Articles by Stacey Wirtjes

  \  Tru Mindset, Wellness  March 11, 2024

9 tips for better digestion

For many people, digestion is a mystery – even though it is an essential part of maintaining good health. It doesn’t have to be complicated; there are some easy tips that you can incorporate into your daily routine to ensure better digestion. From understanding the importance of hydration and meal portion size to what foods help improve gut health, we will cover nine simple ways you can support your body’s natural digestive processes and achieve optimal digestion. Keep reading to learn how you can make significant improvements in your digestive system today!

Tip # 1: Eat slowly, and chew well.

While choking is something we would like to avoid while eating, there’s another reason to eat slowly and chew your food, and it’s related to digestion. The smaller the food particles, the faster your stomach and gut can digest it.

Scientists say your stomach is only one part of the digestive equation. As our stomach fills with food or water, it activates stretch receptors, nerves that monitor the state of your muscle. Your brain is then signaled through the vagus nerve, which controls your digestion and immune system functions, letting your body know nourishment is on its way13. Hormones are then released once partially digested food enters the small intestine.

Eating too fast or not chewing well? Then the food you eat won’t break down into chyme, a liquid mix of partially digested food, hydrochloric acid, and enzymes needed to avoid uncomfortable digestive situations such as indigestion and other gut-related issues15.

Tip #2: Small meals make a big impact.

We’re bringing up stress again. Especially since stress seems to magnify almost everything that could go wrong with our bodies, we think it deserves mention, but this time we’re talking about stress’ effects on our brain and gut. Here’s a related fact. Did you know that you have a second brain? Well, not literally, but figuratively. According to scientists, inside the walls of your gut lie an enteric nervous system (ENS) that acts much like a “little brain” with a not-so-little impact2. More than 100 million nerve cells inside your intestinal lining from your esophagus and beyond send signals to your gut on how it should function2. While your ENS has nothing to do with cognitive abilities, scientists and doctors have found that it does communicate directly with your nervous system, can instigate shifts in your mood and overall well-being2. Your gastrointestinal system communicates with the central nervous system, which in turn can affect our dispositions. Because of this connection to our mood, it is important to maintain a healthy balance within your gastrointestinal system.

Here’s another gut check: Your immune system and gut bacteria are besties. 70% of your immune system is found in the gut3. When your immune cells communicate with the microbiome, the bacteria and fungi respond accordingly, and our diets can heavily impact this response. If your dietary journey primarily consists of processed foods, fat, and sugar, your gut might not convey the best message to your immune system3. However, if your diet is high in fiber, prebiotic, and probiotic-rich foods, your intestinal tract will relay a healthier tale.

For a healthy gut, start here.

There’s a great debate about how many small meals you should eat daily. Some nutritionists may say six, while others say three. It’s not that your body can’t handle larger meals. Small meals help to manage your body’s yearning for cravings when a lack of glucose exists. Your gut plays a huge part in the release of glucose. This simple sugar is released throughout your body after digestion. If your glucose levels are always appropriate, your body recognizes that it’s fine, reducing your chances of being tempted by processed or sugary foods (junk food). Junk food in the gut translates to an increase in bad bacteria and can have lasting effects on your immune system and your body as a whole.

Tip # 3: Hydrate.

Water makes up 50 to 70 percent of your body. It’s no wonder you need it daily9. Dehydration occurs when your body puts out more fluid than it takes in, and your body doesn’t have the water needed to help it function.10 Here are a few signs that you may need more water10:

• Extreme thirst
• Fatigue
• Confusion
• Less than frequent urination

Almost every part of your body requires water. Water helps break down the food you eat so that it’s ready for digestion, giving your gut a chance to get the maximum nutrition it needs9. Scientists suggest that in a typical environment, the daily fluid intake should be 15.5 cups per day for men and 11.5 cups per day for women11.

How much water should you drink per day? Well, it depends. You’ve probably heard the recommendation that eight cups daily are all you need to hydrate your body properly. 8 cups are a good place to start, but it all depends on a few factors10:

• Exercise – Working up a sweat can deplete the water necessary to refresh your body. You should drink water before, during, and after a workout.

• Environment – Warmer weather can also cause you to sweat. Sweat reduces your body’s fluid levels.

