What’s the sexiest part of your body?
I can almost guarantee that you didn’t just answer “my intestinal lining”! When you want to look better, toned arms and rock-hard abs often top the wish list. But if you’re aiming to improve one part of your body that will result in the most impressive list of benefits – including that flat belly – then great gut health really should be your first priority.
Let’s face it, talking about the digestive tract doesn’t feel very sexy. But it’s important to realize that a healthy gastrointestinal system means much more than avoiding gas, bloating, or stomach upset.
Caring for your gut is key to losing weight, fighting infection and inflammation, sleeping well, and maintaining a positive outlook on life!Click to tweet
Everyday life poses several common threats to your gut health. The results are painful, even debilitating, yet people often miss the link between gut maintenance and disease prevention. The old saying “no news is good news” couldn’t be more wrong here! It’s time to find out the truth. (I don’t know anyone who doesn’t experience at least one of these every day…)
The most common dangers to gut health are:
1. A low-fiber, high-sugar impact diet. We consume more sugar as a nation than ever before. In fact, the average American eats an adult’s weight in sugar – 135 pounds – every year!1 We also eat record-breaking amounts of refined flour, corn, and processed foods.
The result is a nutrient-poor diet that encourages the growth of yeast and all the wrong bacteria in our intestinal microbiome. That puts us at risk for increased inflammation and its results: leaky gut syndrome, food sensitivities, vitamin deficiencies, allergies, and systemic autoimmune disease.2 The answer starts with changing your sugar impact – learn more about common sugar mistakes here.
2. Medication use. It’s one of the great ironies of modern medicine: the medications we take to improve symptoms of illness often impair our body’s natural ability to fight disease! Antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, steroids, and acid-blocking medications all prevent normal digestive function or damage the gut.
While only you and your doctor can decide what medicines are necessary, you can add quality supplements to repair and safeguard your gut health. Read more about why I recommend starting with a powerful probiotic and digestive enzymes.
3. Regular exposure to reactive foods. As I explained in NYT bestseller The Virgin Diet, there are 7 foods most likely to cause food intolerances that wreak havoc with your health. Food intolerance directly impacts your gut health and can cause problems ranging from joint pain, headaches, and fatigue to increased risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic disease.3
The easiest way to determine your own food sensitivities is to eliminate the 7 highly reactive foods for 21 days, then add them back and monitor your symptoms, energy levels, and weight. To find out more, just download the free eBook 7 Food Swaps.
4. Stress. Unless you’re on a dream vacation right now, you probably suffer from stress. (Although, anyone who’s ever taken toddlers on a road trip will tell you vacation can be pretty stressful too!) Chronic stress changes your gut’s nervous system and prevents adequate digestive enzyme production, leaving you open to a long list of infection and disease.4
Since a permanent yoga retreat in Bali isn’t practical for most of us, that means eliminating stress whenever possible, then using diet, supplements, sleep, and exercise to control the impact of whatever stress remains. For tips on handling stress, check out my weekly podcast.
You’re smart, or you wouldn’t be here now, taking charge of your health. So you’ve probably already figured out that everything on the danger list above is connected. Your diet affects your energy levels and sleep quality. Your stress determines how well you focus and heal. Feeling sick and tired makes it harder to eat right. They’re all linked.
But those connections also mean that just a few positive action steps can turn everything around. In the final post of this series, we’ll deep dive into how you can get on the path to great gut health and long-term wellness. Can’t wait to tell you more!