Hey, Everyone! Summer is coming, and for a lot of us, a gut check at this point in the spring season typically means, how are my abs going to look in a bathing suit this summer?

Of course, focusing on your core is always a good decision! However, the gut check that’s even more important is the one that is internally focused.

Let’s talk gut health

When I meet with clients for the first time, one of the first questions that I ask them about is their digestion and gut health. Sure, it’s a super-personal question and frankly I don’t love asking it, but it’s crucial to the conversation. In order to understand what’s going on with your machine, we need to take a look under the hood!

If you’re someone who eats a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, healthy carbohydrates, and takes vitamin supplements, chances are your gut health and digestion are good.

If you have a diet filled with processed foods, foods and drinks high in sugar, foods high in nitrates, etc., take note: this can have a very negative impact on your gut health.

Gut health matters

Beyond weight gain, a poor diet and poor gut health can interfere with organ function and impact two of our most important organs: the skin (the largest organ) and the brain. Symptoms can manifest in a wide range of ways, from hormonal imbalances to skin issues like eczema and rosacea, even autoimmune diseases and anxiety.

“New data shows that the gut is critical to our well-being,” says Dr. Mark Liponis, medical director of the Canyon Ranch health resorts.

“Essentially, the gut is your body’s gatekeeper, letting in helpful compounds and evicting harmful ones. It’s home to 70 to 80% of our immune cells. When the gut is in good shape, our systems run efficiently, but when it’s not, we may experience upset stomach, be at risk for weight gain or digestive problems like heartburn and constipation, or just feel vaguely out of sorts.”

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One of my nutrition heroes and wellness advocates, Dr. Mark Hyman, inspired me recently with a post on Instagram. He says, “think of your gut as an inner garden; when you let the weeds take over, you get into trouble.”

He’s absolutely right! If you treat your gut like a garden, and enrich it daily with wholesome nutrients, it will thrive. If you neglect your garden and give it garbage to grow, it will shrivel.

Spring is a time for rebirth and new growth, so let’s start fresh and make sure we’re poised to thrive with my simple GUT HEALTH Check List.

GUT HEALTH CHECK LIST – 3 things you can do today

ONE: Weed out the bad guys and swap in some good ones.

My definition of food “bad guys” is basically anything that’s made in a factory and comes in a wrapper. Processed foods, factory farmed meats, baked goods, sugary drinks such as sports drinks and fancy Starbucks coffees can destroy healthy microbes in our body.

If weaning foods like this from your diet is a challenge, start by simply eliminating one or two of the “bad guys” from your diet each week and swapping in good ones. The “good guys” are wholesome whole foods, greens and vegetables, fruit, fish, organic chicken and grass-fed beef.

TWO: GO PRO…Biotic that is!

Probiotics are a type of good bacteria, similar to the ones that already reside in your gut. Ingesting these organisms aids digestion and helps to balance what doctors refer to as “gut flora.”

Probiotics can be found in fermented foods, like sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha and tempeh. Greek yogurt also delivers a healthy dose! If you can’t stomach any of these flavors, add a probiotic supplement to your diet that delivers probiotics directly to the gut. I recommend a probiotic with at least 20 – 50 million live organisms per dose.

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My personal favorite is a liquid probiotic: “Inner Eco” Coconut Water has 100 billion live organisms per 1 T. dose. It can be found in the refrigerated section of the vitamin department at Whole Foods and similar grocery stores.

Another favorite probiotic product line is “Good Belly,” a line of probiotic products found in the refrigerator section of most grocery stores. These products are scientifically designed to keep your belly in line…and they are quite tasty too!

THREE: Make Friends with Fiber

Research shows that foods that are high in fiber help promote the growth of friendly bacteria. In addition, fiber helps to regulate the speed in which food moves through your gut, which promotes regularity.

The average daily recommendation for fiber for women is approximately 25 grams of fiber a day, but sadly, the average American only eats about 15.

Fiber can be found in so many wholesome foods like beans, blueberries, leafy greens, artichokes, flax seeds and even popcorn. Understandably, an easy go-to might be a bran-filled cereal like Raisin Bran or All Bran or a so-called healthy “bran muffin,” but a lot of these products have hidden sugars, which contribute to the minus column on your gut health check list.

Friends, this is a short check list with endless benefits. Some of the most beautiful byproducts include mental clarity, great digestion, glowing skin and oh yeah, a flatter tummy, right in time for swimsuit season if you start now.

Cheers to your health,

Michelle



Michelle Cartmel

Michelle Cartmel is a certified health/nutrition coach, busy mom and a self-taught cook.  As a long-time believer that you don’t need to sacrifice flavor to stay fit, Michelle launched her coaching business to help people restore healthy habits and get back on track to attaining their goals using flavorful, whole foods as the foundation and springboard towards a happier, healthier life. Michelle works both one-on-one with women and families and also leads group nutrition sessions. When she isn't working, she's cooking, cycling and running around with her two young sons. Learn more about Michelle at freshstartgal.com


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