• Overall health – Hydration is necessary when you have a fever, diarrhea, or vomiting. Don’t hesitate to see your doctor if you feel ill or before taking other hydration alternatives.

• Pregnancy and breastfeeding – Staying hydrated helps to keep your breast milk flowing. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor or
lactation consultant.

Want to spice up your fluid intake? You don’t have to rely on water to hydrate. Fruits and vegetables also contain water that goes toward your hydration tally. Carbonated drinks, teas, juices, and milk are included too. Drinking water is excellent, but drinking too much can cause health problems. Too much water can cause your kidneys to remove the excess fluid that it needs, diluting your blood content10.

Tip #4: Processed foods and your gut aren’t on speaking terms.

Processed foods are today’s culture. They’re classified as any food changed from its natural state by adding ingredients intended to fortify or preserve. Consuming processed food every so often (for most individuals) won’t send your gut spiraling. But as a rule of thumb, less is best, and that is because of processed food’s role in harmful bacteria growth within the gut. Researchers investigated the effect of ultra-processed food (food additives, artificial sweeteners, and more) on animals. They found that the higher the levels of processed food, the greater the mutation of the microbiota6. Here’s the surprising part. Scientists also discovered that these changes could transfer to later generations, keeping the DNA intact but altering how the body reads it6.

Tip # 5: Singing the junk food blues?

This news will make you smile. For every processed food is a tasty, nutritious option waiting to satisfy your palate. Looking for ideas? Try these unprocessed snack options and recipe suggestions instead:


• Raw vegetables with hummus
• Fresh fruit with almond butter
• Tortilla chips with salsa or guacamole
• Hummus mixed with avocado
• Homemade fruit popsicles


Celery with zesty red pepper dip recipe
Pickled Vegetable Salad with Sesame Seeds recipe
Oven-roasted asparagus with orange-tarragon aioli recipe
Roasted brussels sprouts with apple and cranberries recipe

Tip # 6: Fruits, veggies, and whole grains, oh my!

We hear so much talk about the importance of fiber these days, and rightfully so. It’s the catalyst for optimal gut health. Fiber is a carbohydrate that gives good bacteria the fuel it needs to thrive. When good bacteria thrive, it can improve factors in your health, including lowering blood sugar levels and weight loss4. Here’s a not-so-obvious fact, we can’t digest fiber. It passes through the stomach and small intestine and is fermented in the colon before leaving the body8.

But this doesn’t mean you should write fiber off. There are two types of fibers that you should include in your everyday diet: Prebiotic and probiotic fibers. Eating prebiotic and probiotic-rich foods or supplements is terrific for your gut. Their names sound almost identical, but they have two very different jobs.

Prebiotics are food for the good bacteria in your gut4. Probiotics are living microorganisms (live bacteria) that help good bacteria multiply, balancing your gut’s microbe levels and digestion4. Fruits and vegetables are a great way to work fiber into your everyday dietary routine, but unfortunately, all produce is not equal regarding gut health.

Tip # 7: High fructose fruit can fly under the sugar radar.

Fruit may be better for you than a double-scoop ice cream sundae, but that doesn’t mean it’s void of high amounts of sugar. What’s the big deal? Certain fruits have higher fructose than others. If you suffer from bloating or are gassy, avoiding high levels of fructose can help you avoid further intestinal irritation.

When it comes to fruits, your best bet is to add more color. Yellow bananas, citrus fruits, and red grapes are examples of this. Each color you consume increases your chance of absorbing different nutrients, which does wonders for the good bacteria in your gut. Stone fruits or “drupes” are the best example of fiber-rich fruit. Its thin, rough covering surrounds a seed. Think cherries and peaches. They’re winners in terms of gut health12. But fruit isn’t the only type of fiber-rich food that exists. If you’re looking for more fiber options, check these out:

Whole grains
Whole grains contain tons of fiber, making this ingredient a “go-to” for intestines. Fatty amino acids, produced from the fermentation of food in the gut, encourage healthy cells; as we now know, these cells are directly associated with your immune health12.

Leafy greens have become the mascot for fiber, and they should be. They’re fantastic! But just like fruit, you should consume veggies of all shades. Spinach, green, red peppers, and other leafy greens can also help the good bacteria in your gut bloom12. They feature high levels of fiber and vitamins. Your microbiome will love them, and so will your body.

