Healthy swaps to clean up your diet for a healthy gut

With the gut playing a key role in our digestive, cognitive, mental and immune health, it’s no wonder optimizing our digestion and finding healthy nutrition-centered solutions to care and heal our gut is always a hot topic.

Why you need to care for your gut:
Our body is a marvel of interconnected systems. Although they have a specific life-sustaining function, our bodily systems are closely linked to each other. Usually if something is off in one part of our body, other areas follow suit.

With your digestive system in particular, any gut issues such as malabsorption, inadequate enzyme secretion, or having an irritable bowel, you can be sure that the rest of your body responds to these issues such as experiencing anxiety, weight problems, blood sugar imbalances, hyperacidity, candida, and a dampened immune system. These are just to name a few issues that stem from an unhealthy gut.

Needless to say, a healthy functioning gut is integral to your overall health and quality of life.

With the goal of having a healthy gut in mind, follow this simple holistic guide to clean up your diet and keep your gut microbiome thriving by removing what’s harmful to your body and swapping it for something that will nourish and restore instead.

1. Let go of negative thoughts and think happy

The gut brain connection is fascinating because they directly influence each other.

Think about it, have you ever had a gut feeling, felt butterflies when you were nervous, nauseous when you were stressed? There’s a reason for this; gut health is very sensitive when it comes to emotions, and emotions are sensitive to our gut health. If you’re having gut issues with no physical cause, consider your emotions to be the culprit. Learn to let go and manage negative emotions accordingly and choose and/or focus on more positive feelings.

Swap stress, sadness, and anxiety for happiness, calmness, and a sense of centeredness to keep your gut happy and balanced as well.

2. Cut out allergens and find alternatives

Whether consuming dairy sends you to the bathroom, eating bread gives you brain fog, or having soy gives you headaches, many people (sometimes unknowingly) have a form of food intolerance or allergy. Fortunately, gut issues such as celiac disease and irritable bowel syndrome have paved the way for more awareness, lifestyle practices, and food alternatives in response to heal and manage these gut issues which can be caused and/or exacerbated by food intolerances.

Take a moment to be more mindful of how you feel after eating to rule out any food intolerances. If you feel tired, nauseous, lethargic, experience stomach pain, etc. you’re likely to have trouble digesting a certain type of food. Stop harming your gut and opt for these alternatives to common food intolerances:

  • Swap milk for non-dairy alternatives such as almond milk, coconut milk and rice milk.
  • Swap peanuts for almonds or cashews or even sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds if you’re allergic to all nuts.
  • Swap gluten-containing grains such as wheat, spelt, and bulgur for gluten-free grains such as rice, quinoa (technically a pseudo grain/seed), and sorghum.
  • Swap soy products such as soy sauce and soy milk for tamari and seed and/or nut milk.

3. Ditch artificial foods and consume more whole foods

If there’s one diet that’s applicable and beneficial to any person regardless of health, age, gender etc. it would be a wholefoods diet. This simply means eating all or most foods in its unprocessed, unaltered form.

This covers fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, free-range eggs, pasture raised-meat, and whole grains. Simply put, single-ingredient foods that are eaten in its most natural form.

Our modern world gives us all the instant conveniences to keep up with our on-the-go lifestyles. Unfortunately, many of these conveniences are detrimental to our health, namely being processed and packed foods which contain, for a variety of economic reasons, artificial additives, preservatives, chemicals and fillers. Often these ingredients are linked to increasing the chances of lifestyle-related diseases such as diabetes, hormonal imbalances, cancer, heart disease, etc.

Although it takes commitment to eliminate processed foods all together, here are a few simple and healthy swaps you can make that your health will thank you for:

  • Swap candy and other sweet treats for fresh fruit.
  • Swap fast food take out for freshly made home-cooked food
  • Swap white rice and white bread for brown rice and wholegrain/multigrain bread
  • Swap store-bought salad dressing for homemade dressing
  • Swap margarine for butter or olive oil spread
  • Swap low fat dairy products for full fat

The exciting thing about cleaning up your diet by focusing on eating wholefoods and cutting down or eliminating on processed foods is all the feel-good benefits that come from eating simple, clean and natural ingredients. A whole foods diet should be the foundation of any healthy lifestyle.

