One of the most important body parts you have is your belly. It's the focus as summertime approaches (after you've been hibernating behind baggy sweaters all winter long) and is also the most common area men and women want to get rid of extra weight and tighten up.
However, when your belly doesn't feel good on the inside
, such as from bloating, nausea or stress, it can cause more health problems down the line.
What are 19 factors you can use to keep your belly healthy and happy?
- Soft cheeses
- Sourdough bread
- Red wine
- Enjoy a diet that is varied and well-balanced
- Decrease fat in your diet
- Lean protein
- Stay hydrated
- Physical activity
- Stress management
Carissa Bealert, RD, shares why you want a healthy and happy belly and the 19 simple ways you can achieve that.
RadioMD Presents: Melanie Cole's Health Radio | Original Air Date: June 1, 2015
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest: Carissa Bealert, RD
It's Health Radio. Here is Melanie Cole.
MELANIE: One of our most important body parts is our bellies. It's the focus in the summertime after you've been hibernating it behind baggy sweaters and it's also a common area men and women want to shed weight from. I certainly do. When I talk about my weight loss, that is where I want to lose it from. However, when your belly doesn't feel good -- you know, bloating, nausea -- there are more health problems down the line. We have heard so much in the media about gut health, belly health and how important it is to our immune system. My guest is Carissa Bealert. She is an Orlando-based Registered Dietitian. She has a diverse background in nutrition and fitness and she just had a baby yesterday. So, welcome to the show Carissa and thanks for being with us today. Tell us first, why we really want to worry about having a happy belly and then in our little bit of time we have, I'd like to talk about as many things as we can do to keep our bellies happy and healthy.
CARISSA: Generally, talking about a happy belly and actually talking about when you are a baby, your intestines are really your first brain. They form before your actual brain does. They have more neurons than your brain so keeping that belly happy is really key to keeping your whole body healthy. And there are a lot of things we can do that most Americans know that they should be doing more of but they're not doing to keep that gut healthy and happy.
MELANIE: So, we hear about our probiotics. Let's just start with probiotics because prebiotics, probiotics people hear about them. There's tablets and oils and all kinds of things, what shall we do with those?
CARISSA: I am a huge fan of taking probiotics and here is the important thing to remember, whether you getting it from the supplement or you getting it from, say, a fermented food or yogurt that has live and active cultures. They really only live in your gut for a day. So, you can't just say, “Oh, I had that yogurt last month. I have got enough probiotics.” You got to keep replenishing them because these good bacteria are the life line, I believe, to a healthy belly. Also, if you have had any kind of antibiotics recently or you just had any kind of sickness, it's so important to replenish those healthy bacteria because, again, that is controlling so much of our body not just the happy belly but a happy immune system.
MELANIE: Well, that's true. You know, we hear a lot about the immune system and the gut and that good flora that's in our intestines, that really maintains and helps our immune system, so maybe we have been over sanitizing, maybe we have been having hormones and antibiotics in our chicken and over sanitizing everything. What else can we do to get that good bacteria in? You mentioned yogurts, you mentioned fermented foods and probiotics like tempeh and sauerkraut, people don't even think about that. What else can we do?
CARISSA: In fact we, I mean it is simple, also it's just taking a probiotic supplement every day. You know they have a lot of them. They are easy to find in grocery stores. There are different strains of them but make sure that they have an active cultures system, it's just as simple as taking that. On the flip side of that, you mentioned that the prebiotics, kind of like, when you’re going to plant a garden, you treat the soil before you put the seeds in, that’s what the prebiotics do, they get your gut ready so they further absorb and utilize those probiotics. So, you can't forget the prebiotics and those come from a lot of the whole foods -- the fruits and veggies -- that we need in our diet anyway.
MELANIE: Okay, so we are looking at these products, do you have any ones that you would recommend specifically because there's a million.
CARISSA: You know there is no specific brand, just find one that works for you and make sure it has the acidophilus lactobacillus. It’s a really good one. I just pick up one. I am not going to name a specific brand. At the grocery store I just find mine there-- one that's good for digestive health that has one and million or so live cultures in it. That's good. Also if you're someone that does eat yogurt every day with vitamins and active cultures then you wouldn't necessarily need the supplements. But if you didn't, if you weren’t an everyday kind of yogurt either, I would just take that probiotic. If you are travelling, I think it's a really great way to keep healthy and the summer is coming up, a lot of people are travelling. Probiotics can help your stomach stay happy when you are going from planes to different foods to different kind of places, too.
