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I have always been one of those people with a fast metabolism. For me, it is just genetics. I grew up always weighing less than my friends and I played at least three different sports.

I would eat whatever I wanted because at the time, it did not really matter. The food never affected me in an overwhelming way because I was using it during my activities faster than I was consuming it.

Once I got to college, my lifestyle drastically changed in terms of physical activity. I went from constantly participating in practices, weight-lifting and weekend-long tournaments to doing almost absolutely nothing physical. My eating habits also slightly changed, as I was only having one or two full meals a day as opposed to three meals with lots of snacking in between.

I was not experiencing any noticeable or severe weight gain that many college freshmen endure, but I was starting to have digestion issues, excessive fatigue and “brain fog.” I simply did not feel well throughout the day, which resulted in a lack of interest to do much of anything.

It was not until I started seeing certain creators on TikTok talk about how college ruined their health, and how they are actively trying to fix it, that I started feeling motivated to care about my own health. I wanted to start taking care of myself better before I got to a low point.

I wanted to start taking care of myself better before I got to a low point.

Back when I was a sophomore in high school, my kinesiology teacher briefly talked about the importance of gut health. I had heard about it a couple of other times throughout high school, but never put much thought into it because I did not feel it applied to me. I was very wrong, because gut health applies to everyone.

Your gut is linked to not only your digestive tract, but also your immune system, your mental health and your overall well-being. So, if you are looking to improve any part of your health, starting with your gut should be the first thing to do.

Trying to do anything for your health can be overwhelming, but when I came across the book “Gut Health Hacks” by Lindsay Boyer, I felt more comfortable starting. I have adopted many of the “hacks” outlined in her book over the past month and have already seen and felt positive results.

The book begins with about 40 different tests to assess your gut health. They consist of tests such as checking out your body, paying attention to bloating/gas, smelling your breath, your pits, your pee and even keeping a poop journal (yes, I said a poop journal).

Once you assess where you stand with all or some of these tests, it is easier to know what to focus on or where you stand with certain foods. One of the tests that has helped me the most is tracking every time I poop (TMI!) and recalling what I ate that day or the day before that might be affecting my digestion.

A lot of what affects your gut health is your diet. It can include adding certain foods while subtracting others helps to increase the good bacteria in your gut microbiome.

I know that it is hard to change your diet all at once and when people restrict themselves from eating certain foods, it just makes them crave it more. So, I decided not to tell myself that I cannot have certain foods, but instead worked on limiting certain items while adding in others.

I had already avoided eating cereal for over a year and only have pop (soda) on special occasions, so my biggest switch was eating less processed snacks. Also, switching to almond and oat-based milk products instead of regular dairy has been a focus of mine for over a year, and it has helped reduce my inflammation and indigestion.

Instead of reaching for a bag of chips, I started craving one of my favorite childhood snacks, apples and peanut butter. I also have been eating more nuts and seeds including walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and chia seeds when I am in the mood for more crunchy snacks.

Other foods that I have been adding to my diet include mangos for more stool movements, greenish bananas for lower blood sugar and cooked and cooled rice for resistant starches and to reduce inflammation. I also try to eat lots of eggs, avocados and olive oil to increase my healthy fat intake. I am also adding more broccoli, brussel sprouts and horseradish to my meals to help lower my risk of cancer.

One major part of gut health that you will see no matter where you look is to increase probiotics. Probiotics are the good bacteria in your gut that fight off the bad bacteria and keep you healthy.

A popular way to increase probiotics is by eating a lot of yogurts, which I already had been putting into smoothies and acai bowls. I wanted to add something else, but I could not stand the taste of kombucha and did not love the idea of taking supplement pills. I was looking for something else when I came across Karma water one day in Aldi.

Karma water was unlike any drink I had seen before. They have a patented cap technology where nutrients and probiotics are stored until the consumer is ready to drink them. Because the drink is not mixed until the contents of the cap are pushed down into the water, the user is drinking the water at optimal potency and nutritional value.

So, not only does it taste great, but it has more benefits than kombucha and premixed vitamin drinks.

Another important way to help your gut is by exercising more. I went from exercising every single day, often up to two or three times a day, to hardly any exercise at all. I was unmotivated, fatigued often and severely lacked an appetite. I realized that my body and mind were responding to this dramatic lifestyle change and I had to do something about it.

Since it is winter, my current physical fitness is simply going to the gym at least three times a week. While I am there, I spend anywhere from 10 to 25 minutes on the elliptical or stationary bike and then choose three to four leg or arm workouts. If you are new to a lot of exercising but want to start, I suggest starting small with something you like and then slowly trying to increase what you do to keep from discouragement.

I have already made significant progress improving my gut health in just a month, and I plan on continuing to add more gut health hacks throughout this year for a healthy 2022.

Sydney is a sophomore at Penn State University majoring in Telecommunications with a minor in Digital Media Trends & Analytics. In her free time, she enjoys reading, trying new recipes, sports, and discovering new places to visit.
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