We asked Dr. Michelle Mussar, ND, a licensed Naturopathic Doctor at Ezentials Health Center and Spa to share some of her tips and tricks towards achieving a healthier and more balanced You in the New Year!
How Important is it to prioritize your digestive health?
It’s estimated that approximately 60-80% of the immune system resides in the gut . Needless to say, it’s very important to prioritize your digestive health!
What are some changes we can make in the New Year to achieve better, more balanced Gut Health?
BE MINDFUL when eating. It’s important not to be distracted while you eat - this means not watching TV, multi-tasking, or doing anything else during this time.
This is important because you have two nervous systems:
The Parasympathetic Nervous System – Rest and Digest Mode
The Sympathetic Nervous System – Fight or Flight Mode
You can only be in one of these modes at a time. If you’re in Flight or Flight Mode, your body isn’t getting the proper cues to start producing saliva, secreting digestive enzymes and increasing stomach acidity, all steps that your body needs to properly digest your food. Being mindful helps your body to enter Rest and Digest Mode. Without these processes taking place gas, bloating, nutrient malabsorption and abdominal discomfort can occur.
PRIME YOUR DIGESTIVE SYSTEM – doing a breathing exercise before eating, like “box breathing” (breathe in for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds, breathe out for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds) can help put your body into Rest and Digest Mode. Using herbal digestive bitters to stimulate your digestive system can also be beneficial. Drinking hot water and lemon as well as apple cider vinegar are also methods that can be used to prime your digestive system.
MANAGE STRESS - Chronic stress is a problem because your body can’t distinguish between causes of stress. It doesn’t know if you’re being chased by a bear or dreading a deadline, all it knows is that you’re stressed and as a result it secretes cortisol. Chronically high cortisol will suppress your immune system – this is an adaptive process because if you think about it, if you’re actually being chased by a bear, it is more important to channel your energy toward fleeing the bear than it is to fight an internal infection. Therefore, managing stress and using methods to prime your digestive system are critical in maintaining a healthy digestive environment.
Can you tell us something that might surprise us about Digestive Health?
The inside of your digestive track is actually considered your external environment - what’s in there protects you.
We’ve all been to a dinner where someone gets sick from the food and you don’t – it’s likely because their stomach acidity wasn’t adequate to fight off something that was found within the food or their gut bacteria wasn’t optimal to protect them. You can think of your healthy gut bacteria as little soldiers protecting you. Your digestive system is like the entry to your house - just because you knock at the door doesn’t mean you get to come in. It’s selective in what it lets in, therefore you want to make sure your barrier is healthy so that it can be selective in terms of what comes in and what comes out.
Please note, this is for informational purposes only, not for medical consumption. It's important to always consult with your doctor or a licensed naturopath before taking supplements or other methods that may affect your personal health.