Simple Ways to Improve Gut Health

How to Protect Gut Health Woman's Bare Stomach
Photo Courtesy of Pexels- Alena Shekhovtcova

Many people assume that you don’t have to worry about gut health until they hit around age 50 or so. However, this is a misconception since colon cancer has been rising in the United States to affect a younger age group of people under age 50 with 18,000 cases reported in 2020.  Though alarming, there are some simple ways to improve gut health from colon cancer that can help better your odds from developing this horrible disease.

Diet and your food choices play prominently in gut health. The average American diet is far from the healthiest one on the planet. We regularly consume more processed meats, chemically-fed meats being pumped with growth hormones, antibiotics, etc. Our fruits and vegetables are sprayed with pesticides, prepacked foods, snacks and sugary drinks loaded with artificial flavors, colors, dyes, sweeteners, preservatives, and other unnatural ingredients because it is our way of life or the best we can afford. The truth is there are organic meats, packaged foods, fruits, and vegetables that are healthier options, but not all of the population can be privileged enough to buy those types of foods because the cost is too high for what they earn. This is one reason that colonrectal cancer has been increasing among younger people, especially millenials because they were raised on these highly processed foods.

As far as food choices are concerned, one of the ways to help improve gut health is trying to eat more whole grains as a part of healthier eating. For instance, trading in your box of presweetened breakfast cereal for oatmeal has a lot more to offer your digestive system. You get plenty of insoluble fiber, selenium, magnesium, zinc, thiamine, iron besides protein and natural carbs. In fact, increasing your number of servings of oatmeal per day whether for breakfast or lunch or in other recipes like my oatmeal brown bread as a healthy grain has been studied to show a reduction in diagnosed colon cancer cases.

Oatmeal is not the only whole grain that can help protect gut health. Quinoa, brown rice, barley, bulgar, millet, popcorn, and whole wheat bread or crackers are other beneficial whole grains that are loaded with the right nutrients and fiber to help defend your gut.  Something that is delicious when cooking quick or old-fashioned rolled oats is adding a half of a teaspoon of ground cinnamon to the boiling water being putting in the oatmeal to cook.  I don’t add milk, but just a teaspoon of sugar.  Before adding the oats, you can also add two tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa before pouring in the oats.  When you finish cooking, I add some peanut butter and sugar for a cooked cereal that will remind you of a peanut butter cup.

Another suggestion is to try to get more diary products into your life. If you hate to drink milk, you can always make sure to eat some yogurt, cottage cheese and low-fat cheese. The reason that dairy products and just adding about two servings to your diet can make a difference for gut health is because of its calcium for latching onto toxic substances in your digestive track before sending them to the colon. At the same time, dairy products offer a healthier protein like beans and legumes than meat protein, especially red meat for additional protection.

Fermented foods like sauerkraut, pickles and other fermented vegetables also contribute healthy gut flora to stave off inflammation and digestive problems. These foods are also probiotics like yogurt and kefir milk that can incorporate live bacteria into the gut to help food digest and fight disease causing cells.

Becoming more aware of the amount of saturated fats that you consume in a day and replacing with a plant-based alternative such as nuts are another way to keep your gut healthy. Something as simple as switching your normal coffee creamer for almond milk for your coffee can help start you on the right track to introduce a healthier dairy product into your diet.

Oatmeal milk is another that you can try for coffee to things like cereal or when making pancakes or waffles that will turn out without ruining the taste. Of course, the taste depends on the brand that you buy since I discovered oatmeal milk is not all the same.

As important as food choices may be to improve your gut health, there are factors that also need attention to lower your risk of colon cancer like constantly being stressed or a sedentary lifestyle. Thanks to this pandemic the normal stress many of us were under has been compounded by the uncertainty of our future to this infection whether worrying about getting Covid-19 symptoms or how to pay bills when your income has stopped.

Though you still need to practice social distancing, taking a walk or exercising, dancing or doing some yoga or the slow, practiced movements and deep breathing associated with tai chi can help eliminate extra stress that could be harming your gut health. Regardless of the form of movement, activity is also wonderful for what it can do for body inflammation and pain improvement in your joints to your gut.

Some people are at a greater risk due to their heredity to develop gut related problems such as colon cancer or Crohn’s disease.  Even if you have genetic risk factors, taking this advice on ways to improve your gut health could keep you living a happier and possibly longer life.


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