Note from Elaine: This is the final part of our 5-part series on Gut Health
You can access Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 via the links below.
We’ve made it all the way to the final part of the series! If you’re still here with me please know that I humbly salute you for sticking around right until the end.
I realize this is a lot of information to cover, but given how many people I consult with who struggle with digestive problems (not to mention the population at large), I believe this information is critical to understand.
Moving on to step-5 of the protocol…
Step #5: Rebalance
Admittedly, this final step of the series is often the most overlooked in favor for the other parts – namely the diet and supplements aspect.
Truthfully though, you can be following the perfect diet and supplement regime and still have digestive problems if you don’t take into consideration this final point. In other words, don’t discount it for being too easy (it’s not), or something to put off until later.
You might recall from part 3 that our gut is home to our enteric nervous system, commonly referred to as our “second brain” – the part of our nervous system that controls our gastrointestinal tract.
Our brain and gut are connected by an extensive network of neurons (nerve cells) and a “highway” of neurotransmitters and hormones. This highway is known as our “gut-brain-axis” and it continually provides feedback about how hungry we are, whether we’ve eaten something disagreeable, or whether or not we’re feeling anxious or stressed.
Those butterflies you get in your stomach before a big presentation that perhaps have you running for the bathroom? That’s your gut responding to your emotional state!
Re-balance refers to all of those other lifestyle factors that impact our gut health, such as proper stress management, daily physical activity, and getting adequate sleep.
You know, all of those things that you know are important but don’t always happen because “life” gets in the way.
Deep breathing, yoga, meditation, positive affirmations, getting outside in nature, spending time with loved ones, and making time for play can all influence the release of hormones and neurotransmitters that help us to relax and reduce the effects of stress in our lives, positively affecting our gut health and our bodies at large.
I’m not saying that you have to drastically overhaul your lifestyle overnight, but consider the small changes you can create in your daily routine that ensure you’re not neglecting this area.
Perhaps it’s starting with just a few small tweaks such as:
- Switching your cellphone into airplane mode at 9 pm to ensure a restful sleep
- Creating a morning routine that allows you to start your day off relaxed rather than frenzied and rushed, and actually makes you excited to get out of bed (yes, it’s possible!)
- Listening to an inspiring podcast on your morning commute to help alleviate the frustration of traffic or a jammed-packed train or subway car
- Going for a walk outside on your lunch break or before dinner to decompress from work
- Scheduling a weekly yoga class or massage
- Limiting television/Netflix time to the weekend so you free up time
- Making regular dates to connect with family and friends
Keep in mind: Progress, not perfection.
There you have it! I hope you enjoyed this series on Gut Health. If you ever feel you could use some help or guidance putting all 5 of these steps into practice in your own life, I invite you to consider one of my 1-on-1 nutrition programs.
The Good Gut: Taking Control of Your Weight, Your Mood and Your Long-Term Health, by Justin Sonnenburg and Erica Sonnenburg, PhDs.