Oftentimes, when it comes to improving intestinal health, much of the focus is placed on diet. While diet is certainly an important aspect of intestinal healing, it can be incredibly beneficial to consider primary foods as well. Primary foods refer to the things that nourish a person off the plate – including career, relationships, spirituality, physical activity, finances, and other lifestyle factors. Lack of adequate satisfaction in multiple areas of primary feeding often indicates the presence of stress or unbalanced priorities. Neglecting these areas of well-being over time can leave a person feeling drained, allowing stress to take over, which can contribute to greater health problems. Alternatively, setting aside time for self-care through primary eating can create positive emotions and improve well-being, thereby supporting intestinal health.

Health coaches can play a vital role in their clients’ well-being, helping them to assess which areas of primary foods are missing and supporting them in generating creative solutions to take care of these areas of their lives in a manageable and practical way. . A good place to start is to check in with customers and invite them to consider and share how satisfied they feel in various areas.


Social connections

Human connection is an essential component of well-being and can significantly impact emotional and physical health. One study showed that individuals with stronger social relationships were 1.5 times more likely to live longer. This has been seen in “Blue Zones” around the world. The “Blue Zones” are regions that are home to populations that demonstrate the strongest health and longevity. Blue Zones include Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece; and Loma Linda, California. Research has shown that the only common factor in these Blue Zones is a strong sense of social connection and community.

Social connection releases serotonin in the brain, which promotes feelings of happiness and joy. On the other hand, lack of social support can potentially increase the risk of mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. Connecting offers a variety of additional mental health benefits, including increased feelings of belonging and a sense of purpose, reduced stress levels, and improved self-esteem and confidence. A sense of positive social connection can decrease the body’s release of stress hormones, which in turn can support gut health. Also, in-person socialization with other healthy individuals can help to diversify the microbiome by exposing a person to different types of commensal bacteria.


Daily movement

Daily movement has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, as well as improve bowel function. Physical activity improves circulation throughout the body, including the intestines. Peristalsis is the involuntary muscle contractions that move food and waste through our digestive tract – it is aided by regular movement as well. Although peristalsis happens regardless of whether we are moving or not, being active can help “move our toxins.” Exercise also has a positive impact on microbiome health by increasing levels of microbes that produce butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that produces satiety hormones, curbing hunger. Exercise also raises a person’s core temperature and reduces blood flow to the intestines. This can increase the amount of direct contact between intestinal microbes and immune cells in the gut mucus.

Activities that are rhythmic and prolonged, such as walking, jogging, and cycling, can be beneficial, but the best exercises are the ones that work best for your unique body. Exercise doesn’t have to be intense or long – just a 10 or 20 minute walk can have a positive impact! Walking is also a great way to improve vagal tone, which can strengthen communication between the intestine and the brain so that digestion can function optimally.


Contact with nature

Spending time in nature can help awaken feelings of joy and relaxation. It can also lower stress levels, increase immunity, improve heart health, and decrease depression and anxiety – all factors that can positively influence the gut microbiome. One way to naturally increase healthy microbial diversity is exposure to different types of common bacteria, many of which can be found in soil and outdoors. Sitting or lying on the earth and gardening are two ways to do this.
Even if you don’t consider yourself an “outdoor” person, consider that all human beings benefit from being in nature and spending time away from computer screens and electronic devices to promote their emotional, mental, spiritual and physical health. Spending time outdoors increases sun exposure by providing vitamin D, which is
vital to intestinal health. Vitamin D aids in nutrient absorption and supports the maintenance of a healthy gut microbiome.

It is not necessary to take a vacation in the mountains to reap the benefits of spending time in nature. Many people struggle with busy schedules and may feel they don’t have enough time to go out every day. You can refresh your mindset and find creative ways to get a few minutes of fresh air here and there. For example, instead of thinking, “I only have 15 minutes before my next meeting. It’s better to stay at my desk,” try switching to, “I have a 15-minute break before my next meeting.” I can go outside for 10 minutes to get some fresh air while I plan my talking points.”


Practicing Gratitude and Positive Thinking

Our bodies listen to what we say to ourselves and respond physically to those messages. Negative thoughts can be a big contributor to stress. It’s important to feed our bodies healthy, supportive thoughts whenever we can. Often, we don’t even realize that we are telling ourselves negative stories throughout the day.

Learning to slow down and recognize our thoughts through mind practice allows us to change course and move away from negative thoughts with positive ones. This not only helps reduce chronic stress, it can also help us make healthier dietary and lifestyle choices, which can improve digestion. A simple way to break the negative thinking cycle is to practice gratitude daily.

Gratitude can take many forms, from saying thanks before meals to writing three things you are grateful for each day. The key is to find things, no matter how big or small – it could be people, pets, a steady job, a delicious snack or good weather. By practicing gratitude, you affirm your appreciation for everything you have instead of constantly focusing on what you don’t have. This helps to achieve a mindset of acceptance and contentment, no matter where we are on our health journey. While gratitude doesn’t have to be written down (they can be expressed verbally or silently), Posting affirmations on your mirror or around your home or workspace is a great way to ensure you’ll see them regularly. Like gratitude, affirmations can be recited at any time.


Have a Quality Sleep

Sleep is an essential component of curing illness and maintaining overall health. Sleep affects immunity, appetite, productivity and even relationship satisfaction. In addition, sleep affects metabolism, hormone regulation, brain function, Sleep can also impact and influence gut health. Research shows that adults who report poor quality of sleep tend to have reduced health and function of their gut microbiome compared to those who get quality sleep on a regular basis.

Like our sleep cycles, our microbiome operates in circadian rhythms.8 The diversity, functioning and health of the microbiome can be negatively altered when our circadian rhythms are disturbed.

Because sleep can disrupt appetite, inadequate sleep can increase craving, causing us to eat more often and consume larger portions. We’re also more likely to reach for caffeine and sugary foods for a quick boost in energy to offset the drowsy feeling. Unregulated eating patterns and excessive consumption of sweets, caffeine, and processed foods can interfere with proper bowel function, feeding opportunistic bacteria and creating inflammation. Chronic inflammation of the intestinal lining can lead to intestinal permeability, more commonly known as “bowel leak”.

While seven or eight hours of uninterrupted sleep a night is ideal, this isn’t always possible – especially if you have babies or young children. The goal is to take advantage of opportunities to maximize as much quality sleep as reasonably possible. You can establish nightly routines and good sleep hygiene, creating habits that prioritize and deepen sleep. These may include turning off electronics two hours before bed, sleeping in total darkness, drinking a calming cup of tea, showering, cutting down on snacking before bed, and keeping a journal. These healthy habits can help ease the body into a relaxed state and train the brain to relax.


Putting It All Together…

Time spent in self-care practices, activities, and environments that create satisfaction in the various areas of primary nutrition can support gut health by generating or removing stress, creating positive emotions, and engaging in health-promoting behaviors. As with the foods we eat – what nourishes one individual in terms of primary foods will be different from the next person. The activities and practices that have the most positive impact and longevity are those that truly resonate and bring joy to a person. Things that are done as “should” are not going to be as satisfying or likely to be kept in the long run. So always keep in mind that bio-individuality is critical and lead the way when it comes to figuring out which nutrition methods and practices will work best for you.