Tip # 8: Caffeine and alcohol: A digestion no-no.

Every taste of your favorite caffeinated drink or alcoholic beverage can feel like nirvana. It may even put you in a better mood. There’s one thing for sure. It may not be a mutual feeling for your gut. Caffeine encourages muscles to contract along your digestive tract to send food to your intestines, which can cause diarrhea or trigger dehydration3. This movement is called gut motility3.

Alcohol, on the other hand, aggravates your gastrointestinal tract. This aggregation causes a disruption of the good bacteria within your gut, called Dysbiosis4. Drinking alcoholic beverages can also promote bacterial overgrowth, making it a prime environment for the bad guys, called endotoxins, to be released4. Why are they bad guys? They encourage the growth of proteins and immune cells that irritate the gut4. A second theory is digestive and intestinal functions are to blame4.

Tip # 9: Get your body and gut moving.

Our gastrointestinal systems are home to tons of gut microbiota (bacteria and fungi) that are great for our intestines, helping us absorb every bit of nutrients from our food. Microbiota may sound very scientific and boring, but the things that it does are pretty cool. It operates much like an organ inside of another. When your body goes through changes, so does your microbiota. Researchers think that the activity from microbiota itself can affect the metabolic action of the gut and your overall body, enhancing the number of different bacteria when exercising more1. A six-week exercise program resulted in lean and obese individuals experiencing an alteration of the gut microbiota2. However, when the exercise stopped, so did the “exercise-induced” microbiota. Exercise doesn’t have to be super complex. You can walk, jog a local trail, go cycling, or take a Pilates class. It doesn’t take much. Moving your body can help you stimulate the bacteria in your gut, keeping your overall health in top shape.

With these nine tips for better digestion, you’ll be on your way to fostering a healthier relationship with your gut. While it’s easy to slip out of routines or forget about some of the more general tips for a healthy gut, it’s worth remembering that the road to better digestion starts with understanding your own body and following through on lifestyle choices. So don’t wait – get started on achieving optimal digestion today!

1 Exercise Modifies the Gut Microbiota with Positive health effects – National Library of Medicine
2 Exercise Alters Gut Microbiota Composition and function in lean and obese humans – National Library of Medicine
3 Energy drinks, caffeine, and your digestion – Michigan Medicine (University of Michigan)
4 Alcohol and gut-derived inflammation – National Library of Medicine
5 Dietary Fiber: Essential for a healthy diet – Mayo Clinic
6 Gut microbiota: An important link between western diet and chronic diseases – National Library of Medicine
7 Sugar Shutdown: Healthy Unprocessed Snacks – Novant Health
8 Snacks and side – Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
9 Does drinking water during or after a meal affect or disturb digestion – Mayo Clinic
10 Water: How much should you drink every day? – Mayo Clinic
11 Dehydration – Mayo Clinic
12 Stone Fruits: Growth and Nitrogen and Organic Acid Metabolism in the Fruits and Seeds—A Review – National Library of Medicine
13 Vagus Nerve – Cleveland Clinic
14 Slow down – and try mindful eating – Harvard Health Publishing (Harvard Medical School)
15 Slide show: See how your digestive system works – Mayo Clinic

  \  Fitness, Nutrition, Tru Mindset  February 12, 2024

When it comes to weight loss, listen to your gut.

Below your stomach lies a little-known secret weapon—your gut. When thinking of our guts, we’re more inclined to think of what comes out of it and not necessarily what goes into it. But our intestines are way more complex than that. Many good fungi and bacteria are inside it to absorb the nutrients necessary to help us live our healthiest lives. It can even affect our bodily functions and, ultimately, our health goals. Speaking of goals, what if we told you that the same fungi and bacteria might be the key to maintaining a healthy weight? Sound interesting? Well, it should be! Get ready because, for this piece, we’re going way more than skin deep. We’re getting intestinal.

What the gut?

We’ll start with the gut microbiome. Gastrointestinal tracts are made of a ton of single-celled microorganisms that are either good for you or bad for you. So, the normal structure microbiome (bacteria, fungi, viruses) lives inside our gut naturally. The norm for gut health is when your body can adequately digest and absorb food and nutrients and promote an effective immune system.
This function is important because when the gut microbiome is not at its optimal level, your gut may be affected.

