How To Improve Your Gut Health Naturally In Midlife
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We learn more everyday how key gut health to our overall health and that it is important to improve your gut health naturally in midlife if you have been stuggling with health issues.r
As we go through perimenopause and into menopause the changes in hormones can mess with our weight, mood and brain, it can also cause imbalances in our digestive system and affect gut health. As a result we may have uncomfortable bloating, constipation and acid reflux.
Have you been struggling with constipation, mood swings, skin irritations, excess wind, bloating, fatigue or poor sleep?
Your main microbiome is in your gut, when your gut gets out of balance you are setting yourself up for any or all of the issues above.
Thanks to diets high in processed foods and sugar, dairy products full of hormones, antibiotics, and constant chronic stress, many women have impaired gut health.
To make it worse as you go through perimenopause and menopause the changes in our hormones can cause the delicate balance of your gut health or gut microbiome as it’s known, to further fall out of balance.
Improve your gut health and not only will you reduce the likelihood of suffering any of these health issues but you will also improve your overall health and many of the other symptoms that women in perimenopause and menopause can suffer from such as hot flashes.
You will look good, feel good and have incredible energy.
And it is an easy thing to fix.
Did you know that:
95% of your serotonin (the happy hormone) and 80% of your immunity is produced in your digestive system.
Your gut is the gateway to your health. Keeping it happy will:
- boost your immune system
- help you lose weight with ease
- keep you feeling less bloated
- help to flush away toxins
- keep you feeling and looking fabulous
Food swaps cheat sheet
Now you can keep your waistline, hormones, energy and family happy!
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How Quickly Can I Improve My Gut Health?
All is not lost if your gut health is not currently in good condition.
Your gut bacteria have a short lifespan of only 20 minutes so you are only 20 minutes away from improving the delicate balance of your digestive system and being on your way to better overall health.
Every time you eat is another opportunity to improve your gut microbiome.
One healthy meal at a time you can build the strength of your gut bacteria and digestive health to start delivering health benefits which will have you feeling and looking your best.
The more varied your diet the more resilient your gut microbiome becomes allowing you to have the odd treat without upsetting the balance.
Here’s what you need to be doing:
1. How To Eat For Your Gut Health
Digestion begins in your mouth.
Remember when you were little and your mother would tell you to slow down and chew your food properly.
When you don’t chew your food properly, the stage is set for poor digestion which in turn opens the way for issues such as: weight gain, acne, poor sleep, hormonal issues, adrenal fatigue, constipation, acne, IBS, low sex drive, mood swings, and food allergies. Serious health issues are not far behind.
More importantly, when you don’t digest your food properly your body will struggle to turn it into the energy you need.
I often hear women say they would love more energy.
If you want more energy, then chew your food at least 20 to 30 times.
This may seem like a lot but the more you practice it the easier it will become. And remember, do it mindfully.
Smell, taste, and notice the food. Don’t gulp.
2. Unplug To Improve Digestion
I know how easy it is to constantly be on one device or another and when you have to stop and eat anyway why not take the time to scroll through Facebook or Instagram or check the news or watch a little T.V.
Put down the phone. Turn off the TV, sit down, and just enjoy the activity of eating. Give yourself some quiet time so you can de-stress and digest!
Why? It is so simple: when the body is stressed, it can’t digest or transform food into energy.
It may seem that scrolling through social media is a relaxing thing to do but while your mind is not on the present (eating and enjoying your meal) things aren’t happening as they should. You cannot effectively do two things at once despite most of us women thinking that we can.
Consider, your mind cannot be in two places at once so make it concentrate on one thing at a time. At meal times it should be concentrating on eating and nothing else.
Take this time to eat your meal and chat with your fellow eaters or reflect on your day making sure to pay attention to your food.
3. How To Increase The Healthy Bacteria In Your Gut
Start adding a good, quality probiotic to your daily routine.
Include one or more fermented foods and drinks in your meals such as:
- dairy or non-dairy kefir
- kefir water
- fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut
These foods will maintain the healthy bacteria in your gut keeping your digestion in good condition.
To feed these healthy gut microbes you need to also be including prebiotics into your diet. Prebiotics include:
- cocoa and
- greens such as kale, spinach and chard.
