by Ashlee Rowland

Gut health and the microbiome have become part of our mainstream health terminology, not only at the doctor’s office, but also at the gym and in the food store. Although there are many aspects to gut health, taking five simple steps can quickly move any individual in the direction of feeling great.

Eliminate Stress
Stress can wreak havoc in the gut more than almost anything else. It causes the feel-good levels of serotonin and dopamine levels to plummet, leading to an imbalance that can quickly deplete gut bacteria.

Learning to reduce the stress from road rage, toxic relationships, poor diet, over-exercise, or workplace drama, as well as other nerve-racking situations, is much easier than rebalancing gut flora. Find personal stressors and nip them in the bud.

Relax
Relaxing is different for everyone. While some individuals might enjoy hiking or reading, others prefer painting or taking a nap. Whatever the preference, if it’s healthy, do more of it.

Eat Real Food
While many different things influence the gut, diet is the one aspect totally controlled by the individual that chooses the foods that either nourish or depletes gut health. Introducing more living foods into the diet and removing excess junk food is a serious step towards better health.

Top Five Foods to Eliminate
Tap water often contains chlorine and fluoride. Choose filtered water.
Genetically modified foods (GMO) such as corn, soy, canola and sugar beets.
Conventional dairy. Choose pastured or raw.
Artificial sweeteners such as sucralose and aspartame.
Artificial food dyes (yellow, blue, red and caramel colors) and any artificial flavors.

Probiotics
Although probiotic supplements are an excellent way to put friendly bacteria back into the gut, whole foods sources are always best. These include sauerkraut, kefir, kvass, kombucha, yogurt and other fermented foods. Choose supplements with 25-plus billion of various strains of bacteria. These should be free from fillers and other junk described in unpronounceable words on the package.

Ashlee Rowland is a certified nutrition consultant and holistic lifestyle blogger who lives in Spokane and shares her passion for health and wellness at Simplholistic.org.