Did you know that 70% of our immune system lies in our gut?
Our gastrointestinal tract (gut) is an organ system, within humans and other animals, that takes in food, digests it to extract and absorb nutrients as well as energy, and expels the remaining waste as feces and urine. Our gut lining acts as a barrier for healthy living, essential in keeping a strong immune system and therefore minimizing inflammation.
In fact, this barrier decreases the chances of developing autoimmune disorders, degenerative diseases, and dementia. According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, inc (AARDA), 50 million Americans are living with autoimmune disease, and women make up 75% of those living with autoimmune diseases.
Here are 3 helpful tips to help you and your patients start restoring your gut health, and staying on the road to living an anti-inflammatory lifestyle:
Eat your vegetables – Increase your fiber intake through vegetables. Fiber promotes growth of good bacteria in our gut. The American Dietary Guidelines indicate 25-35 grams of fiber daily should be consumed. This equates to 2-3 servings of vegetables per day. So in other words, vegetables should take up about half of your plate at meals. To get a variety of vegetables in your diet, a common phrase among nutritionists and practitioners is “Eat the rainbow”. In essence, eat different colored vegetables throughout each day as they provide different nutrients. Dr. Justin Sonnenburg, associate professor in the department of microbiology and immunology at Stanford University School of Medicine, cautions “If you’re not eating dietary fiber, your immune system may be existing in kind of a simmering pro-inflammatory state.”
Reduce your Stress- Add one hour of a pleasurable activity each week to reduce stress. This can include meditation, exercise, reading, etc. Being in a constant state of stress can lead to change in our gut over time. This can erode the good bacteria in our gut and damage our gut barrier. A weakened and damaged gut barrier can allow pathogens to enter our blood stream leading to long-term illness or inflammatory diseases.
Drink plenty of Water- Increased water intake helps to transport nutrients and assists in digestion as well as absorption of key nutrients. Water can also support the body in helping waste to pass more smoothly through the intestines, thus preventing constipation. The Institute of Medicine recommends women drink 9 cups (2.2 liters) of water daily. For men, 13 cups (3 liters) daily is recommended. Please note, these are general guidelines and depending on your body mass or lifestyle, your amount may vary.
So the answer is YES! You do have the GUTS! Your GUT is your secret weapon to living a healthy, happy, anti-inflammatory lifestyle.
Blog post by:
Nicole Lovett, DPT, OCS
Nicole Lovett is physical therapist working at Kaiser Permanente. She is a movement science fellowship graduate, Movement Links certified clinician and instructor, and has taught movement concepts in the Loma Linda Residency.
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