The Daily Routine This Functional Medicine Expert Does To Achieve A Healthy Gut
Since starting one of the first telehealth functional medicine clinics, I am no stranger to the importance of gut health. In fact, if there’s one thing consulting thousands of patients has taught me is that supporting our microbiome should be top priority.
Because of what I have seen firsthand, there are a few gut-nurturing practices I have integrated into my daily routine. This routine gives me confidence that I am setting my gut up for success morning, noon, and night.
So take a look at what I do each day and how it can help you level-up your own gut health.
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I fast in the morning.
Did you know that digestion alone uses 10% of your body’s total energy? Not only does your body have to work to break down macronutrients, it also has to produce stomach acid, saliva, and regulate hunger signals. Talk about a digestive workout.
As the author of Intuitive Fasting, I am the number one advocate for giving your gut a break with periods of flexible fasting. Not only has fasting been shown to alleviate inflammation in your gut, it can also regulate your microbiome’s natural circadian rhythm. (1) Different bacterial colonies ebb and flow throughout the day depending on if you are eating or sleeping. However, non-stop eating can confuse this pattern hence, why fasting is a great way to press the reset button.
There is no “right” way to fast, but I personally practice a 12-6 window. This allows me to eat my last meal at 6 p.m. sleep through the night, skip breakfast, and eat my first meal at 12 p.m. Instead of fasting during normal waking hours, most of my 18 hour fast is happening while I am sleeping. Plus, this eliminates the need to prep breakfast while I am trying to get out the door.
I eat a high-fat, high-fiber meal in the afternoon.
I have found that the meals I do eat are just as important for my gut as the meals I don’t eat when I am fasting. I make sure to include both healthy fats and fiber into my first meal post-fast.
Whether or not I am eating some fish or meat or going completely plant-based, I like to incorporate fiber in the form of vegetables into my meal. The bacteria in your gut use fiber as their fuel source and end up producing short-chain fatty acids like butyrate as a byproduct. These are extremely beneficial for regulating our digestion and overall microbiome health in addition to supporting immune, brain, and metabolic health.
One example of a meal with healthy fats and fiber would be a large salad made with Swiss chard, topped with sliced avocados, roasted sweet potatoes, and topped with chia, flax, or hemp seeds. Wild-caught fish or grass-fed beef is another great optional addition.
If you need a little extra support when you are just starting off on your gut healing journey, I also recommend The Probiotic for additional targeted support.
I practice mindfulness at night.
Stress is a part of life, but chronic stress can become a problem if left unaddressed. Because of the gut-brain axis, stress directly contributes to poor gut health by decreasing oxygen delivery to your gut.
To put my mind at ease, I have started turning off my phone a couple hours before bed and end my evening with mindfulness. This helps me wind down and get a better night of uninterrupted sleep to further fight off this negative cortisol cycle that perpetuates poor gut health.
Mindfulness can take many forms but I love meditation. If that’s not your thing, you can try prayer, going on a walk, journaling, or some light yoga.
Even though there are many ways to support your gut, it can be difficult to sift through what is best for you. Instead of trying to do everything, establish a daily routine with a few practices that are easy for you to incorporate and are sustainable for your lifestyle. This foundation will lay the groundwork for a healthy gut that you can build on for years to come.
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- Aksungar, Fehime B et al. “Interleukin-6, C-reactive protein and biochemical parameters during prolonged intermittent fasting.” Annals of nutrition & metabolism vol. 51,1 (2007): 88-95. doi:10.1159/000100954
- Costantini, Lara et al. “Impact of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on the Gut Microbiota.” International journal of molecular sciences vol. 18,12 2645. 7 Dec. 2017, doi:10.3390/ijms18122645
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BY DR. WILL COLE
Dr. Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, DC, leading functional medicine expert, consults people around the world via webcam and locally in Pittsburgh. He received his doctorate from Southern California University of Health Sciences and post doctorate education and training in functional medicine and clinical nutrition. He specializes in clinically researching underlying factors of chronic disease and customizing a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. Dr. Cole was named one of the top 50 functional medicine and integrative doctors in the nation and is the best selling author of Ketotarian and The Inflammation Spectrum.