While the countdown to midnight is over, the round up of New Year’s resolutions is just getting started, and we’ve got a few easy peasy promises you can follow in 2024 to not only improve your gut health, but your overall health, too. Ready to get gut healthy? Here are the top 5 New Year's resolutions to revitalize your gut and set the foundation for a healthier you.
1. Embrace a diverse, plant-based diet
Depending on how much you love meat, this might not be super easy, but it’s important nonetheless. A crucial step toward improving gut health is fostering a diverse and plant-based diet. Incorporating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts provides essential nutrients and promotes a flourishing microbiome. Fiber-rich foods, such as leafy greens and whole grains, act as prebiotics, feeding the beneficial bacteria in your gut and supporting a balanced microbial environment.
Start the New Year by gradually increasing your intake of plant-based foods and experimenting with new recipes. Aim to achieve a colorful plate filled with a rainbow of vegetables to ensure a broad spectrum of nutrients and fiber that nourish your gut. These colorful fruits and veggies are also a good source of polyphenols which help boost Akkermansia levels in the gut based on in vitro studies. You don’t have to nix meat altogether, but even reducing your consumption and increasing your intake of plant-based foods does a world of good.\
2. Prioritize probiotics
Speaking of what to eat…probiotics are live microorganisms that confer health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts. They play a vital role in maintaining the balance of gut bacteria, aiding digestion, and supporting the immune system. Incorporate probiotic-rich foods into your daily diet, such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha.
Of course you can also add an evidence-backed probiotic supplement to your routine, especially if you have specific health concerns or if your diet lacks fermented foods.
3. Stay hydrated
Drink up! Water, that is. Because staying adequately hydrated is fundamental to supporting gut health. Water helps in the digestion and absorption of nutrients, facilitates the movement of food through the digestive tract, and maintains the mucosal lining of the intestines. Make it a resolution to drink more water throughout the day, and consider incorporating gut-friendly beverages like herbal teas and infused water.
Limiting the intake of sugary and caffeinated drinks is equally important, as excessive consumption of these beverages can disrupt the balance of gut bacteria and contribute to inflammation.
4. Manage stress through mind-body practices
Easier said than done to resolve to stress less, but it’s worth it to find ways to manage stress. The gut-brain connection is well-established, with stress having a profound impact on gut health. Chronic stress can lead to imbalances in the gut microbiota, affecting digestion and increasing susceptibility to gastrointestinal issues. Incorporate stress-reducing activities into your routine, such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises, or mindfulness practices.
In addition to watching your stress levels, you’ll want to prioritize adequate sleep, as it plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy gut. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night to support the body's natural repair and regeneration processes.
5. Exercise regularly for gut motility
Physical activity is not only beneficial for overall health but also plays a role in promoting gut motility. Regular exercise helps stimulate the contraction of intestinal muscles, facilitating the movement of food through the digestive tract. The good news is that the exercise in question doesn’t have to be daunting–aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week, such as brisk walking, cycling, or swimming. That’s just over 20 minutes a day–totally doable!
Integrate a variety of activities, including strength training, to promote overall fitness and support optimal gut function. As with any lifestyle change, start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts.
So there you have it–5 relatively easy changes you can make that can lead to significant improvements over time. By embracing a diverse, plant-based diet, incorporating probiotics, staying hydrated, managing stress, and engaging in regular exercise, you can set the stage for a healthier gut and a more vibrant, energized life. Consult with healthcare professionals or registered dietitians to personalize your approach and ensure that your resolutions align with your individual needs and health goals.
Cheers to 2024: you gut this!