The Greek meaning of probiotic is ‘for life’. So, give yourself the gift of a healthy life and start feeding your gut with foods that keep it healthy.
4. Cut Out Foods That Damage Your Gut
Eat simple and eat clean.
Just as a car doesn’t run on dirty fuel our digestive system won’t run on crappy food.
When you eat rubbish you will damage your gut.
Food can either fuel you or cause gut inflammation.
Remember that what worked for you at one point in your life may not be working any more.
Practice a quiet curiosity and notice the clues your body gives you about how certain foods make you feel.
You know those feelings.
You’ve just finished a big plate of food full of carbohydrates. Maybe a big slab of lasagne, or a McDonald’s Big Mac and chips, or pizza or maybe a pie. You feel full and sluggish. Your stomach is bloated and you have this niggly feeling that perhaps you could have eaten something healthier.
On the other hand maybe you had a salad or vegetables with a small piece of protein. You feel light yet satisfied. There’s no niggly feeling. You know your meal was healthy.
Other foods to watch are as follows:
Acidic foods, such as tomatoes and citrus fruits can trigger indigestion while wheat and onions may cause irritable bowel syndrome.
If your body is intolerant to lactose, you’ll suffer from wind and diarrhoea after drinking milk or eating dairy products.
Refined carbohydrates, sugar, and processed foods are absorbed too quickly into the small intestine so the gut microbes stay hungry and begin eating the cells that line your intestines, possibly causing a leaky gut.
Notice what foods and drinks trigger bad digestive symptoms and reduce your intake of them or cut them out altogether.
Your body’s needs change as you age so it is important to monitor which foods give you energy and make you feel fabulous. And which foods make you feel sluggish.
5. Slow down
We are all rushing. Rushing to eat, to squeeze in an errand, meet a deadline, get to an appointment.
Start with your eating.
Sit when you eat.
To digest your food properly your body needs to be in a state of calm.
Your gut is your second brain if it is out of balance, your mental health may suffer and you may feel anxious, depressed, or tired.
If you are stressed, your digestive system is in “fight or flight” mode and won’t work properly.
Digestion is about transforming your food into fuel. When we get stressed, tired, or even nervous, our digestion doesn’t function well so remove all the stressors you can, especially at mealtimes.
Before you eat, take a deep breath and let it out slowly.
Try to be in a meditative state. There’s no Oom oom, it’s more about, just being present and relaxed.
Don’t shove the food in your mouth as you are running out the door or eat while standing at the counter. We’ve all done it, we tell ourselves we’ll stop tomorrow after this thing or that thing. The truth is there is always time to stop now.
Your body and digestion will thank you for it if you just take the time out to enjoy your meal.
6. Stay hydrated
Drink plenty of water.
I cannot stress enough how good it is for your body to be properly hydrated.
That means drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day.
Get them in however you fancy. Herbal tea, with a slice of lemon, fizz it up, whatever keeps you drinking.
Make a pact with yourself today and in a few weeks time check back in with yourself.
Your skin should be more plumped, your eyes clearer, your digestion improved.
This is an easy thing to do so I urge you to make the effort to do at least this.
Read: Are You Getting Enough Water? The Effects Of Dehydration On Your Health
When you move your body, you move your Qi (the vital energy in your body), and this is key for your digestion.
Even if you can only manage 10-15 minutes per day.
If you look up “10-minute workouts” on Google you will find hundreds. Find one that suits you.
You could do a brisk walk one day and an HIIT workout the next. Or yoga and weights the next.
When you find that 10 minutes no longer stretches you make it 12 and keep going from there until you build up to at least 30 minutes each day.
When you do this your body will produce key endorphins that will make you feel happy and less hungry. That’s the awesome sauce.
Read: The Most Important Exercise For Women Over 50
Honour Your Hunger And Fullness
Don’t wait until the tank is completely empty before you start eating. That is when the crazy is unleashed and we make bad decisions. We get to the point were ice cream, marshmallows, chocolate plus 4 slices of toast become our next meal. And of course, this is not high energy, a nutritious meal so the chances are that you will be hungry again only a short time after eating.