What’s the benefit of a healthy gut? It can help your overall health. Foods containing fiber, probiotics, prebiotics, and fermented foods are the best to help your gut stay healthy and happy. Fiber, fermented foods, and prebiotics can be found inside fruit, vegetables, and grains that help to feed healthy gut bacteria. What doesn’t help is adding fast food, sugar, and other processed foods that can take your gastrointestinal system from gut to what.

Bacteria and weight management, is that really a thing?

Not sure where to start when it comes to weight management? Check your gut. Your gut helps with digestion and metabolism, so you want it functioning at its optimal level. Diets high in fat and sugar have been linked to weight gain and metabolic changes. A recent National Institutes of Health study has identified the ties between weight and gut microbes using mice. During this study, researchers placed a group of mice on a diet high in fat and sugar and another on a low-sugar diet. Yes, mice and humans have very different anatomies, but the findings in the study could help draw a connection between gut health and weight.

Researchers noticed that after only a week, the mice with a high fat and sugar diet had changes in their guts and fewer T helper 17 immune cells (known as Th17), which help maintain a healthy weight and metabolism3. Segmented filamentous bacteria, which are good bacteria typically found in the guts of rodents, fish, and chicken, saw a sharp drop in T helper 17 production. As a result of the study, they found that without the T helper 17 cells, fat absorption and gut irritation increased.

So, what does this mean to you? While there isn’t a definite relationship between gut health and weight, it does provide an association between both, giving some validity to the case of gut health and weight management.

The great thing about gut health, as it relates to weight, is that you don’t have to jump through hoops to see results. Here are a few simple ways to keep your gut and weight in check:

Broaden your fruits and veggies color pallet.

Don’t get us wrong. Leafy greens are amazing, but you benefit more from eating vegetables and fruits of all shades. Adding more color increases your chances of absorbing more than one type of nutrient, which is great for feeding the good bacteria in your gut4. It’s also a safe way and healthy way to lose weight5. Eating yellow bananas, green peppers, and red grapes in addition to your tasty salad is a great example.

More fiber? Yes, please.

Fiber can help keep your bowels “regular” and your gut giddy. But are you consuming enough of it? Men’s and women’s recommended daily fiber intake is 35 grams and 25 grams, respectively. There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, and insoluble fiber doesn’t. For example, oatmeal liquefies when water is added, and nuts tend to do nothing at all. Each food contains a high level of fiber yet behaves very differently. Both types of fiber are essential to gut health4.

Fermented foods are fantastic.

The word ferment may sound gross; yet, if you’re a yogurt or kombucha fan, consider yourself fermented, but don’t worry; it’s a good thing. Fermented foods can produce vitamins like B12 and K (an undervalued participant in gut health), giving your gut some of the good bacteria it needs, lowering the PH levels in your intestines, and reducing the survival rate of bad-acting bacteria4.

Stressing doesn’t help.

Stress can affect your mental and physical health, and your gut is no exception. Tension triggers cortisol, a hormone released during stress. Cortisol can also restructure your gut’s good bacteria, releasing toxins and neurohormones (hormones secreted by the nervous system) and encouraging poor diet choices and eating habits, which can trigger weight gain or loss6. You can reduce stress by doing something that brings you calm, like going for a walk, reading a book, or getting more sleep. If you can’t shake off your stress monster, here are a few more options that may help.

Circadian rhythms don’t just apply to sleep.

Believe it or not, even microbiomes are on a schedule too. Eating late throws them off because they are not used to metabolizing at that time of night4. When your food is slow to metabolize, it may make your weight management journey that much harder. There is a way around it, though, to try and consume well-balanced meals consistently each day4.

Are you team pre or probiotic?

Both are winners in our book. Probiotics and prebiotics are types of fiber that can be found in food and or supplements. Prebiotics supports the growth of good bacteria in your gut4. Apples and artichokes are great examples of natural prebiotics. Probiotics are good live bacteria that balance your gut’s microbe levels and digestion4. Foods such as yogurt with live cultures, kombucha, and miso are categorized as probiotics. Different types of probiotics can help promote naturally healthy gut flora and can impact overall health4. The most important thing, however, is choosing the one that is best for you.

