06 Mar Here is how yoga can improve your gut health
Written by Sofia Poggi
A healthy digestive system is integral to living a balanced and wholesome life. The gut plays an essential role in a variety of functions throughout the body, and when undernourished and out of balance, the gut can contribute to a number of health conditions.
Some of these health issues include:
- Mood disorders (anxiety and depression)
- Autoimmune conditions
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Skin conditions
- Headaches and migraines
- Weight gain
- Hormonal Imbalances
- Poor nutrient absorption
- Bloating, constipation or diarrhea
- Joint pain
How yoga benefits the gut
A healthy lifestyle has the potential to profoundly benefit our gut health and act as a preventative measure to many illnesses. Yoga, in particular, is a great way to begin this journey where it can heal our microbiome through stress reduction, gentle exercise and in aiding digestion.
The gut is so important in regulating stress responses in the body, where it is involved in the production of neurotransmitters in the brain such as dopamine, and GABA, as well as the regulation of other hormones. The microbiome is highly sensitive, where it can be thrown off of balance when hormones are produced to signal that the body is in stress, be it mental or physical. Yogic breathing and meditation has been researched to activate the parasympathetic nervous system which clears stress responses within the body, thus restoring the health and balance within our gut.
Increases microbiome diversity
Consistent exercise is correlated with higher levels of microbiome diversity as well as the amount of healthy strains of bacteria within our gut. As a gentle exercise practice, yoga has the potential to support a flourishing and diverse microbiome.
Aids with Digestion
Ayurveda, the oldest healthcare system in the world and the sister of yoga, believes that a healthy digestive system is vital for optimal health. Specific asanas can promote “agni” (our digestive fire) to facilitate digestion as well as cleanse and release toxins within the body. Certain asanas can also act as a massage for the internal organs as well as improve oxygenated blood flow to a variety of organs and lower blood pressure.
Top 5 Asanas to heal your gut
Yogi masters have been quoted to say that if you practice this pose regularly, it doesn’t matter what you eat. This pose places pressure and cuts blood flow to your stomach, liver, intestines, kidneys and spleen. Not only does this increase the digestive fire, but once released, fresh oxygenated blood flows to the organs, reducing the production of toxins in the intestine thus improving function. This is the perfect yogic detox pose!
Revolved Crescent lunge or Seated Twist
These poses aid in digestion, where pressure from the twist is applied to the organs. This facilitates with digestion of fluids and foods, as well as the release of toxins, and helps eliminate waste.
This is the perfect stress reduction pose to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, and keep your gut happy and stress free to restore balance within the rest of the body.
This stimulates digestion by rocking forward and backwards on your belly, and also provides a massage to the internal organs. This also increases blood flood flow, oxygenating and revitalizing the digestive system.
These are great in stimulating the digestive fire, as a few sun salutation combined with inhalation and exhalation of breath, produce heat in the abdominals, facilitating detoxification and digestion.
Foods to support a Yogi’s Gut
Foods that naturally contain probiotics, which are live microorganisms including bacteria, yeasts and fungi are important to maintain gut health as they promote diversity of healthy bacterial strains in the gut:
- Pickled Vegetables
Fresh herbs have anti-inflammatory properties, increase diversity of gut flora, and bitter herbs in particular trigger the release of digestive enzymes to promote digestive health. Some of these may include:
- Dandelion Root
- Wild lettuce
These are often fiber rich which feed the probiotics in our gut. Prebiotics and probiotics work synergistically to help our gut microbes flourish and diversify.
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Raw Garlic
- Wheat Bran
As an antiviral, antimicrobial, antibacterial and antifungal, coconut oil has multiple properties that kill harmful bacteria and helps restore your stomach’s pH levels.