On a scale of 1 to 10, 2 is about the time the fuel light will come on. This is the ideal point to be thinking about and planning what you are going to eat.
But what about being full? If you start eating at a level 2 you stop eating at about level 7. As my mother used to say “Always leave the table still a little bit hungry.”
Mind Your Emotions
Don’t eat when you’re super tired, angry, upset or worried. Fatigue, negative emotions and stress impair proper digestion.
Don’t Eat Late At Night
Try to make your last meal at least 2-3 hours before bed. This gives it time to digest and move through your system before you lie down and settle for the night.
I know what it’s like when you’ve had a busy day, have no idea what to have for dinner and end up eating an hour befor bed.
Ehen you eat to close to sleeping is your blood sugar will be high making it difficult to sleep. And those calories are more likely to go on as fat.
Make late night eating the exception and not the rule.
The Power of Food & Digestion
When food inflames the body, you may experience bloating, acid reflux, headaches, sinus issues, weight gain, arthritis, skin problems, and various diseases.
Eat the right food and your digestion will sing with thanks, pushing out toxins, keeping your gut happy and healthy and allowing all of your body’s processes to work optimally.
Daily Drinks to alkalize and get rid of the bloat
Upon waking, drink a Lemon Elixir
2 cups warm or room temperature water
Juice from 1 lemon
1 Tablespoon Bragg’s raw apple cider vinegar
Pinch of cinnamon and 1 teaspoon raw honey OR a couple drops of stevia
(use stevia if you are on a yeast cleansing diet or low sugar diet)
~ stimulates digestion, releases toxins from the liver, and jumpstarts your digestive enzymes
Consider rinsing your mouth with plain water after this drink. Acidic drinks can eat into the enamel of your teeth if you’re drinking them a lot or over a long period.
Midday, drink a Cranberry Elixir
2 tablespoons cranberry concentrate
6 ounces of room temperature water
(feel free to add stevia or 1 Tablespoon, raw honey, to the water for a sweet treat)
~ great for flushing the lymphatic system and cleansing the bladder and kidneys
Before bed, drink a Chamomile Tea
Chamomile contains calcium, potassium and flavonoids, and helps in getting rid of toxins and excess water.
A cup of hot chamomile tea before bedtime could help you get a restful sleep as well.
My Simple, Favorite Juice Recipe
A Simple Green Tonic
- 1 cucumber
- 5 celery stalks
- 1 apple, cored
- 3 kale leaves
- A handful of parsley + coriander
- 2 chard or silverbeet leaves
- Juice of 1 lemon
Juice the fruit and veggies, and then stir in lemon juice
- 1 cup frozen blackberries
- 1 cup water, unsweetened almond milk, coconut milk, hemp milk, or rice milk
- 1?4 avocado
- 1-2 Tablespoons ground flax seeds or chia seeds
- 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 handful of spinach
- Splash of vanilla extract
- Stevia to taste (optional)
Chocolate Bliss Smoothie
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, coconut milk, hemp milk, or rice milk
- 1 frozen banana
- 2 cups of chopped spinach
- 2 scoops of chocolate protein powder
- 1 Tablespoon almond butter
- 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
- Handful of ice
- Stevia to taste (optional)
Read: 5 Best Detox And Belly Fat Burning Smoothie Recipes
Another key component of feeling good is keeping your blood sugar stable.
You may find that 3 meals a day works for you, while your best friend or partner thrives with 6 mini-meals. Finding what works for you is key to having all the energy you need.
Try some of my favourite Healthy Snacks
- 1/4 cup raw seeds or nuts
- 1-2 Tablespoons sunflower seed butter, almond butter, hemp seed butter, or pumpkin seed butter on celery sticks
- Fresh figs + ½ cup dairy or non-dairy yoghurt
- 1 apple, 1/2 banana or a kiwi
- A small chia seed pudding made with coconut milk
- 1/2 avocado with sea salt and pepper
- A glass of your favourite kombucha on ice
- Raw veggie delight: carrot, celery, cucumber, red pepper and 2 Tablespoons hummus
- 1/4 cup of cultured veggies with 2 Tablespoons of dulse flakes wonderful for your adrenals, thyroid, and metabolism, plus chock full of vitamins and minerals. Perfect optimal digestion!