You know something that I find to be interesting as we're all trying to get through this pandemic? I don't hear or see nearly enough articles on how important it is to keep our immune system healthy and strong. Yet rather than complain about it, I figured I would do something about it instead. While there are features on our site like "Ready To Try 10 Quick & Easy Immune-Boosting Hacks?" and "Naomi Campbell Dropped Her Immunity-Boosting Vitamin & Supplement Routine", did you know that most of your immune system is actually located in your gut? Yep, a whopping 80 percent of it consists of your mouth, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, small intestine, colon and also rectum.
Today, that is what we're gonna focus on—proactive things that you can do to take care of the parts of your body that work the hardest at preventing you from getting sick, so that you will be in peak condition to fight this pandemic until…it passes.
1. Eat Fermented Foods
If you were to ever Google ways to take care of your gut, something that you're definitely going to see are articles on why you should add more fermented foods to your diet. As far as what fermented foods actually are, the quick breakdown is they're carbohydrates that are processed into alcohol or organic acids with the help of yeast or bacteria. Some examples of fermented foods include pickles, kimchi, kombucha, miso, sourdough bread, yogurt, cheese and sauerkraut. Because fermented foods have so much good bacteria in them, that's a huge part of the reason why they help to protect and strengthen your gut. As bonuses, fermented foods are also really good at helping your body to better absorb vitamins and they can assist in replenishing your system if you've recently had a round of antibiotics.
2. Load Up on Polyphenols
Something else that's really good for you is polyphenols. These are organic compounds (like tannic acid and flavonoids) that your body needs because they do things like lower your blood sugar levels; help to fight your risk of heart disease; increase healthy brain function; reduce blood clots, and yes, promote healthy digestion. On the digestive tip, polyphenols are essential because they are great at promoting the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut. Some foods that fall into this category are blackberries, grapes, peaches, potatoes, broccoli, spinach, black and white beans, almonds, oats and cumin.
3. Take a Probiotic
At the end of the day, probiotics are nothing more than live microorganisms. You can get them via eating fermented foods. You can also get them into your body by taking a supplement. I have made sure to take a probiotic for the past several years and I've noticed that it's helped to clear up my skin and make me more regular. Some other cool things about taking a probiotic is, because it helps to detoxify the body, taking one on a daily basis can improve your moods, make eczema and allergy-related symptoms less severe and, it can most definitely help to make your immune system stronger over time. If you need a little help in figuring out which probiotic is best for you, Verywell Fit published an article on the topic that you can check out right here.
4. Consume Prebotics Too
While we're on this topic, something else that you should eat are prebiotics. If you're wondering what the difference is between prebiotics and probiotics, that's a really good question. Probiotics are live strains of bacteria. Prebiotics are a type of plant-based fiber that helps to feed the strains so that they can continue to grow.
The more prebiotics you consume, the more good bacteria your body will have and the stronger your immune system will ultimately be. And just what kind of foods fall into the prebiotic category? Garlic, onions, asparagus, bananas, oats, apples and cocoa (yes, cocoa!) are some that top the list. Enjoy!
5. Go Lean
Foods that are high in fat are foods that can ultimately lead to constipation. When you're constipated, your system is unable to release toxins as quickly as it should and that can definitely make you more susceptible to illnesses. That's why it's best to eat meats that are as lean as possible and when you do have something that is fatty (like fried foods, cheese, muffins, pizza or even egg yolks), you pair it with foods that are high in fiber (like avocados, carrots, broccoli, quinoa or even a fruit like a pear for dessert); that will help to balance everything out so that your system remains regular.
6. Chew Slowly
Back when I would visit a certain relative, something that was an absolute no-no was drinking while eating. The logic behind it is it confuses the digestive system, making it more difficult for foods to digest (Prevention published an article on this very point that you can check out by clicking here). Whether you abide by that rule or not, something that you definitely should do for the sake of your gut is to chew your foods slowly. That makes it easier for your body to absorb the nutrients that are in your meal. It helps to satisfy your hunger. And it allows the digestive enzymes in your mouth to make it easier for food to process once it does reach your gut. As you already know—the better your body can take in what you've eaten, the healthier it will be. If you're eating the right foods, that is. And just how often should you chew? According to health professionals, no less than 15 times and no more than 30. Yep, a lot of us are not even close to eating right. There's no time like the present to change that.
7. Up Your Water Intake
We're made up of 60-65 percent water so, yep, we need to consume it on a daily basis in order to hydrate and replenish our system. Some of the direct benefits that come from drinking water include it lubricates your joints; moisturizes your hair and skin; regulates your body temperature; flushes out toxins; maintains your blood pressure; helps to prevent kidney damage and increases your workout performance—and that is just the tip of the iceberg! The reason why water is so good for your gut is because it also helps to keep you from having an overly acidic tummy which can ultimately lead to heartburn, ulcers and other digestive complications. So, make sure to get no less than 6-8 glasses a day. Your gut will love you for it and your immune system will be all the better for it too.
8. Schedule Your Meals
Do you ever notice that you seem to feel bloated even when it's not that time of the month? A part of the problem could very well-being that you don't have your body on a schedule when it comes to eating your meals. As a direct result, your stomach ends up working overtime which can weaken it, well, over time. By being intentional about having your three major meals—breakfast, lunch and dinner—around the same time every day, it will help your body to properly digest what you eat. And the better shape your stomach's in, the less bloating and indigestion you will feel which will also help to keep your gut in top form.
There's honestly not going to be too many articles in the world that tackle how to be healthier that aren't going to mention exercise at some point. As far as your gut health goes, exercise is important because it plays a direct role in helping your body to digest your food faster. Plus, it's a great way to keep the pounds off if you're looking to shed a few. It doesn't have to be anything too crazy. 45 minutes of cardio and strength-building, three times a week, should be just what you need for your overall health and well-being.
10. Reduce Your Stress Levels
It really is a trip how being overly stressed does us absolutely no good and yet it's something that so many of us still continue to struggle with. Your immune system will only suffer when you're stressed out, in part, because stress causes your digestive system to go into overdrive which can make your system vulnerable to all sorts of health challenges. Rest. Meditate. Learn to let ish go. Your health is about the most valuable thing you've got. You have to protect it at all costs. Your gut will thank you, by being really good to you, if you do.
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