Gut health is a hot topic these days, and as a holistic nutritionist, I am glad that it is! You might know by now that a healthy gut is essential for a healthy body and mind. Did you know that your body contains more bacterial cells than it does human cells? It’s true – which highlights the need to ensure the good microbes flourish while the bad one are kept at bay. When your microbiome is balanced, it can optimize your mood, energy levels, skin, and immune function. If it’s out of whack, then a whole host of problems can arise – autoimmune issues, mental health issues, low energy, and worse.
Although it has been a more popular subject in recent years, it’s that time of year where health, let alone gut health, is probably one of the last things on our minds. We’re surrounded by to-do lists, rich foods, wrapping paper, added sugar, and drinks galore. This season is meant to be enjoyed – so enjoy it! There are several ways you can do so while protecting and strengthening your microbiome, thus making for a happier, more vitalized you. Here are my tips for maintaining optimal gut health this time of year and beyond:
- Stay Prepared with a Digestive Enzyme: The indulgent meals that come with the holidays can be wonderful – but they can also throw our microbiome out of balance. If you’ve ever dealt with digestive problems, food intolerance, or otherwise, then a holiday gathering can bring a fair amount of food anxiety with it. You are not alone! Something that has helped me immensely is taking a good digestive enzyme with each holiday meal. Digestive enzymes break down food, allowing our body to absorb nutrients, provide immune support, and help heal the gut. As we age, digestive enzymes diminish (starting at around age 30!), so I recommend a good digestive enzyme supplement to all my clients. My favorite is Thorne’s Bio-Gest.
- Strengthen Your Gut: Leaky gut syndrome refers to an overgrowth of harmful microbes that weaken the walls of the intestines, resulting in poor nutrient absorption and the leaching of toxins into the bloodstream, which can result in symptoms like fatigue, acid reflux, and abdominal pain. Leaky gut is something many individuals are susceptible to, especially if their sugar intake is high. Aside from cleaning up your diet, a great step in preventing leaky gut is by taking Thorne’s L-Glutamine. L-Glutamine helps to strengthen the gut barrier and defend against daily toxin load. L-Glutamine is an excellent nutrient in times of stress when your gut needs a little extra support.
- Consume Probiotics and Prebiotics: You’ve likely heard of probiotics, but did you know prebiotics are just as important? Prebiotics differ from probiotics in that they aren’t living strains of bacteria. Prebiotics are the food for these good bacteria, stimulating their growth. Some natural options include dandelion greens, chicory root, garlic, asparagus, and leeks. Another great option is Effusio by Thorne’s Prebiotic+. This supplement contains a unique blend of pomegranate and green tea extracts, blueberry polyphenols, and bacteriophages. It’s not only beneficial for your digestive health, it also promotes urinary tract health and metabolic function. As for a probiotic this time of year, I love Thorne’s FloraMend Prime Probiotic. It’s perfect for occasional digestive issues and support for a challenged immune system.
- Don’t Forget the Fiber: Not only does fiber aid in elimination, it also feeds healthy gut flora. It is essential for nutrient absorption, toxin removal, and overall wellness. I advise my clients to consume a minimum of 35-40 grams of fiber daily. Most adults don’t get anywhere near this amount, so start slowly and work your way up. Once implemented, my clients almost always notice a huge difference in the way they feel. Easy ways to boost your fiber intake include homemade granola bars, gluten-free oats, or adding flaxseed to salads. Chia seeds can be used for chia pudding or added to juice or a smoothie. Avocados are also a rich source of fiber with just ½ an avocado containing 9 grams of fiber!
- Analyze Your Biome: Whether you’re a big drinker or not, it isn’t difficult to over-indulge this time of year. I, for one, love a specialty holiday cocktail! Unfortunately, though, one of the worst things we can do to our gut is over-consume alcohol. Alcohol is a gut sterilizer, meaning it kills the bacteria in our gut – the good along with the bad! If you want to understand more about the status of your gut and see how susceptible you are to problems resulting from a poor diet, then I suggest you take Thorne’s at-home Gut Health Test. This at-home test is highly in-depth – it identifies all the microbes in your gut – right down to the strain. And it includes personalized recommendations to get your gut back on track – a great way to start the new year!
I have dealt with digestive issues since childhood, and I wasn’t able to heal from my chronic health issues until I healed my gut. If you are concerned about your digestive health, especially this time of year, then know that I am there too. Changing my gut truly changed my life, and the same can happen for you, too! You can find more of my favorite Thorne gut health supplements here. Now eat, drink, and be merry and mindful!