It’s time for a gut check. Your intestinal health may not be top of mind when it comes to caring for your body, but it should be! More than just a pathway of the digestive system, your intestines are home to colonies of friendly bacteria – also known as gut flora – that play a part in many areas of health. In fact, research continues to show a link between a healthy gut microbiome and brain health, heart health, body weight, mood and more. So, caring for your intestines is an important step toward caring for overall health. We’ve got a gut feeling these tips will help get your intestinal health on the right track!
Caring for your intestinal health
It’s well known that the intestines are a key part of your overall health. In addition to housing good bacteria that assist with digestion and more, the intestines are also the place where key nutrients are extracted and turned into forms the body can easily access. Ensuring that your intestines are healthy helps support proper nutrient absorption and assimilation.
As you’re likely aware, the food that you eat travels through the intestines during the body’s digestive process. You may worry about your system being “backed up,” or that unwanted material or toxins are accumulating in your digestive tract. The good news is that with a normal, healthy elimination process, your body takes care of waste properly. Still, you may be curious about cleansing or detox diets to further assist.
So, how can cleanses and detox diets help?
Cleanses often combine fasting regimens with periods of regimented eating during which only certain foods and drinks are consumed. Supplements, herbs and enemas may also be included in some plans. The goal of such a diet is twofold.
First, by avoiding heavily processed and fatty foods, the kidneys and liver may have the opportunity to take a rest. Second, some components of the plan are intended to help the body rid itself of toxins supposedly taking up residence in the intestines. People report feeling energized and ‘cleansed’ while on a detox diet. The research isn’t clear, though, whether this is a direct result of the diet or because of avoidance of usual processed and junk foods and careful ingestion of healthier alternatives.
It’s good to be aware that severely limiting foods and/or long-term fasting can lead to fatigue and nutrient deficiencies. Also, cleansing diets designed to rid the body of toxins can sometimes cause uncomfortable cramping, vomiting, nausea and dehydration. If you choose to follow a detox diet, be sure to check in with your healthcare provider before beginning and then again if you experience any unusual or concerning symptoms.
What else can you do to support intestinal health?
It’s important to keep a clean environment – both internal and external – to help keep your gut healthy. Anything that enters your body can end up in your intestines.
Practice good hygiene
Washing Hands: Careful hygiene is a great first line of defense. Frequent and proper hand washing, using soap and water, can be very helpful. Wash carefully under your nails and between your fingers. Also, train children in proper hand washing as they may be more prone to picking up bacteria, parasites and other germs in childcare centers.
Food Handling: Again, cleanliness is key. Make sure your work surface, utensils and hands are clean before, during and after food prep. Store food at correct temperatures to ensure it remains fresh and safe, and always cook meat to the proper internal temperature so that harmful bacteria and organisms are eliminated. Be especially careful with raw or lightly cooked meats and meat products.
Pet Protection: Pets can pass unclean matter to humans. A person who comes in contact with infected animals or animal derivatives is at risk of exposure to bacteria and organisms the animal carries. If you have a pet, it’s important to prioritize routine veterinary care to protect your pet, yourself and your family. Also make sure to maintain hand hygiene before and after caring for your animal companions.
Intestinal health diet & lifestyle tips
If you think you may be suffering from any intestinal issues, it’s important to see a healthcare professional and follow their advice. But there are steps you can take to promote intestinal balance and maintain gut health on your own, every day.
Aim for a balanced diet
Paying attention to the foods you eat is crucial to supporting overall health and intestinal health. You want to strive for a balanced food plan, incorporating fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as all macro- and micro-nutrients, to best maintain your health. The same is true for gut health. If you decide to try a detox diet, consider doing so for a short time before returning to balanced eating.
- Choose foods with high nutrition content
- Limit processed carbohydrates and added sugars
- Focus on fiber-rich foods
- Follow food safety guidance for proper food handling, preparation and storage
- Increase water intake
Exercise also is key to supporting your healthy lifestyle. Emerging research shows that engaging in exercise regularly, most days a week, can increase the levels of friendly bacteria in the intestines. Even if you don’t have a gym membership, take time every day to move and exercise – even if it’s just a brisk walk around your neighborhood.
Consider herbs and supplements for extra support
Herbs have a long history of use for supporting health and well-being. Research is still ongoing to prove the efficacy and safety of herbal supplements, as well as determining their benefits Pumpkin seed, garlic and wormwood are just a few herbs that have been studied for their role in supporting healthy gut flora and overall intestinal health.†
Additionally, certain vitamins and supplements play a role in intestinal and immune health. Vitamin C and zinc help support a healthy immune system. Prebiotics and probiotics can help balance and maintain healthy gut flora and keep the digestive tract healthy.†
The bottom line
Keeping your intestines healthy important, not just for your digestive health, but to help maintain a healthy gut microbiome and support your overall health. Always keep in mind the simple and beneficial diet and lifestyle practices above to support your intestinal health. And if you’re interested in a cleanse or detox diet, check with your healthcare provider first to ensure there are no issues with any medications you’re taking or health conditions you may have.
†These statements have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.