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  • Writer's pictureLaura Greer

Hot Mess Hope: Steps to Nourish Your Gut for Emotional Resiliency

A little red dynamite bomb with a short fuse

Overly caffeinated and lacking sleep, I recall so many times when my emotions got the best of me. Snapping when I shouldn't, being short at times.


Short, that is, with others or even myself. Not my condition of being vertically challenged!


My fuse could be very short at times. I'm sure many of us can relate. I'm not proud of it, but if sharing this confession helps just one person, I'll confess my shortcomings, or in this case, my short fuse!


I'll also share what's worked for me. I am not a healthcare practitioner, but I share this from my own experience and personal research. Please always check with your doctor before making any changes towards your physical health.


Last week we considered four steps we can take in the midst of the hot mess to bring about peace and calm. Now let's look at some of the longer term things we can do that will nourish us for emotional resiliency. If you're in the throes of needing peace and calm in a hot mess mama moment, there is hope!


Did you know your gut health is instrumental in your mental health and therefore your emotional resiliency? So many of our "feel good" hormones are manufactured in the gut, and if we don't nourish them, we aren't functioning at our best.


 

Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you

are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.

3 John 1:2

 

So how do we nourish our gut for emotional resiliency? So glad you asked! Here are seven things to consider, and you don't have to do them all at once. I sure didn't. Check with your doctor first, then start with at least the first two and see what a difference a healthier gut can make in your life!


Steps to Nourish Your Gut for Emotional Resiliency:


1. Increase your fiber intake.

This wasn't my first step, but I sure wish it had been first. I can always tell when I have forgotten to take my fiber for a few days. I feel sluggish, physically and mentally. Adding a simple fiber supplement, such as psyllium husk powder, can make a huge difference in how we feel physically, which in turn affects our mental health. When things are moving along as they should, we can feel better all around!


And there's a bonus! Sometimes those extra pounds we've been hanging on to may move along as well.


A white bowl of fiber and a glass of water

2. Increase water intake.

After four decades, I realized I had been chronically dehydrated most of my life. I just didn't care for water, and for many of those years I would have easily turned to soda or sweet tea instead. I knew I needed an incentive to overcome the mental hurdle of not particularly caring for drinking water. A simple fix for me was to get a motivational water bottle with encouraging messages for each level of hydration during the day. Add a splash of lemon or lime. Get an infusion pitcher and play around with different fruits or vegetables.


Sorry gals, I just can't bring myself to drink cucumber water, but if that's your thing, go for it!


Another way to help increase your water intake is to fill that water bottle up the night before and piggyback it to a habit you already have. For instance, I like to keep my water bottle next to the coffee maker, so I remember to drink at least 16 oz before I have a cup of coffee in the morning.


Water helps eliminate the toxins in the body, and is especially important when taking those fiber supplements. When we are not hydrated, it affects us at a cellular level. Our bodies are around 60% water, and our brains are 80-85% water. Research shows that even a 2% rate of dehydration can affect brain function.


3. Reduce Sugar.

My personal journey to gut health began with a reduction in my sugar intake. I haven't completely eliminated sugar, but switching to stevia, honey, maple or agave syrup in most of my daily food prep and consumption made a big difference in how I feel and allows me the energy and focus to continue exploring other ways to rebalance my gut. Plus we know that excess sugar can lead to heart disease, diabetes, weight gain, loss of immunity, and inflammation, all in addition to messing with the brain's chemical messengers, possibly leading to increased depression.


Processed fatty and sugary foods

4. Reduce Overly Processed Foods.

Thankfully, this doesn't mean taking out all of our modern conveniences. We live in a time when healthier options are being stocked on the shelves. However, take the time to look at the food labels when you're shopping. If you can't pronounce it or have to look it up, chances are it probably shouldn't be in your body.




5. Get Outside (and Check Your Vitamin D Levels).

From the endless entertainment to the air conditioning, we have been conditioned to be sedentary hermits. If you're used to being sedentary, consider stepping outside with some sun protection for even short periods at a time. Nature therapy, even if it's just in your yard or on your apartment patio, is a highly underestimated mental health practice.


Close your eyes. Feel the warmth of the sun and the coolness of the breeze. Listen for the birds, the rustling leaves in the wind, or perhaps the peep frogs as the sun begins its descent. Go for a walk. Get barefoot when you can. Find a park, garden, or even a single tree where you can sit and just be from time to time.


And when the night comes, step out to gaze at the moon and stars. Search for the constellations. There are apps for everything these days, including constellation identification.


One thing I found along the way was that my Vitamin D levels had tanked. I've since learned that low vitamin D can cause lots of problems, including an imbalanced (and possible leaky) gut, decreased immunity and increased muscular pain. Being outside can help increase your Vitamin D. It's not on the normal bloodwork panel, so ask your doctor if you'd like to have your levels looked at.


A woman walking barefoot on the dirt on a sunny day

6. Move.

When my osteopathic doctor first told me best way to combat the pain from my arthritis and fibromyalgia was to move, I can only imagine the look on my face. This woman had no idea the amount of pain I live with on a daily basis. I thought she was crazy.


I thought wrong. She was brilliant.


I have since learned that exercise not only benefits the muscles and joints, but it also helps to increase our beneficial gut bacteria, which in turn nourishes production of those feel-good hormones.


Not only have I found walking, even short distances, to be therapeutic, I've learned that sitting still is my worst enemy. My pain rears its ugly head worst when I've been sitting for extended periods, or first thing in the morning after being in bed all night. Movement increases lubrication for our cartilage, blood circulation, bone and muscle strength, as well as joint flexibility. Movement helps remove damaged joint cells. Movement can also increase our energy and stamina, while improving our balance, sleep quality, heart health, and help us reach a weight that isn't as taxing on our joints and pain levels.


Start small and build your way up. When I first started, it was mostly some simple stretching, which helped with the pain from osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and cervical dystonia (spasmodic muscle contractions in the neck region). Loosening up a little bit in this way helped me to feel more like going for the occasional short walk, even if it's just around my house a few times. Just start somewhere!


A pink sleeping mask with eyelashes and the word sleep

7. Sleep.

We are only beginning to learn how much sleep affects our health. Sleep deprivation can lead to imbalanced hormones, including increased cortisol, often leading to unhealthy cravings and even a leaky gut. Sleep deprivation is also linked to an increase in inflammation.


Trust me, the things you're trying to get done can wait until you've had a good night's sleep. Then you'll be more focused and productive while also nourishing your gut.


To have a better night's sleep, consider not eating within the three hours before you go to bed, reducing or eliminating caffeine at least six to eight hours before bed, jotting your thoughts down on paper or your notes app to release them from your mind, and getting some exercise in before the evening.


 

You can have better mental (and physical) health and emotional resiliency through these gut nourishing practices. You've got this! Comment below - which one will you focus on first?




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