Feeling Stressed? Put Better Wood on Your “Gut Fire”

People who are good at building campfires know how to find dry wood, arrange it for airflow, and keep it going strong. The ingredients are important. You can sneak in a greener piece of wood on occasion when the fire is strong. But if you overload the fire with materials that don’t burn well, it turns to smoke.

Your digestive system is like a campfire. If you feed it with the right ingredients, it will function well. If you feed it the nutritional equivalent of green wood, you simply won’t feel right.

What are some signs that your gut may not be burning at optimal intensity?
• Bad breath
• A thick coating on your tongue in the morning
• Loss of appetite
• Generalized pain, or tension in your back and neck
• Fatigue
• Constipation

These symptoms can obviously be attributed to many causes outside of digestive health. But if you’re noticing that several of these symptoms are present in your body, it may be time to analyze your food intake. Maybe you’re putting too much green wood on your digestive fire. That can include:
• Fast food
• Processed foods/pre-made foods
• High fat or high sugar foods
• More than a small amount of alcohol
• Too many sugary drinks
• Too much caffeine

So how can you become a more skillful “gut fire” builder?
1. Prepare your own foods using whole ingredients. Your body needs and wants to extract all the value out of each food. It doesn’t know what to do with chemicals!
2. Drink water 30 minutes before eating, and 60 minutes after a meal. Limit your water with meals so that you don’t dilute your digestive juices.
3. Sit down to eat, and remove distractions such as TV or phones.
4. Eat at a comfortable pace and at the right time. Start when your internal hunger gauge is at 2 (not zero) and eat until you reach 7 (not 10).
5. Be mindful of your eating patterns. Try to avoid eating when stressed, or using food as a reward.
6. Sit for a few minutes after each meal to support quality digestion. Then take a short walk or get moving around the house.

What happens when you have a healthy gut? “The gut holds more than 100 million neurons,” says Monica Verplank, Certified Lifestyles and Mindfulness Coach. “That’s more than the spinal cord! So when you talk about ‘feeling better,’ it is literally true that your body will notice an improvement when those neurons can function more efficiently. The gut also produces 95 percent of the body’s serotonin, which is essential for maintaining mood balance. When you improve your gut health, you improve your body’s ability to produce serotonin, and your mood improves.”

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