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How to Optimize Digestion

If you’re eating a clean, varied, and wholefoods diet, yet you’re still not feeling your best after meals, it may be because you’re not digesting your food properly.

Optimize your digestion with these simple practices and make the most of your healthy diet.

P.S optimizing your gut health means stronger immunity and better moods too!

1. Look out for a food intolerance

Food intolerances are often not as dramatic as they play out in movies. A food intolerance doesn’t have to be an uncontrollable bowel reaction to be merited as an intolerance.

Food intolerances indeed cause some form digestive inflammation. This can range from bloating, brain fog, gas, reflux, headaches, nausea, fatigue and diarrhea. To find out if you have a food intolerance, you can have yourself checked with a doctor to rule out any intolerances (and even allergies) or you can simply be more mindful and observe how your body reacts after eating certain foods.

Here is a list of the most common food allergens, that you could be intolerant to:

  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Shellfish
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Fish
  • Shellfish

Modern studies have discovered some more common food allergens/intolerances that people are less aware of such as:

  • Gluten (okay, this is a well-known one!)
  • Caffeine
  • Salicylates – the natural chemicals found in plants that are used to protect the plants from the environment such as insects
  • Amines- the most common known amine is histamines. This is the bacteria found in food when it has been stored and fermented
  • Foods high in FODMAPS such as apples, soft cheese, lentils, beer, beans etc.
  • Sulfites- a chemical used to preserve food
  • Fructose

Keep an eye out as well for artificial ingredients used in fast food and packaged food such as:

  • MSG
  • Sodium Nitrite
  • Artificial food coloring
  • Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame

While this may be a long list of food intolerances to look out for, most people tolerate most of these foods/ingredients well. If you’re experiencing indigestion, do an elimination diet to pinpoint exactly what food or ingredient is giving you indigestion, and cut it out.

2. Incorporate Probiotics

We can’t have a gut-health article without mentioning probiotics! These tiny living microorganisms bring so many health benefits to our bodies. Particularly for digestion, these microorganisms literally help us to break down our food, which leads to better digestion and more efficient nutrient absorption.

If you haven’t incorporated probiotics in your diet yet, this may be all you need to optimize digestion.

3. Incorporate Digestive Enzymes

A lesser known digestive aid than probiotics, (although we’d say is just as important!), digestive enzymes are key in breaking down food.

Did you know that you need a different enzyme to break down your macronutrients? Fats, carbohydrates, and proteins all require different enzymes in order for them to break down into a digestible and absorbable form for our body to use as nutrition.

Although our bodies naturally make its own digestive enzymes, coming from our salivary glands, stomach and pancreas, factors such as age, stress, and genetics affect our body’s ability to produce an adequate amount of digestive enzymes every single time we have a meal.

This is where digestive enzyme supplements come in. Think of them as your secret weapon to battle bloating, indigestion, and constipation. Best taken 20-30 minutes before meals in order for the enzymes to be ready and available for your food. Optimize your digestion with the very substances that you need to digest it.

4. Proper food combining

Although a debatable topic, proper food combining can prove to be beneficial for those eating a healthy diet yet still experiencing digestive issues. It may be a matter of pairing the right foods together. Here are a few basic tips for proper food combining. Give them a try and see if they help with your digestive issues.

  • Eat fruit alone, or with other fruits from the same family. For example, only eat blueberries with strawberries, blackberries, raspberries etc.
  • Consume beans and legumes with other types of beans and legumes. They can be eaten with whole grains and vegetables but not with dairy or fruits.
  • Avoid eating raw foods all together and don’t mix raw food with cooked food.

