As moms, we need quick ways to help ourselves to care for the many others around us. According to research conducted by Birchbox (a beauty and wellness company) and referenced in Psychology Today, two in three people in America do not practice self-care, and only 32 percent of women say they consistently make time for it. But one small thing to hone in on that can make a huge difference in your overall health is focusing on your gut. The gut microbiota has been found to interfere with hormone secretion, estrogen levels, metabolism, immune function, and more — which impact so many perimenopause and menopause-related symptoms that result from a lack of estrogen. 

I was grateful to attend the October cohort of women called Inner Piece Wellness, which focused on improving gut health. I joined to learn more in four 90-minute sessions led by my favorite Family Therapist and Founder of The Lab Method, Poly Ely, MFT, and an incredible Family Nurse Practitioner and Wellness Coach, Jill Baker

Here are some takeaways I learned about to maintain a healthy, happy gut.

  1. Get a gut diagnostic panel: A great way to start your gut health journey is to get a baseline diagnostic panel done. Genova Diagnostics has excellent options, as does Voime, to see biomarkers with valuable insight into digestive function, intestinal inflammation, and the intestinal microbiome. The health of the entire body is dependent on a healthy gut and microbiome, so if you are struggling in this area it’s a great place to look into to get a baseline for what could be going on.
  2. Put your feet up 10 minutes a day. Sounds great, right? But this can help support your microbiome and adrenals. According to the National Library of Medicine, the microbiome is a system crucial for the successful physiological adaptation of the organism to stress. If you want to take that even a step further, MindBodyGreen says that 10 minutes with your legs up the wall (yoga style, if you will) can stimulate digestion, help you de-bloat, ease headache and anxiousness, and aid in a better night’s sleep.
  3. Keep a high polyphenol diet: eat as many seeds, nuts, and purple potatoes as possible. Studies have shown that individuals with Leaky Gut Syndrome are more likely to experience hormonal imbalances, including low estrogen levels. The National Library of Medicine offers that getting enough polyphenols can help you get in front of this problem, as estrogen starts to decrease with age. Polyphenols — the highest in good olive oil — are a great place to start! Amphora Nueva was recommended as a great vendor for olive oil that meets these standards. 
  4. Follow what they do in the blue zones: They move, have a sense of purpose, only eat to 80% of feeling full, have a plant-based diet, have low stress, moderate alcohol intake, connect with the community, put family first, and choose social circles with healthy behaviors. Watch Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones on Netflix for further inspiration. Dan Buettner (an American National Geographic Fellow, New Times best-selling author, and three-time Guinness record holder for endurance cycling) narrates and highlights these fantastic communities in this series. 
  5. Eat six palms full of greens daily, equaling 50g of fiber. Firmicutes (which aid in carbohydrate metabolism) and bacteroids (which assist in functions like energy production and conversion as well as amino acid transport and metabolism in addition to carbohydrate metabolism) help to maintain the gut lining. According to Atlas Biomed, obesity is associated with higher amounts of firmicutes and fewer bacteroidetes, so both are highly important as you hone in on gut health.
  6. Focus on the quality of your gut lining: speaking of gut lining, if too much passes through, it can lead to inflammation. L-glutamine can help seal the lining of the gut and reduce inflammation, but it’s essential to discuss this option with a medical professional before taking it. Also, BitterX by Quicksilver Scientific or good old apple cider vinegar can be a game-changer before you eat and a safer hack to try first.
  7. Take pre- and pro-biotics: Prebiotics are the fuel that supports good bacteria in the gut. These are high-fiber, starchy, and non-starchy vegetables. Probiotics are living cultures that help support the diversity and health of the gut microbiome overall. Probiotics also only work with a high-fiber diet (i.e., 50g of fiber daily) and are found in living cultures. Remember, since these are living bacteria, they must be in the refrigerated section to have the desired effect. And when in doubt, here are lists of healthy foods in each category below. 
Prebiotic Foods:

  • Olive oil, Sweet potatoes, Garlic
  • Arugula, Cabbage
  • Spinach, Kale, Red leaf lettuce
  • Broccoli, Pea sprouts
  • Red bell peppers, Cucumbers
  • Jicama, Celery, Carrots
  • Onions, Scallions, Flax Seeds
Probiotic Foods:

  • Pickles
  • Pickled beets
  • Kimchi
  • Sauerkraut
  • Sheep’s milk yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Kombucha

Deepak Chopra recently said inflammation is ‘the number one pandemic of our time.’ Getting in front of it through a healthy gut and a plant-based diet with whole foods can help lower inflammation across the entire body. These simple tips can help you reduce your risk for diabetes, heart disease, and even depression. For more reference on how food can even play into the behavioral health of our kids, check out episode 102 of Food is Mood on the MomShine podcast. I interviewed scientist Kumi Nagamoto at the University of North Dakota, and we dive into silent food allergies, what to look out for when these inflammatory effects don’t show typical allergy symptoms, and how to ensure our kids eat a well-rounded, healthy diet.