When you have tummy trouble, it can feel like the end of the world. You might experience a host of unpleasant symptoms, including diarrhea and vomiting. However, your gastrointestinal system does much more than occasionally go haywire if you eat the wrong thing.
Your gastrointestinal health impacts every other bodily system, from your heart to your mental well-being. Since this system is so vital, you need to keep it functioning at its peak. Follow these nine tips to calm tummy trouble and look and feel your best:
1. Understand the Difference Between Pre- and Probiotics
You may have heard about prebiotics and probiotics in the news. What are they, and what are the differences between the two?
- Prebiotics: Prebiotics refer to a type of fiber your body cannot digest. These substances serve as food for probiotics, which are helpful microorganisms in your intestines that aid in digestion. You can find prebiotics in foods ranging from asparagusto bananas.
- Probiotics: Probiotics refer to live bacteria found primarily in fermented foods, such as yogurt and kombucha. These beneficial microorganisms protect you from harmful varieties, as well as fungus. Additionally, they send signals to your immune system, telling it to increase or decrease inflammation when they perceive attacks.
While you can find both pre- and probiotic supplements, it’s generally best to get your intake through foods. Eating various plant-based meals should get you the necessary amount.
2. Eat the Rainbow
Phytonutrients are substances in plants that provide a host of health benefits. These nutrients give plants their vivid hues, so eating the rainbow ensures you get a full array of all varieties. These chemicals can do a lot, from enhancing immunity and intercellular communication to repairing DNA from toxin exposure.
Think outside the traditional food box. For example, dandelion leaves contain a ton of vitamins and minerals, and they add an interesting flavor to salads. Jicama adds a light crunch and has a ton of filling fiber. You can even hide vegetables in desserts if your kids put up a fuss about eating broccoli.
3. Avoid Red and Processed Meats
As much as human evolution might not have occurred without meat, red and processed varieties contain both natural and artificially occurring substances that can increase inflammation and disease risk. Processed meat refers to any product preserved using salt, smoking, curing or adding preservatives. Lunch meats typically fall into this category. During processing, cancer-causing substances form in these products.
Red meat does contain significant amounts of protein and iron, but many Americans overeat it. Research indicates excessive intake can increase your risk of bowel cancer. According to the Cancer Council, you should limit your consumption to no more than one serving per day or two servings three to four times per week.
4. Put Down the Sugar and Choose Sweeteners With Care
Overeating sugar contributes to the formation of harmful biochemical compounds that spike inflammation in your body. Scientists implicate inflammation in nearly every known disease — plus, few people enjoy feeling bloated. For optimal gut health, limit your intake of artificial sugars. If you must have something sweet, reach for fruit, which provides vitamins and minerals along with calories.
Also, choose artificial sweeteners with care. Some, like xylitol, can cause digestive upset in susceptible individuals. While researchers generally consider Stevia a safe and natural alternative, use caution. Stevia is hundreds of times more potent than sugar, and it can train your taste buds to expect a sweeter flavor.
5. Pass on Excess Alcohol
In chaotic times, you may feel more prone to reach for a bottle for comfort. However, tipping back too many can lead to gastrointestinal upset. Alcohol can lead to dysbiosis — an upset in the balance of your gut bacteria — and an overgrowth of harmful bacteria. Plus, excessive consumption can increase your risk of cancer of the esophagus, stomach and colon, as well as your liver.
6. Upgrade Your Flour
Americans typically use white flour for everything from pizza crust to pasta, but this consumption impacts intestinal health. Some people refer to the substance as the glue of the gut because its lack of fiber slows down the digestive process.
That doesn’t mean you need to hang up your baking apron, though. You can choose from a world of healthier flours, such as brown rice or chickpea varieties. Many types are gluten-free, so you might experience less intestinal upset if you’re sensitive to this wheat protein.
7. Take Regular Exercise
Regular exercise increases your circulation, which benefits nearly every process and organ in your body — including your intestines. Recent research suggests that working out regularly can affect your gut’s bacterial diversity, and thus benefit your health. In one study, participants with a higher level of cardiorespiratory fitness also had more diverse microbiomes than those with lower levels, regardless of their body fat percentage.
8. Control Your Stress
Did you ever get an upset stomach before a critical work presentation or another event that made you anxious? People with inflammatory bowel conditions often report a worsening of symptoms when they experience stressful circumstances. When you undergo a crisis, your hormone levels rise, which can disrupt your digestive system.
9. Get Adequate Sleep
You need to get your Zzz’s if you want to restore your gut health. When you sleep, your body releases proteins called cytokines that govern inflammation. If you don’t get rest, your body doesn’t produce adequate amounts, which leaves you more prone to infection. These conditions arise from the germs that cause intestinal distress, as well as those that result in the sniffles.
Take Control of Your Gut Health With These Tips
Few people enjoy having an upset stomach, but fortunately, you can do a lot to restore your gut health. Follow these tips and get on top of any tummy trouble quickly.