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Is Your Gut Health Affecting Your Fitness Goals?

Is Your Gut Health Affecting Your Fitness Goals? 

Do you ever have those days when you feel sluggish and bloated and your belly just doesn’t feel right? Are you struggling to lose weight? Are you lacking the energy to get through your workouts? These are all signs that your body is telling you that it’s time to check your gut health. 

Our gut is responsible for breaking down the foods that we eat and absorbing the nutrients that our body needs to function. When there is an imbalance in the gut, health issues can arise. Depression, fatigue, weight gain, autoimmune diseases, insomnia and hypothyroidism have all been linked to an unhealthy gut. Some signs that you may be suffering from an unhealthy gut can include depression or anxiety, brain fog, acne or other skin conditions, hormone imbalance, dry or thinning hair, slow metabolism, bloating and discomfort in the digestive tract, just to name a few. 

If you are struggling to lose weight or even gain muscle it could be caused by the fact that your body isn’t absorbing the nutrients that it needs from your foods and your body is not processing it how it should. Healing your gut can lead to a faster metabolism and an overall healthier you, giving back the energy you need to reach those goals! 

 

Some Causes of an Unhealthy Gut 

  • Eating too much processed foods/High inflammatory foods: your body has a difficult time processing these foods and this can cause inflammation and bloating. Try to avoid overly processed foods if you are experiencing bloating, constipation or IBS. Sticking with whole, nutrient dense foods can help combat these symptoms. 
  • Too much gluten: gluten is a mixture of proteins found in many grains, such as wheat, rye, and barley. Even if you don’t have celiac disease(diagnosed gluten allergy) gluten can be problematic for some. If you find that gluten is causing discomfort you can try limiting it but in most cases it isn’t necessary to eliminate it completely. For most, eating gluten in moderation can be helpful. 
  • Antibiotics: kills off not only the bad bacteria but the good bacteria too. Adding probiotics to your diet after a round of antibiotics can help restore good bacteria. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir and kombucha are all high in probiotics. 
  • Not getting enough sleep: making sleep a priority can give the body a chance to lower cortisol levels and allows time for the gut to heal itself. Good quality sleep creates a good environment for good bacteria to thrive. 
  • Eating too fast: when you slow down and enjoy your food at a slower pace it gives your body a head start so it can signal to the body that it’s time to start the digestive process. Eating slowly can also prevent you from swallowing too much air which can cause uncomfortable bloating. 
  • Too much refined sugar and sugar substitutes: Many foods on the market today have added sugars, such as high fructose corn syrup , which can decrease the amount of good bacteria in the gut. This imbalance can cause sugar cravings which in turn can cause further damage. 
  • =] your body is holding on to foods for too long. Be sure to drink lots of water and eat a variety of foods high in fiber to keep your gut cleared out. Nutrient dense foods such as fruits, vegetables and unprocessed grains can increase fiber, protein, healthy fats and nutrients to help things move along more smoothly. 

Tips to help heal your gut 

  1. Eat a diet that consists of clean, unprocessed foods that are full of healthy macro and micro-nutrients. Eating a diet rich in fiber will also help keep you regular. If you have a hard time getting in your daily fruits and vegetables you can add a “super greens” powder to help supplement the much needed nutrients. Most of us are living busy lives and can’t always be perfect. Adding high quality supplements such as multivitamins, protein powders and greens can be a life saver. 
  2. Try to limit foods high in gluten. Gluten can be a controversial topic. If you feel like gluten may be causing you discomfort try writing in a food journal. Write down what you are eating and how it makes you feel. If there is a connection to gluten and your symptoms you may want to try limiting your intake. Food allergy and sensitivity testing can also be useful. Try getting your daily carbs from fresh fruits and vegetables to keep your energy up and your macronutrients balanced. Giving up carbs completely can be detrimental to your gut health as well. 
  3. Probiotics: Take a probiotic supplement daily. This will help replace good bacteria and aid in fighting off the bad bacteria that may be building up in your gut. Find a probiotic that has Lactobacillus and bifidobacterium at the very least. Add fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir and kombucha to your diet. These foods are high in natural probiotics. 
  4. Digestive Enzymes: Taking a digestive enzyme with your meals can help breakdown the foods you are eating to aid in digestion. If your gut is struggling to breakdown the food on it’s own this can help the system work more efficiently and in turn get the most out of the nutrient you are ingesting. 
  5. Get enough sleep. If you are experiencing symptoms of an unhealthy gut, it’s most likely you are struggling in the sleep department. Sleep can play a huge part in many aspects of health. Recovery is mandatory if you are working to lose weight or gain muscle or even have enough energy to get through the day. Changing bad habits such as unhealthy eating, over stimulation before bed time (phones and TV) and late bed times can possibly help you get a few extra hours of sleep and in turn give your body the time it needs to heal your gut. 
  6. Eat slowly. This will help give your body time to produce enough saliva to help break down your food. Taking time to chew your food slowly can also help you feel full sooner which in turn can help you eat less, taking the stress off of your digestive system. 
  7. Limit sugar intake and stay away from sugar alcohols. The body cannot digest most of these substances (xylitol, erythritol,sorbitol etc) so they travel to the intestine where they are metabolized by our gut bacteria causing inflammation and bloat. These substances are used mostly as sugar substitutes and can be found in unsuspected places like chewing gum. Limiting sugar intake all together can not only help with gut health but can aid in weight loss. 
  8. Add anti-inflammatory supplements to your daily diet. Glutamine has an abundant list of benefits including weight loss, helps preserve muscle tissue and promotes brain and digestive help and has been shown to help treat imbalances in the gut. Turmeric is a widely know natural substance that can help reduce inflammation. Golden milk is a popular way to get in a healthy dose of turmeric. CBD oil also has a large list of benefits and can help reduce inflammation and stress which in turn can help reduce cortisol levels in the body. Be sure to choose a high quality CBD that has been tested and can be easily digested

Listen to Your Gut

So many of us are trying to workout and eat healthy and live a healthier lifestyle. If you feel like you’re spinning your wheels and have come to a halt when it comes to these things take a step back and check your gut. There’s a good chance it’s trying to tell you something! 

References

7 Signs of an Unhealthy Gut and 7 Ways to Improve Gut Health. (2020). Retrieved 15 April 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/health/gut-health#treatment

Antonio, J., Kalman, D., Stout, J., Greenwood, M., Willoughby, D., & Haff, G. (2014). Essentials of sports nutrition and supplements. [NY]: Humana Press.

Does Turmeric Reduce Inflammation?. (2020). Retrieved 15 April 2020, from https://www.unitypoint.org/livewell/article.aspx?id=2d07f077-1a67-4ba4-91bd-5589d76382e5

Ruscio, M. Healthy gut, healthy you.

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