Many people use saunas to improve their general health and well-being, as well as to heal chronic illness, detox, and lose weight. But did you know there are many ways to optimize the sauna experience in your everyday life? This blog is the first in a series that will introduce different ways to maximize the benefits of sauna use. Today we’ll talk about digestive health, and a few foods that can augment the detoxifying benefits of infrared sauna use.
A Healthy Gut Leads to a Healthy Body
Though you may not realize it, your overall health is directly linked to the health of your gut. Mark Hyman, MD, director of the Cleveland Center for Functional Medicine and a nine-time #1 New York Times bestselling author, explains that a healthy gut allows your body to absorb nutrients correctly, while also preventing toxins, allergens, and microbes from entering your bloodstream. He writes,
“Many diseases that seem totally unrelated to the gut, such as eczema or psoriasis or arthritis are actually caused by gut problems. By focusing on your gut you can get better.”
What are the best ways to keep your digestive system running strong? Eating a healthy diet that includes both superfoods and probiotics is the key.
Eat More Superfoods
Experts agree you should eat a whole foods diet that’s high in fiber and mostly plant-based. This means focusing on vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. If you have food sensitivities, you’ll also want to monitor your body’s reaction to gluten, dairy, yeast, corn, soy, and eggs, and possibly eliminate these foods from your diet altogether.
Eating “superfoods” is also recommended. Superfoods contain large doses of vitamins and minerals, as well as nutrients that are believed to help prevent cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and digestive problems. Common superfoods include:
- Mung beans
- Dark leafy greens (such as kale, collards, and spinach)
- Sweet potatoes
- Chick peas
- Fatty fish (such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel)
- Sunflower seeds
You can check the nutrient value of almost any food, including these superfoods, at the World’s Healthiest Foods website.
Eating a whole foods diet is a great way to reinforce the detoxification benefits of your sauna sessions, but we’re all exposed to toxins every day. Even if you do eat a healthy diet, your gut flora may get out of balance due to toxins in your food (mercury) or environment (mold), overuse of certain medications (such as antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs), and everyday stress. If you suffer from digestive problems, the best way to relieve them long-term is to improve the balance between the good and bad bacteria in your gut. Consuming probiotics can help restore that balance.
Add Probiotics to Your Diet
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeast available in some foods and dietary supplements, and are similar to the “good” bacteria that occur naturally in your gut. Some probiotic foods—such as yogurt, kefir, some soft cheeses, and soy drinks—are fairly common in the American diet. When purchasing these foods, look for a “live and active cultures” label to be sure you’re actually getting a dose of the good bacteria your body needs.
Fermented foods—such as sauerkraut and pickled vegetables—are another good source of probiotics, and one that Dr. David Williams, a leading authority on natural health care, particularly recommends. The probiotic content of some of these traditional foods has decreased dramatically as methods of preserving vegetables have changed over the years. But, you can still find some probiotic-rich products in natural grocery stores, or you can make your own.
If you have trouble eating fermented foods on a regular basis, whether they’re not readily available or you simply don’t like them, probiotic supplements are highly recommended by health experts.
Maximizing Your Health
Of course, your sauna sessions will help detox your body and improve your overall health. But why not maximize the benefits by eating a gut-friendly diet on a regular basis? Regardless of where you’re starting, you can always work toward better digestive health by gradually adding more superfoods to your diet and trying out different probiotics until you find the routine that works best for you.
What are your favorite probiotics and superfoods? Tweet us @Sunlighten to share the health!