7 Steps to Maintaining A Healthy Gut

Maintaining a healthy gut is not as easy as popping a magic pill. The entire system must be in sync, the flora is just the tip of the iceberg. Consider these 7 steps when trying to take care of your gut.

7 Steps to Helping Good Bacteria Feel at Home
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1.EAT SEVERAL SMALL MEALS during the day instead of pigging out at dinner. "Cramming in all your food at the end of the day stresses the gut by giving it too much food at once," says Leslie Bonci, a registered dietitian and director of the Sports Nutrition Center at the University of Pittsburgh. Drink plenty of water to keep the food moving.

2.PRIORITIZE WHOLE FOODS. Stock up on vegetables, fruits, nuts & legumes. If the food on your plate looks like food in the wild, you're off to a good start. The best way to restore your gut is to stop assaulting it with processed food all the time.

3.EAT PROBIOTIC FOODS. Shoot for at least one daily serving of a food with probiotic or "live" cultures. Try yogurt, kefir (a fermented dairy drink), tempeh or miso.

4.BULK UP ON FIBER. The more fiber you have in your diet, the more diversity you'll have in your ecosystem. Aim for 25-38 grams of fiber a day.

5.CUT BACK ON SUGAR. Refined sugars acidify the system and prompt the body to make more bile. Bad bacteria feast on sugar & bile acids. Therefore, too much sugar may tip the bacterial balance toward the dark side.

6.RELAX. In a 1999 study published in the International Journal Gut, people in gastrointestinal clinics cited severe life stress as a precursor to their gastrointestinal problems. We know that stress breeds inflammation & also upsets the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls the contractions of the intestine, thereby changing the speed at which food moves through you. Stress affects our biochemistry at many levels.

7.GET SEVEN TO EIGHT HOURS of sleep every night. Sleep not only regulates hormones in the gut that contribute to feelings of hunger and satiety, it also shores up the immune system. When the body is deprived of sleep, even for one night, the immune system suffers.

Like tending a vegetable patch, maintaining a balanced microflora environment requires daily attention.

13 December