We’re several weeks into 2019 and all of those New Year’s resolutions are already falling by the wayside. You can see it right in our own community; the number of cars in gym parking lots of the greater Boston area are dwindling. Most of the time, people don’t stick with their resolutions because they are unrealistic “quick fixes”—like giving up caffeine altogether, or vowing to eat only leafy greens for lunch every day. Why not instead aim for small lifestyle changes that can make a difference in your gastrointestinal health? Your digestive system will thank you for not making extreme changes and will appreciate these small, but manageable tweaks:
Drink Enough Water
Getting enough water throughout the day is essential to the body’s overall health. It helps keep things in your digestive system moving and circulates nutrients throughout the body. You don’t have to give up your favorite beverages in favor of water. But, swapping out a glass of soda, juice, or other sweetened drinks for a glass of water is a small lifestyle change that’s maintainable. If you’re one of those people who really doesn’t like water, try infusing your water with fruits like citrus or strawberry, vegetables like cucumber, or herbs like mint or rosemary to make it more interesting.
Take a Daily Probiotic
This is an incredibly easy and small lifestyle change that can dramatically increase gut health. Probiotics are live microorganisms that keep the bacteria in your digestive system in balance. Taking a daily probiotic has many benefits and has been proven to reduce the symptoms of things like irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, and diarrhea. Taking a probiotic can be as easy as taking a supplement in pill form, or adding some fermented foods such as yogurt, kimchi, kombucha, or certain cheeses including Gouda, mozzarella, and cheddar to your diet.
You might be thinking that this is one of the resolutions that people are destined to give up on after just a few weeks. The difference is that the goal here is not to lose weight. You don’t have to take a spin class or hit the weights to get in some quality exercise. Make your goal realistic so that you don’t end up like the rest of your greater Boston area friends who’ve fizzled out at the gym. Simple lifestyle changes like adding a 30-minute walk, regular stretching, or even some spontaneous dancing to your daily routine can really help keep your digestive system in tip-top shape. In the New England cold, having a workout buddy can make this goal quite a bit easier.
Stick to a Schedule
Eating your meals and snacks on a regular schedule can help keep your digestive system running well. Try eating each meal around the same time each day. You don’t have to get this perfect for the idea to be effective, but even getting it close will help improve digestive function. Schedule your meal times in your calendars as a way to make sure you stick to them.
Cut Back on Bad Habits
You don’t have to kick them completely, although your digestive system certainly wouldn’t mind if you did, cutting back on things like smoking, alcohol, excessive caffeine, and processed foods are small lifestyle changes that can make a big difference in your gut health. Slashing some of your bad habits can reduce your risk for things like stomach ulcers and heartburn.
Cook at Home
In 2019, you no longer have the luxury of saying you’re “not a good cook”. Nowadays even the more kitchen-challenged can turn to meal delivery services like Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and more. These meal services deliver fresh ingredients to your home. The meals are appropriately portioned for either a couple, or for an entire family. The recipes are fun and they give families a chance to cook together. Eating out can lead to consuming many added oils and fats. It’s better to know what’s going into through your digestive system. Ditch the takeout menus and tie on that apron!
New Year's resolutions often start out strong and fizzle quickly. Instead of taking on too much too soon, stick to small lifestyle changes that will impact your GI Tract health this year.