While these aren’t strict rules, or rules that most diets can consistently adhere to, consider food combining as an option to try if you have digestive issues amidst an otherwise healthy diet.

Nurturing your own individual healthy digestion is a process of trial and error. Find what works for you by taking notice of how you feel after you eat certain types of food and the how and when of it. It may take time, but good digestion and all its benefits is well worth the effort!

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Battle Bloat and Indigestion with this Gut-Healing Plan

The gut is responsible for all kinds of bodily processes. If you experience bloat, abdominal pain, indigestion, leaky gut, irritable bowel syndrome etc. you’re likely to have some form of gut issue. Check out the signs below for poor gut health and consult with a doctor for the best treatment.

Signs of poor gut health:

  1. Pain after eating
  2. Your poop floats
  3. Regular diarrhea
  4. Constant fatigue
  5. Blood or mucus mixed in your stool

Regardless if you have any gut issues or don’t, everyone can benefit from taking better care of their gut microbiome.

What is the gut microbiome?
Your gut microbiome refers to the trillions of microorganisms that live in your digestive system. The majority of these microorganisms are bacteria and they determine healthy digestive functions which in turn influence metabolism, immunity, and brain health. Lifestyle habits such as what you eat, drink, how often you exercise, take medication etc. all affect your gut microbiomes balance and healthy function.

Follow this gut-healing plan to promote your healthiest gut microbiome ever.

1. Keep a clean mouth

Keep up your dental hygiene by brushing and flossing your teeth daily and visiting a dentist at least twice a year for a thorough cleaning. Your oral health isn’t the only thing that benefits, but also your gut health. Bacteria from the mouth can go directly into the digestive system so it’s important to maintain a clean mouth.

2. Eat a variety of plant-based foods

Studies have found that people with the best gut health are people who eat a wide variety of plant-based foods and kept eating meat to a minimum. Make the majority of your diet consist of plant-based ingredients to give your gut a host of fibers, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. This goes beyond eating your leafy greens, plant-based foods also count as nuts, wholegrains, plant oils, herbs, spices, roots, seeds, and fruits.

3. Cut down on sugar

Cutting down or eliminating refined sugar from your diet is perhaps the single best thing you can do to your gut. Sugar inflames the gut and alters your gut microbiome feeding and promoting the growth of bad bacteria.

4. Sleep, reduce stress, exercise

Prioritize your most basic needs of quality sleep, regular exercise and proper stress management and reduction. Any time you fall short on these aspects, your body suffers and your gut health is no exception.

Prioritize a schedule for these things the same way you would prioritize other important things in your life. Set a bed time, carve out time to exercise for even just 30 minutes daily, and give your body the time to unwind from the days stresses. Your gut health will thank you and the benefits come quickly.

5. Don’t overeat

Overloading your digestive system by overeating changes the way your gut perceives fullness. While the occasional overindulgence is enjoyable, constantly overeating stretches your stomach and makes your gut have to work harder to digest all the excess food, not to mention overeating promotes indigestion and obesity.

6. Get your probiotics

Probiotics help balance the friendly, otherwise known as ‘good’ gut bacteria, in your digestive system. A good balance of good gut bacteria affects our health ranging from healthy digestion, weight loss, immune function, and even help to regulate moods. Get your probiotics by consuming fermented foods or through a quality probiotic supplement.

7. Add digestive enzymes

While probiotics are the typical addition for digestive health, digestive enzymes, although lesser known, are highly recommended to take for digestive health as well. Not only do digestive enzymes promote the good bacteria in your gut microbiome, digestive enzymes also provide the following benefits:

  • Reduces gas, bloating, constipation and other digestive discomforts
  • Helps control acid reflux, reduce heartburn, leaky gut, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Enhances nutrition absorption and supports weight management
  • Promotes healthy bacteria to fight off diseases and improve digestion

Find a quality digestive enzyme supplement to complement and enhance your gut health, and to help heal any issues.

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