
Most of us sense how healthy our gut is and we can figure out what works well. So, when in doubt trust your gut and not your hungry mind. Avoid that spicy hotdog that might leave you with acidity or stomach cramps tonight and say no to a boozy night out that may cause mayhem tomorrow.
Like all other organs, the gut too needs repair and reset. Thankfully, it all depends on you. Whether you are a gut battler or a health freak, you can have your gut balanced in just 3 days. Research has proved it. The plan below will help you nourish your good gut bugs, diversify them and help them thrive, help build a robust immune system and finally make you happy and healthy.
Wake-up time: If the circadian rhythm of eating and sleeping time is disrupted, our gut microbiota fluctuates. So sleep well and wake up naturally. Fix your wake-up time and stick to it. Lets fix it to 6:30 am.
Diet: Choose Mediterranean over Western. Cut out the greasy processed foods, red meat, or foods that are high in animal protein, sugar and fat, low in fiber from your diet. These decrease the amount of bacteria in the gut, especially the beneficial ones like Bifidobacterium and Eubacterium species. The Western diet is also associated with increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Try the Mediterranean diet as it reduces risk of heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. The foods that your gut bacteria love are fruits, vegetables, seeds, whole grains and pulses rich in dietary fiber.
Drink tea, green or black. Longing for some alcohol? Have a glass of red wine. These are rich sources of polyphenols or plant compounds digested by gut bacteria that lower blood pressure and cholesterol. A smoothie of fresh berries, almonds and red grapes or a dark chocolate bite will give you the same polyphenol goodness.
Stop smoking or vaping to diversify your gut microbiota.
Activity: Run down the road or hit the gym. If that is not possible, get some exercise done in your home itself – warm ups, some cardio and some strength training. Regular exercise increases healthy gut bacteria and promotes biodiversity.
Sleeping time: 11 p.m. To get a good night’s sleep, go to bed at least 30 minutes before you normally do. Again, stick to this time, no matter what.
Wake-up time: 6:30 am. Get up early and prepare for an early start the next day.
Diet: Load your diet with foods rich in prebiotics. These are indigestible fiber that your gut flora break down into nutrients. Good bacteria like Bifidobacteria thrive in the presence of prebiotics. Add raspberries, green peas, broccoli, beans, lentils and whole grains to your diet.
Eat probiotics or fermented foods like yogurt, pickles, kombucha, that contain live bacteria to your diet to improve digestion and introduce beneficial bugs in your gut.
Cut down on added sugar as it increases harmful bacteria in your gut. Keep sugar intake to around 37.5 grams for men and 25 grams for women.
Activity: The more microbes your body comes in contact with, the stronger your immune system will become. Microbes and bacteria in dirt and mud boost your immune system and make you healthy from within. Enjoy fun games with your pet and children in your back yard. Have a garden? Tend to it and make it pretty.
Sleeping time: 11 p.m. Keeping in sync with your circadian rhythm, go to bed early and start fresh the next day.
Wake-up time: 6:30 a.m. After a quality sleep of 7 hours, leave your bed.
Diet: A veggie and fruit-fuelled, but meat-free, day will increase good gut bacteria like Prevotella that will help it diversify. Meat increases the activity of gut flora that is associated with inflammatory bowel disease.
Cut down on artificial sweeteners like, sucralose or saccharin, in your tea or coffee. These alter the balance of gut flora and drive glucose intolerance more than natural sugars.
Drink 2 extra glasses of water than you would normally, to maintain hydration and a healthy digestive tract.
Activity: Unwind and de-stress after work. Stress increases gut permeability or “leaky gut” and inflammation. Manage your stress with meditation and yoga, stay calm and at peace.
Sleeping time: 11 p.m. A healthy sleep pattern will do wonders in improving gut health.
So, there you have it. Within three days, if you follow the plan above, your gut flora will be balanced and you’ll have more beneficial bacteria in your gut who will work day and night to help in digestion, produce nutrients like vitamins and also strengthen your immune system to keep you healthy from within.
For the rest of the week and life ahead
“Our microbiome is a mirror of our lifestyle,” emphasizes Dr. Ami Bhatt, assistant professor and researcher at Stanford University. “We need to enact healthy lifestyles over the long term if we are going to see that reflected in our microbiome.” So, the best way to reset your gut microbiome is a good diet along with quality sleep, exercise and a stress-free lifestyle.
- Begin your mornings with warm water to detox. A sugar-free breakfast with smoothie or oats, a bone or vegetable broth-based lunch to strengthen your gastric lining and produce gastric juices, and dinner laced with prebiotics like potatoes, ginger, beans, and leeks are good choices. Add starchy vegetables like butternut squashes, turnips, root vegetables. Also, love your whole grains, eggs, pulses, and yogurt. Like fish? Fish contains Omega-3 essential fatty acids. If not, take ground flaxseed that has bacteria-friendly fiber.
- Sweat regularly and find some time to de-stress
- Take antibiotics only when needed
- Stop using antibacterial toothpaste, mouthwash, or dental floss that may give rise to resistant microbes. They harm good bacteria that help you absorb nitrites which lower blood pressure. Try brushing your teeth with a mixture of activated charcoal and healing clays.
- Drink a lot of water. Eight glasses of water a day will cleanse and keep everything moving. Decaffeinated tea will also aid in hydration.
Optimize your gut flora for a healthy gut. More and more research is pointing towards the fact that a healthy gut microbiome is the key to overall health and well-being. Gut flora organisms are sensitive to their environment and it is easy to reset them to a healthy balance in 3 days at the max. At the end, if you want to see real, lasting changes to your gut health, you’ll need to commit to balance your nutrition and lifestyle.