Digestive happiness is kind of our thing. We believe that, no matter what you choose to eat, you deserve to feel your best. Which of these sounds like you?
- You’re a clean eater and love to cook from scratch. You know what your body likes and what it doesn’t – but sometimes you wish you could loosen up and eat the croissants your co-worker shares or nostalgic family favorite casseroles.
- You tend to be the center of attention at mealtime, which you don’t love. You’re the one with a long list of foods you can and can’t eat, so you bring your own food to most places. And you also know where the cleanest, closest public restrooms are located.
- You’re always on the go, eating whatever and wherever you can. You do your best to eat right and make healthy choices, but with your schedule and workload, that just doesn’t happen as often as you’d like.
- You’ve made some changes to your diet lately. While you like how your new eating style impacts your life overall, your digestive system is still adjusting.
Great health begins in the digestive system. Your gut and brain have a direct connection, and your digestive tract is also a gatekeeper to your bloodstream. Nothing in the body happens in a vacuum, and it’s all connected. Could your digestion use some extra TLC? Here are 10 everyday habits for your gut health.
1. Slow down when you eat.
It takes time for hunger and satiety signals to travel from belly to brain – and plenty of external influences can interfere with those messages. Rushing through a meal is a common one. Aim to spend about 20 minutes at the table for each meal, taking breaks to check in with your hunger cues.
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2. Chew your food thoroughly.
Digestion starts before you take that first bite of food, but chewing is an important early step in the process. When you wolf down your food in large bites, your body has to work harder to break down the nutrients within. Chew each bite until it is consistently liquidy, which gives your salivary glands adequate time to release your first set of digestive enzymes.
Get to know: Digest Gold®
3. Move your body daily for 10+ minutes.
Exercise is linked to healthy digestion in a few ways. First of all, it burns calories, which means that your body can use the food you eat as fuel for that workout. It also helps you manage stress, which can have its own impact on digestion. Regular movement can help promote healthy digestion, including regularity.
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4. Get enough sleep — at least 7 hours a night.
Sleep is rest for your mind, but it’s actually a busy time for the body. It’s when the bulk of the repair and renewal routines happen. When we don’t get enough sleep, the body falls behind on those tasks. Proper sleep helps us manage everyday stress, and it also helps with regularity. Digestion slows down during most stages of rest (aside from REM sleep), and there is a strong two-way connection between healthy sleep and healthy digestion.
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5. Fill up on fiber (found in plant-based and functional foods).
Fiber fills you up and keeps things moving. Women need about 25 grams of dietary fiber daily, and men need about 38 grams a day. Fiber is only found in plants (from whole grains and vegetables to legumes and fruits), so make sure you’re getting plenty. Dietary fiber comes in two forms: soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber is found in foods like oat bran, nuts, beans, peas, psyllium and some fruits and vegetables. It supports digestion, draws water in and forms a gel during digestion. Insoluble fiber is found in whole grains and vegetables. This fiber bulks up the stool, making it easier to pass.
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6. Manage everyday stress.
The brain-gut connection is strong – just think about phrases like “trust your gut” or “a gut feeling.” Over 100 million nerve cells line your gastrointestinal tract, forming the enteric nervous system. This “gut brain” is in charge of digestion, from swallowing food and physically moving it through your GI tract to releasing the enzymes your body needs to break down nutrients.
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7. Pay attention to when and how you go to the bathroom.
Did you know there’s a “normal” range for GI transit (the time it takes for food to digest and be eliminated)? Gastric emptying in the stomach ranges from two to five hours, small bowel transit time is another two to six hours and the large intestine transit time is between 10 and 59 hours. Overall, times range from 10 to 73 hours. With that in mind, start to pay attention to your bathroom trips. Are you going daily, less than three times a week or a few times a day?
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8. Notice which foods give you trouble.
Every person is different, which is why there’s no one single best diet for everyone. Maybe your yoga teacher follows a raw vegan diet, your co-worker is gluten-free and your sweetheart doesn’t do dairy. Each has their personal reasons – ethics, health, taste, etc. – for those choices. What works for you? Start to keep track of times you experience occasional discomforts (like gas, bloating, indigestion or constipation). What did you eat beforehand?
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9. Know your prebiotics from your probiotics.
Both are beneficial, but they have different roles: Probiotics are the “good” or beneficial bacteria in your microbiome. Prebiotics are a fiber that also support gut health by helping the microbiome flourish.*
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10. Get to know digestive enzymes.
Probiotics don’t break down food – that’s what digestive enzymes do. They help your body break down the food you eat. Specific enzymes target specific macronutrients. They’re specialists, so you can find the right formula to break down the foods or nutrients that give you trouble, whether that’s vegetables and beans, anything with gluten, dairy in all forms or a combination.
Get to know: Digest Spectrum®