When you feel good in your body, life is a lot more fun. When you have energy and clarity and feel like your true self, you walk through life in full form, exuding confidence and joy no matter what you’re doing or who you’re interacting with.
And despite how you’re feeling right now, it’s more possible than ever to improve your experience of being healthy and happy.
In fact, recent research shows that there’s a new component to achieving optimal health—and it may be as simple as nurturing your gut microbes each day.
What Does Your Gut Health Have to Do With Feeling Your Best?
Even when there’s no one else home, you’re never truly alone. Within each of our bodies lives an active community of trillions of bacteria, collectively known as the microbiome. A large portion of your unique microbiome resides in your digestive tract, where most of your immune system is also located.
Contrary to the popular misconception that all bacteria are bad for us, ideally about 85% of your microbiome is comprised of helpful bacteria called probiotics.
Probiotics can help you feel your best by ensuring:
• Digestion becomes more comfortable, so occasional bloating is less of an issue.
• You’ll also absorb more of the nutrients contained in the good foods you eat, which gives you more energy.
• A balanced gut makes it easier to reach and maintain a healthy weight.
• A microbiome rich in certain probiotics, particularly Bifidobacteria, is associated with healthy aging.
• Probiotic gut microbes encourage glowing, clear skin at any age.
• A healthy microbial environment helps regulate your hormones and blood sugar, improving mood and mental focus.
Nurturing your gut so you can feel your best is easier than it sounds. This simple daily routine will do just that.
Start Your Day Mindfully
Did you know that ongoing stress can sabotage your best efforts to improve your health? That’s because stress has a negative impact on the microbiome—which in turn makes it harder for your body to function at its very best.
The good news is that stress reduction gives your beneficial microbes a chance to resume their rightful place in your digestive tract.1 And starting your day with regular relaxation practices can help keep your gut balanced so your health positively shines.
Try to commit to starting each morning with something that really calms and fulfills, whether it’s meditation, guided imagery, yoga, or Tai Chi. You may even find it helpful to set an intention for the day or make a list of all the people and things in your life that you appreciate. Keep in mind that even on the most hectic of days, there’s always time to stop and take just three mindful breaths to center yourself before continuing.
And if the effects of stress on your gut health aren’t enough incentive, taking extra time in the morning to start your day off right will make this next step even easier.
Give Your Digestion a Rest
Eating well has wonderful benefits, but sometimes it’s also wise to give your system a break. In fact, delaying breakfast is all the rage these days because studies have revealed that intermittent fasting can actually improve overall wellness in a number of areas including:
• More efficient metabolism2
• Increased muscle mass
• Greater microbiome diversity and a stronger gut barrier3,4
• Improved memory and cognition5
• Happier mood
Perhaps most exciting of all, the latest research reveals that intermittent fasting seems to increase lifespan as well, if not better, than ongoing calorie restriction. So incorporating a bit of fasting into your routine may allow you to be around a lot longer to enjoy feeling great!
Intermittent fasting isn’t as tough as it sounds. You can do a traditional 24 hour fast once or twice a week if that works for you, but it’s also effective to just significantly restrict calories two days a week, or even to fast 14 to 16 hours daily by simply not snacking after dinner and then having a late breakfast.
Feed Your Microbes All Day
Once you’ve made your way to the kitchen, wake up your digestion with a soothing glass of warm water, a pinch of sea salt, lemon, and maybe a little turmeric or cinnamon. When you’re ready for something more substantial, a fresh fruit and vegetable smoothie provides your body with a blast of easy-to-digest nutrition. Kale, spinach, mango, grapes, ginger, hemp seeds, and lime swirl into an emerald elixir with a tropical feel. Or use your imagination to create your own masterpieces with ingredients like carrots, apples, snap peas, banana, avocado, chia seeds, flax seeds, and strawberries. Adding plant based milks, protein powder, and healthy oils helps you stay satiated until lunchtime.
Food choices throughout the day have a huge impact on which types of bacteria dominate your digestive tract. To encourage probiotic growth, favor fresh produce, cultured/fermented dishes, and other unprocessed, natural foods. Certain choices, including asparagus, bananas, apples, and legumes are considered beneficial prebiotics because the fibers they contain provide the perfect nutrition for friendly flora. And be sure to stay properly hydrated throughout the day by drinking plenty of fresh water.
It’s best to eat organic foods as close to their natural state as possible since pesticides, GMOs, artificial ingredients, and processed foods can harm your probiotic population! And because it can be challenging to consume enough prebiotic fiber, sprinkling an organic prebiotic powder into your oatmeal, yogurt, water, juice, or smoothies ensures that your microbial friends are getting enough to eat.
No matter how smart your food choices are though, modern life can still be tough on the gut so you’ll likely want to give your microbiome the extra boost it needs by supplementing with a high quality, time-released probiotic like PRO-15. To address specific wellness goals, specialized formulas are also available for women, expecting and nursing moms, oral health, and weight and immune system support.
Active people tend to have healthier, more varied microbiomes than those who live sedentary lifestyles.6 And besides being an obvious path to getting in shape, exercise helps balance your gut, which in turn makes it easier to reap the benefits of exercise!
Let’s face it though, no matter how good exercise is for you, if it’s not fun you probably won’t stick with it for very long. So explore what types of movement make you feel enthusiastic, happy, and playful. You might enjoy taking a salsa dance class, joining a neighborhood softball team, or swimming meditative laps in the heated pool at your local gym.
