LJ rounded the bend of the running trail first and right into an unexpected surprise: a flock of turkeys! The spooked birds ran in all directions, some toward an unsuspecting Ted, lagging LJ. The turkeys surrounded him. Shocked, Ted struggled to outrun them. Finally, after a few more yards of sprinting and dodging feathers, he got away from the flock.

The morning run had started uneventfully. The air was still crisp despite the early sun, but a hint of warmth signaled the coming of spring. Ted asked LJ if they could run together since he was working on getting in shape. They met on the neighborhood trail and began running at a comfortable pace; however, after a few miles, LJ noticed Ted had slowed and was several yards behind when he entered the bend. Now the turkeys disrupted the run. Ted stopped running in obvious pain.

“That was some encounter.” LJ ran back to him. “Are you okay?”

Ted slowly straightened, taking deep breaths. “I used to be in much better shape than I am now. I’ve been having digestive issues for six months and getting severe headaches.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” said LJ. “How about we walk home instead of running? Digestive issues can really affect you; Annie and I’ve learned everything begins and ends with a healthy gut. No pun intended, but it’s the bottom line for maintaining physical and mental health.”

“Sounds like you all may have had a similar experience. Got any tips?”

LJ stopped walking. “We both had digestive issues until we changed our diet and eliminated the stress in our lives. It took a while to put all the pieces in place, but we had no more problems once we did. We learned:

Your digestive system consists of hollow organs, mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and rectum. Once food reaches your intestines, your gastrointestinal tract’s trillions of microbiota take over. They manage digestion, modulate the immune system, and are the first line of defense against inflammation.

This ecosystem is crucial to your health because it produces essential vitamins and hormones.

If you eat prebiotics and probiotics daily, you keep the microbiota healthy. Prebiotics are non-digestible fibers found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that stimulate the growth of healthy gut bacteria. Probiotics are live bacteria found in fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, apple cider, and pickles that help to restore balance to the gut flora when it has been disturbed by antibiotics or poor diet choices.”

“This is really helpful,” said Ted. “I’ve got a doctor’s appointment, but maybe I’ll also schedule one with a nutritionist to help Barb and me with our diet. We’ve become dependent on processed food. Mainly because we both have such heavy work schedules.”

“Most processed food lacks the vitamins and minerals your body needs to stay healthy; getting it out of your diet is a positive move for your health.

Stress increases digestive issues, so addressing that is important too,” said LJ as he stretched. “I practice Tai Chi because movement exercises like running, brisk walking, yoga, and Pilates can help improve digestion, reduce inflammation, and even help regulate hormones.

Meditation is also beneficial for calming the mind, reducing stress, and improving overall mental and physical health. Soothing music can be helpful to relax the digestive system and create a sense of inner peace.

Hot water bottles are old-school but a great way to ease digestive pain. When you apply its heat to your stomach, its warmth increases hydrochloric acid production, which helps to break down food and facilitates digestion. Your abdominal muscles also relax, reducing cramping and bloating.

Altogether, a diet consisting of fruits, veggies, whole grains, daily exercise, meditation, listening to soothing music, and a hot water bottle can lead to a healthier gut helping reduce inflammation and promote better digestion. Sherry Rogers sums it up:

The road to health is paved with good intestines.”

Ted laughed. “Thanks, LJ.”

Annie and LJ are a fictional couple. Their storyline promotes healthy eating and earth-friendly practices.

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