It’s all about balance when it comes to caring for (and going with) your gut. Here’s how.
– KEYS SOULCARE
It’s easy to evaluate our self-care rituals from the outside in. (Do we look our best? Are we acting stressed? Do we have enough energy to forgo that extra cup of coffee?) But, when it comes to what’s going on inside, it’s all about “gut health.” As the overall function and balance of the gastrointestinal tract (aka the esophagus, stomach, and intestines), gut health is a surefire way to keep our bodies fueled, functioning, and thriving.
Heng Ou is someone who’s long-espoused the rules of good gut health — ranging from eating a fiber-rich diet, to getting better sleep. After growing up surrounded by acupuncturists and herbalist relatives, she founded a gut-focused, postpartum care and goods delivery service called Motherbees. We recently caught up with the wellness guru to answer your — and our — most burning questions about living more in tune with the health of our insides.
How do you define gut health?
For me, it’s completely related to the phrase “gut instinct.” As it turns out, our guts are totally connected to the brain. There are so many nerve cells throughout our intestines — and there are 21 inches of small intestine! — that are constantly communicating with our brain. How do we feel, how are we doing? Every inch of that is connected.
What else does it connect to?
I mean, besides the miracle of life? We are what we consume. It’s what feeds our muscles, fat, brain processing, cravings, mood, and emotions. We consume everything that’s needed to function — hopefully, mostly — in a healthy way.
Why do you feel it’s so hard for us to just pay attention to our guts, then?
It’s our fast culture. We’re so used to running, pushing things in our mouths, and saying, “Oh, you know what? I’ll just poop it out later. It’s no big deal.” But it’s everything — what we have and what we are. It’s a big deal.
How do you incorporate gut health into your soulcare routines?
I’m a big believer in drinking warm to hot water, especially when it’s cold outside! Warm [versus cold] foods support digestive ease and nutrient absorption without putting more stress on our systems. I don’t eat anything too cold when it’s winter — especially when I’m on my period. I love having hot baths because I’m such a water sign, so I need water and I need the transition of a shower or bath. But for others, it might be a nature walk, or even hugging a tree! Do what you need to do to gravitate back to yourself and away from external distractions.
What are a few ways to check into ourselves, and, in turn, our guts, throughout the day?
Gut health is so internal… but we have to really look to external cues — our bowel movements, how our skin is doing, if our eyes are clear, or our hair and nails — for clues. So, of course, is our mental state. Ask yourself, “Am I feeling a little sluggish, dry, brittle, or lightheaded? What’s going on there?”
When things are feeling overwhelmed, my gut will start to tighten. (I bet yours does, too.) And when you notice that, start to constrict yourself as well as take yourself out of the present and out of your body. That’s never good.
Instead, ask your gut, what does it need?
What’s your gut telling you at this moment? How can you tune into it more consistently, from this moment forward?
Image Credit: Elliana Allon