Remember, exercise doesn’t have to be formal—you can also just let the spirit move you by dancing around the house (or office) when your favorite tunes come on, shooting hoops with your kids in the driveway, or taking sunset runs out in nature. Even if you’re stuck behind a desk all day you can sneak in some leg lifts and isometric crunches. And if you’re able to take the stairs instead of the elevator at work, so much the better.
Spend Time Outdoors
Communing with nature has a way of making almost everyone feel better! And the effect isn’t “all in your head”—being outside brings some very real health advantages. The soil is full of probiotic flora, so when you spend time outside in the dirt gardening, playing, or just lounging around, you’re actually introducing your microbiome to lots of new friends. Sensible, moderate sun exposure also increases your vitamin D intake, and regular outdoor time can even reduce stress, improve concentration, and help you stay healthy into your golden years.7, 8
Set the Stage for a Good Night’s Sleep
Getting just the right amount of restful, restorative sleep for your individual body keeps your microbiome in top shape so you’ll wake energized and ready to embrace the day.9, 10 But sometimes all the stimulation and stressors of the day are hard to shake. To encourage healthy sleep:
• Choose a bedtime that allows time enough to get all the sleep your body needs.
• Because computer screens, cell phones, and televisions emit a type of light that tells the brain it should be awake, turn off all screens two hours before bedtime.
• Use this “no-screen” time to establish a bedtime routine that sends a message to your body that it’s time to let go and sleep. You might want to read something relaxing, listen to soft music, spend quiet time with loved ones, or take a warm bath by candlelight.
• If you wake during the night, it’s best not to turn on any bright lights so your brain won’t receive an unwanted “wake-up” message. Strategically placed low-watt night lights allow you to navigate safely to the bathroom or your kids’ rooms, without becoming so alert that you’ll have trouble falling back to sleep.
As you can see, feeling your best each day in mind, body, and spirit is not only practical and easy, but when you stop and reflect, it likely also resonates with both your common sense and intuition. All it takes is finding pleasant and delicious ways to nurture yourself (and your microbial friends) on a regular basis to make you look forward to getting up each morning.
1. Dinan, T. G., & Cryan, J. F. (2012). Regulation of the Stress Response by the Gut Microbiota: Implications for Psychoneuroendocrinology. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 37(9), 1369-1378.
2. Chaix, A., Zarrinpar, A., Miu, P., & Panda, S. (2014). Time-Restricted Feeding Is a Preventative and Therapeutic Intervention against Diverse Nutritional Challenges. Cell Metabolism, 20(6), 991-1005. doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2014.11.001
3. Zarrinpar, A., Chaix, A., Yooseph, S., & Panda, S. (2014). Diet and Feeding Pattern Affect the Diurnal Dynamics of the Gut Microbiome. Cell Metabolism, 20(6), 1006-1017. doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2014.11.008
4. Shen, R., Wang, B., Giribaldi, M. G., Ayres, J., Thomas, J. B., & Montminy, M. (2016). Neuronal energy-sensing pathway promotes energy balance by modulating disease tolerance. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(23). doi:10.1073/pnas.1606106113
5. Mattson, M. P. (2005). ENERGY INTAKE, MEAL FREQUENCY, AND HEALTH: A Neurobiological Perspective. Annual Review of Nutrition, 25(1), 237-260. doi:10.1146/annurev.nutr.25.050304.092526
6. Clarke, S. F., Murphy, E. F., O'Sullivan, O., Lucey, A. J., Humphreys, M., Hogan, A., … Cotter, P. D. (2014). Exercise and Associated Dietary Extremes Impact on Gut Microbial Diversity. Gut, 63(12), 1913-1920. doi:10.1136/gutjnl-2013-306541
7. Kuo, F. E., & Faber Taylor, A. (2004). A Potential Natural Treatment for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Evidence From a National Study. American Journal of Public Health, 94(9), 1580-1586. doi:10.2105/ajph.94.9.1580
8. Jacobs, J. M., Cohen, A., Hammerman-Rozenberg, R., Azoulay, D., Maaravi, Y., & Stessman, J. (2008). Going Outdoors Daily Predicts Long-Term Functional and Health Benefits Among Ambulatory Older People. Journal of Aging and Health, 20(3), 259-272. doi:10.1177/0898264308315427
9. Voigt, R. M., Forsyth, C. B., Green, S. J., Mutlu, E., Engen, P., Vitaterna, M. H., … Keshavarzian, A. (2014). Circadian Disorganization Alters Intestinal Microbiota. PLoS ONE, 9(5), e97500. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0097500
10. Benedict, C., Vogel, H., Jonas, W., Woting, A., Blaut, M., Schürmann, A., & Cedernaes, J. (2016). Gut microbiota and glucometabolic alterations in response to recurrent partial sleep deprivation in normal-weight young individuals. Molecular Metabolism, 5(12), 1175-1186. doi:10.1016/j.molmet.2016.10.003
Roberta Pescow is a writer at Hyperbiotics and proud mom of two amazing and unique young men. Natural wellness is a subject she’s passionate about, so she loves sharing information that helps others discover all the ways probiotics support glowing health and well-being. To learn more about how a healthy microbiome can enrich your life, subscribe to our newsletter.