MELANIE: So, on some of these lists I have seen, there are things like bananas and oatmeal and, of course, my favorite red wine. How can those help us? You think of things like oatmeal being a gut bomb. You know, “Oh, I’m so full now. I just ate some oatmeal,” but it's really so good for us.
CARISSA: Well, yes, what the oatmeal has, it does have those prebiotics but it also has the third component of a happy belly. So, we've got our prebiotic, our probiotic and our fiber. I like to think of fiber as like a toothbrush for your gut. When you get that good fiber in, what it does it goes through and cleans everything else out. So, when it's clean, when it's not sitting there, you feel better and your tummy is a little flatter, if you know what I mean.
MELANIE: Yeah! Yours will be there really soon, I am sure.
CARISSA: I just had a little girl two days ago. It’s wonderful.
MELANIE: I bet it is. It is so cool. Okay, so what about red wine. I mean you haven't had any for a while probably but how does that help? It doesn’t seem to have fiber or prebiotics or probiotics. What does red wine have in it?
CARISSA: You know, red wine has a lot of compound polyphenols that are overall good for our body and they help promote a good environment for the bacteria to thrive in. So, I am not going to tell you to go drink up a vat of red wine. You’re going to have the happiest of belly ever but if you are going to compare it to other libations that you might you enjoy, having red wine definitely has more supportive benefits than other drinks out there.
MELANIE: You know, we've heard a lot about water. Water, water, water. You have to have eight glasses a day, blah blah. You know they say all the stuff about water. Now, drinking a lot of water sometimes does make people bloated. I live in a bloated world, Carissa, I am always bloated. But how does water and staying hydrated help us to feel less bloated, less nauseous?
CARISSA: Well, I think the key with water is, and that goes back to kind of your kidneys, but to flush out your body and to keep your body from holding on to, say, may be those higher sodium processed foods that you might have over indulged on. It is about drinking more water and flushing it out. That also goes hand in hand with fiber as well. So, when you have more water and you have more fiber things are going to be able to move through your gut, move through your belly at a better speed and if they are moving through on a regular speed, they are not sitting there, you're not getting to that uncomfortable kind of constipation type feeling. Water really helps with that and then you are going to feel better. If you feel better, you'll most likely want to eat better to keep that feeling going. It’s as a cycle. So, I can't say enough good things about water and the fiber and definitely because it’s getting hotter in the summer time, you want to make sure you are hydrating even more. When we’re talking about hydration, it’s just not water. You get hydration from your food as well.
MELANIE: Sure. There are certain foods that are full of water and liquids and so those help us. Now, one of my favorites -- I am an exercise physiologist so physical activity is on this list here—so, how does that help us to keep a healthy gut and a happy belly?
CARISSA: Well, your intestines are essentially a muscle. When removing food through your digestive system it's contracting--it's doing that. So, exercise--doing that--blood going, blood moving, as you know, is an important way to keep all of our muscles in our body healthy and toned. Being sedentary, sitting at a desk all day where you are not really ever engaging that core, so getting a little exercise, getting the blood going also goes a long way in helping to make sure that whole body is working properly and that counts for muscles of your digestive system.
MELANIE: Well, it’s true and that's a great way to put it because really it is a muscle and by getting that blood flow in there, you're going to help that muscle to work better anyway. We only have about a minute or two left. What about stress management because we seem to feel that when you are stressed, you feel more bloated, our bodies feel more ill at ease. How does stress management help us to have that happy belly and kind of wrap it all up for us, Carissa?
CARISSA: Of course! I mean, think about like we just talked about fiber, water, exercise. What do we want things to do in our belly to make it happy? We want them to move through. Stress is like putting a red light on it. It's tensing our muscles, it's causing everything to slow down. You’re probably not eating as well when you are not stressed. The key thing is if someone's listening to this to take a way to a happy belly is add more of the foods you know you should already be having like fruits and vegetables and whole grains into your diet. That's going to go a long way for a healthy belly. Even if you are stressed, don't neglect those foods and do try to use something like an exercise to counter the stress as well as keep a happy belly.
MELANIE: That is absolutely great information. Thank you so much, Carissa, and all the best to you and going forward with your new wonderful little girl. Congratulations from RadioMD here and thanks for so much great advice.
You know this good advice. We do have to manage our stress and we do absolutely have to keep ourselves in the best shape. Try some of these fermented foods, prebiotics, probiotics and fiber-- all of it--to help us out.
You are listening to Health Radio on RadioMD. We are your on demand go to health news network. This is Melanie Cole. Thanks for listening. Stay tuned and stay well.