With the ongoing recommendations to stay at home during the pandemic, staying healthy is top of mind. Yet, changes in our diet and activity level and indulging in comfort foods and alcohol can contribute to problems such as digestive distress, weight gain, fatigue and muscle loss. Considering that our health of our digestive system and muscles can impact our immune system and even our ability to recover from illness, it’s important to adopt strategies to optimize our health during this challenging time.
Gas, bloating, heartburn and changes in bowel habits are all obvious signs of digestive distress. However there could be other, more subtle signs that your digestive system isn’t running smoothly such as headaches, fatigue, skin rash, allergies, and weight gain.
There are many factors that can contribute to digestive distress, including diet, stress, use of prescription medications and undiagnosed food allergies and intolerances. Getting to the bottom of it – literally – is essential to knowing what steps you can take to get your digestive system back on track.
Here are two common areas of concern when it comes to tackling digestive distress:
A properly functioning digestive system require adequate digestive enzymes to break down food into nutrients that can be absorbed by the body. If there isn’t enough enzymes available, undigested food particles can lead to symptoms of gas, bloating and heartburn. Our bodies produce enzymes and we also obtain them from eating certain foods like pineapple, papaya, kiwi and avocado. As we get older our bodies produce less of these important enzymes. Cooking and processing of foods can strip away enzymes and reduce the level of nutrients.
Our digestive system also relies on bacteria, known as probiotics, which make up the microbiome. These beneficial bacteria aid digestion; support the absorption of nutrients from food; quell inflammation; and also help ward off harmful bacteria and other microorganisms.
Dysbiosis is the term used to describe an imbalance in the beneficial bacteria that make up our microbiome. Many factors contribute to dysbiosis including stress, alcohol, smoking, a high intake of sugar, and taking antibiotics or antacids.
Consider these tips to keep your digestive system on track:
- Eat a diverse range of colorful fruits and vegetables along with cold-water fish. Studies suggest that eating a diverse diet can improve your gut flora in just days, plus it helps ensure you are receiving a range of vital nutrients.
- Supplement with a quality digestive enzyme. Look for Digest Gold by Enzymedica. This formula contains a unique blend of digestive enzymes with validated efficacy at a range of pH.
- Add more prebiotic and probiotic foods to your diet including prebiotics: apples, bananas, oats, asparagus, nuts and seeds and probiotics: yogurt, kefir, tempeh and miso.
- Take a good quality probiotic supplement daily to ensure you are getting a consistent amount of beneficial bacteria. Look for Kyo-Dophilus Probiotics that contain three specific strains of probiotic bacteria that have been clinically studied and shown to offer benefits for digestion and immune support, known as The Friendly Trio. These probiotics don’t require refrigeration and are available in a variety of formulas.
- Try intermittent fasting. Going for 12 to 14 hours without eating, allows your body time to repair and regenerate and can help quell inflammation, while also increasing the diversity of your gut bacteria.
Maintain Your Muscles
Muscle health is key to supporting overall health, energy and even how well your body recovers after an infection. However, with gyms closed and people staying at home and getting less activity muscle loss can occur at an accelerated rate.
Keeping our muscles healthy is much more than just a matter of appearance; muscle serves as a reservoir for protein for the immune system to use in times of fighting infection. As we get older (beyond age 50) we start to lose muscle mass at a rate of 1 to 3% per year – even if we’re active. Periods of inactivity can accelerate these losses. Research has shown that after just 2 weeks of inactivity even young people can lose about 30% of their muscle strength.
Consider these strategies to maximize your muscle health:
- Boost your intake of lean, quality protein. Meat, poultry, fish, eggs and Greek yogurt pack a good amount of protein, but there are also plenty of vegetarian options that provide affordable sources of protein. such as beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and spirulina.
- Supplement with essential amino acids to ensure your body gets the proper balance of these nutrients needed to build muscle. Amino acids also play an important role in the formation of white blood cell and antibodies, which are key to fight off foreign invaders, such as viruses. One particular supplement, called Rejuvenate, has been found in studies to increase the body’s ability to rebuild and repair muscle by 57%.
- Devote 20 to 30 minutes each day for exercise. There are plenty of activities you can do indoors with little or no equipment such as push ups, lunges, squats, sit ups and doing the stairs. If you have hand weights or exercise tubing put them to work. There are plenty of exercise ideas online. Try to get your workout in early in the day so that you don’t get sidetracked. If you’re struggling with motivation, try video conferencing with friends to keep you on track.