If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed or frustrated by endless articles with unrealistic habits you “have” to adopt to be healthy, let me tell you something…
Good gut health doesn’t have to be hard work! It doesn’t mean time-consuming cooking or sacrificing foods or other things you love either. It really is about small, simple strategies you can stick to and that are realistic for you to fit into your own lifestyle.
Here are 10 micro-habits, each one only taking a minute, that can make a meaningful difference to your gut microbes, no extra effort required.
1. Expose your face to natural light first thing.
Sleep is one of the most underrated resources to support good gut health. In fact, studies show lack of sleep can impact your gut microbes after just 2 days. Light is how our body clock and environment communicate, so getting some light first thing in the morning helps to support your circadian rhythm – a refreshing way to start your day for your sleep quality, mental health and gut health.
2. Pick up a new fruit and vegetable in your weekly shop.
Mixing up your shopping list and adding in plant-based foods you’ve never tried before or rarely eat is one of the best ways to increase your plant points. Good gut health is all about variety and feeding your gut microbes a deliciously diverse diet, full of fibre and beneficial plant chemicals. Diversity of plants = diversity of microbes = better gut and overall health!
3. Fill up a water bottle to keep with you.
Staying hydrated is super important for your digestive and overall health, and keeping your fluid intake up can help to avoid constipation. It’s a good idea to keep a water bottle with you to make it easier to hit your 2 litres of water every day, whether you’re at home or on the go.
4. De-stress with a quick 4-7-8 breathing exercise.
It all comes back to the gut-brain axis, where psychological stress can make your gut stressed too. Whenever you’re feeling a little stressed, try breathing in for 4 seconds through your nose, holding it for 7 seconds, then exhaling through your mouth for 8 seconds. Repeat it again 2-3 more times. This technique only takes a minute or two and you can try it anywhere – at your desk, in the shower or on the move.
5. Go for the pre-mixed combinations of vegetables, fruits and beans
One of my top tips for diversifying your diet, pre-mixed packs are my go-to. For example, instead of just lettuce, go for the mixed salad bag with rocket, spinach and carrot too. Instead of just getting the red pepper, pick up the orange and green as well. Instead of a tin of black beans, the 4- or 5-bean mix adds extra plant points in one.
6. Chew your food between 10-20 times for each mouthful.
Digestion starts in the mouth, so take the time to chew during meals, particularly to help relieve any bloating you might be experiencing. It’ll also help your body extract the nutrients from your food more efficiently. As the old saying goes, it’s more “you are what you digest” than “you are what you eat”!
7. Pop a poop stool in your bathroom.
Our bodies are designed to poop in the squatting position (something that Western toilet-designers have overlooked!), so it can be helpful to pop an old phone book, shoe box or foot step under your feet while you’re on the loo. This straightens out the bottom of the intestine and the anus, allowing for a smooth departure.
8. Swap your tight gym clothes for more stretchy leggings.
Tight pants syndrome has been shown to be a real thing! Especially if you’re suffering with bloating, making this simple swap could be a game-changer.
9. Pizza or take-away night? Add an extra veggie.
Looking after your gut health doesn’t mean you need to miss out on your favourite foods or dinner with friends – food is to be enjoyed! Simply add some fibre goodness (aka plant foods!) on the side of whatever you’re having to feed your gut microbes. Whether it’s adding some lentils to your pasta or curry sauce, adding a side of veg to your Sunday roast, or adding some greens to your pizza toppings.
10. Put your phone away 30 minutes before bed.
Limiting your smartphone use before bedtime has been shown to significantly improve sleep quality, mood and working memory within just 4 weeks. Try to switch off so you can wind down before bed and boost your quality of sleep – your gut microbes can feel the benefits too.
Got a little more time to spare? Check out this post on the benefits of mindfulness for your gut health and practical exercises