Foods that can hurt or help your gut.

The same good “fuel” (food) you need to maintain a healthy weight is exactly what is required for optimal gut health. Prebiotics such as fruits and vegetables of all colors that are rich in fiber, like asparagus, bananas, beans, berries, oatmeal, onion, garlic, leafy greens, and wheat, are excellent for feeding your gut healthy bacteria. Probiotics such as sourdough, kimchi, kombucha, and yogurt with live cultures are great for aiding your gut microbiome. If the mention of beans and fruits isn’t fascinating enough for you, not to worry. Your gut and weight health journey is what you make of it!

For breakfast, maybe you could try an apple cinnamon baked oatmeal, chocolate chip banana pancakes or an easy one pot red beans and rice that can cleverly and deliciously satisfy your savory cravings as a way to incorporate good bacteria into your diet.7

Making healthy food choices can be more challenging than it sounds. From food inflation to busy schedules, sometimes, you have the best intentions regarding gut and weight health, but it’s an uphill battle. We get it. It happens to all of us. It’s awareness of what we’re putting into our bodies that can change the way we eat. The occasional fast-food trip or chocolate bar isn’t bad. Regular visits to your favorite burger joint, fructose or sugar binges and excessive drinking can set your weight goals back and impact intestinal health. Foods high in fructose are commonly found in processed foods that we eat and drink and can do a number on our intestines. Even healthy foods like apples, pears, and dried fruits can be naturally high in fructose8, so like everything else, moderation is the key. Surprised? Here’s something that may have way less shock value. Fizzy feel-good beverages like soft drinks, seltzer water, and caffeine (not limited to coffee or tea but also chocolate and over-the-counter pain relievers) can be a punch to your gut if consumed often8.

Keep it moving, for gut’s sake.

If you need extra motivation to get moving these days, do it for your gut. That’s right. Studies have shown that regular exercise isn’t just for getting back into shape; it can also change your gut for the better! But how? Exercise enhances the number of good gut microbes, that in turn increases microflora (bacteria and fungi growth living freely in your gut) and improves the growth of good bacteria, essential to maintaining healthy intestines. Let’s revisit the importance of microflora in this process. It not only provides the nutrients and tissue development found in the gut, but it also affects our immune system. It’s like having an organ inside another organ, making it… an organ’s organ, keeping your gut running smoothly9. The verdict? Exercise is critical to maintaining a healthy weight and gut.

Be good to your gut, and it’ll be good to you.

When thinking about health, your gut may not register high on your radar. The fact is, your gut affects more than just your digestion. It can directly affect your immune system, skin, brain, and heart, improving mood and promoting healthy sleep.

If you have ever felt your emotions in your gut, it’s not in your head (no pun intended). Your brain is responsible for it10. Thus, the connection between your brain and your intestines. Consider them confidants. If something happens in your gut, it quickly sends signals to the brain, and vice versa, especially when stressed. Cortisol (stress hormone) can affect your mood, sleep quality, and gut. So, it is not far-fetched that you’re affected by bad mood and lack of sleep.

A few tips for a top gut.

Healthy guts make for better digestion and nutrient absorption. Getting the proper nutrients from your food significantly impacts your physical and mental well-being11. Eating colorful fruits, veggies, fermented foods, prebiotics, and probiotics, managing your stress levels, and getting a great night’s rest are great starts to improving your gut health and launching you toward your weight goals. It’s a dietary win-win!

1 Microbiome – National Institutes of Health
2 Building a healthy gut microbiome – Mayo Clinic
3 How diet may disrupt gut microbes to promote weight gain – National Institutes of Health
4 How your gut microbiome impacts your health – Cleveland Clinic
5 How to use fruits and vegetables to help manage your weight – Centers for Disease Control
6 Stress, diet, and the gut microbiota: human – bacteria interactions at the core of psychoneuroimmunology and nutrition – National Library of Medicine
7 Recipes – Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
8 5 Foods to avoid – John Hopkins Medicine
9 Exercise modifies the gut microbiota with positive health effects – National Library of Medicine
10 The gut-brain connection – Harvard Health Publishing / Harvard Medical School
11 How to improve your gut health – MD Anderson Center