There are always things you can do to improve your gut health, no matter the time of day. But hey, why not start first thing in the morning? By making small tweaks to your current routine, as well as adding in a few new habits here and there, you can start the day off on a good foot — and even improve your overall health.
"The microbiome, much of which resides in your gut, is implicated in the health of virtually everything — your mood, [...] your immune system, your hormones — everything," Monica Auslander Moreno, MS, RD, LD/N, nutrition consultant for RSP Nutrition, tells Bustle. "It makes sense to want to support this vital system, and first thing in the morning may set the tone for the day."
It often doesn't take much, either, to make an impact. It can sometimes be as simple as adding a few new foods to your usual breakfast, taking a supplement, moving, stretching, meditating, and even drinking a glass of water.
These, along with other tips like the ones listed below, can improve the health of your gut over time, for a variety of reasons. Read on for a few things you may want to do in the a.m., according to experts.
Take A Probiotic
You may want to pop a probiotic supplement as part of your morning routine, to ensure your gut has what it needs to function properly. "Probiotics contain large amounts of good bacteria that help balance your gut health environment and replace any depleted intestinal bacteria," Los Angeles-based OB/GYN Dr. Allison Hill, tells Bustle. "Having the right balance of good bacteria can stabilize and greatly improve how your digestive and immune system function." Just be sure to talk to your doctor about which probiotic would be best for your gut health.
Fiber is another thing you'll want to have in the morning, as part of your breakfast. "Fiber-rich foods, such as oatmeal, chia seeds, [and] 100% whole grain bread, also help to prevent constipation and keep bowel movements regular," nutritionist Keri Gans, RDN, tells Bustle. "In addition, oatmeal is a prebiotic food, so it feeds probiotics (that good bacteria!)."
Sit Down For Breakfast
Speaking of breakfast, something small you can do to improve gut health is to simply sit down while you eat. "Many people skip breakfast or eat food on-the-go in order to save time or multitask in the morning," Wendy Leung, R.Ac., an IBS elimination coach, tells Bustle. "But the human body craves routine and functions optimally when it's focused on a single task. By dedicating time at home to eat while seated and with no other distractions (i.e., no phone checking) signals to your body that it is now time for digestion."
Allow Yourself Time To Poop
"A bowel movement is typical in the morning because it is at this point in the day that cortisol is at its' highest, which can promote gut motility," Wyosnick says. So, if you can, set aside a few minutes to allow your food to settle, and see if you can poop.
"Some people claim to have a 'poop window' and a preferred time to go," she says. "Try to support this rest and digest time, before hurrying on with your day, to promote daily regularity."
One thing you can do whilst you wait to poop is meditate. But this habit can come in handy, regardless. "There is a strong gut-brain connection and stress and anxiety can majorly impact your digestive health," Leung says. "Having a short [five to ten] meditative practice in the morning can calm your mind and relax your body, setting you up for a successful day."
Open The Curtains
As soon as you wake up, "open your blinds to bring in natural light," Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., founder of Ancient Nutrition, tells Bustle. "Natural sunlight helps to wake you up and regulates your circadian rhythm, which is important for your mood, sleep [...] and overall health."
And that can impact your gut, he says, since poor sleep has a way of throwing off digestive regularity, which can lead to constipation.
Go For A Walk
You can also go for a walk as a way of getting your gut moving, and improving digestion. As Dr. Axe says, "Physical activity helps to increase blood flow to the digestive organs, strengthens muscles within the digestive tract to help with bowel movements, and helps control stress."
Blast The Cold Water
Believe it or not, standing under cold water for a few seconds at the end of your shower may also boost gut health. "This cold blast activates a very special nerve that is our gut-brain super highway, our vagus nerve, which strengthens gut motility among other things," functional medicine practitioner Dr. Shalini Bhat, tells Bustle.
Stretching for a few moments is easy to do, and can have some pretty big benefits. As Dr. Bhat says, "Not only does movement help stimulate actual gut motility (aka bowel movements), it also has been shown to be extremely beneficial to boost our good gut microbes." It can be as simple as holding a few yoga poses, or doing a few simple stretches.
Hold Off On The Coffee
Coffee, and other caffeinated products, can lead to dehydration, Dr. John Tsai, board-certified gastroenterologist with Austin Gastroenterology, tells Bustle. And they can cause the release of too much acid in the stomach.
So instead of reaching for coffee as soon as you wake up, drink that all-important glass of water first, and then have a caffeinated drink, if you so choose.
Brush Your Teeth
According to Dr. Tsai, some studies have shown a connection between poor oral hygiene and the disruption of the healthy gut microbiome. So if you aren't already, this is just one more reason to spend time taking good care of your teeth.
Get Enough Sleep
"This doesn't mean hitting snooze for an extra [five to ten] minutes in the morning," Dr. Tsai says, but instead making sure you go to bed on time the night before, in order to get enough sleep.
Usually, it's necessary to get about seven hours of sleep in a cool, dark, quiet bedroom. "A good morning starts the night before," Dr. Tsai says, so make your bedtime routine a top priority, to ensure you wake up well-rested.
Other habits, too, can improve gut health — as well as your overall health — so figure out which ones work best for you, and add them in whenever possible.