A gastroenterologist’s morning routine

How a digestive health expert ensures a healthy start to the day

Every New Year brings a flurry of headlines about getting a fresh start in the New Year, from hitting the gym to eating more veggies, to meditating…with many health-conscious folks recommending that you incorporate these activities into your morning routine. But have you considered why these practices are great way to start your day? The key is gut health.

Healthy habits, like exercising and eating whole foods, contribute to an improved digestive system, which in turn has been shown to boost the immune system, improve mental health, combat obesity and provide a wide variety of other benefits. On the other hand, starting the day with poor digestion can make you feel tired, uncomfortable and sluggish. And if gut issues become chronic, you could be facing more serious health issues. That’s why we asked a digestive health expert, Dr. Avantika Mishra, how she prioritizes gut health during her morning routine.

Here’s what she said:

1. Eat a healthy, balanced breakfast

“Breakfast is an important part of my day and helps prep me for a busy morning of seeing patients or doing procedures. Working in healthcare, I’m on my feet for more than eight hours so I need a well-balanced meal full of protein, healthy fats and fiber to boost gut health and keep me satisfied until lunch. My go-to is Greek yogurt topped with almond butter, berries and a bit of granola. Or I’ll make a smoothie with a variety of fruits, chia seeds, avocado and spinach. While researchers are still learning about how the food we eat impacts our bodies, we do know that whole, nutrient-rich, unprocessed foods help boost the good bacteria in our gut to fuel our digestive system and prevent against disease.”

2. Guzzle down some water, and consistently drink throughout the day

“Let’s be real, mornings can sometimes be hectic. Even when I don’t have time to put together an Instagram-worthy breakfast (most days), I’ll make sure to drink 16 ounces of water before I grab my coffee and get out the door. Hydration has been shown to beneficially affect the lining of the intestine, preventing constipation and helping our bodies break down foods in the stomach. My goal is to drink 64 ounces of water daily and starting off the morning with 16 ounces is a great way to kick off the day. Drinking water also helps you feel energized and can help prevent mindless snacking on unhealthy foods.”

3. Move your body

“When I have a bit more time in the morning, I try to incorporate 15-30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise into my routine. Since COVID started, I’ve enjoyed my at-home spin bike, as well as Pilates or HIIT classes I find on YouTube. Exercise strengths bone and muscles and can help prevent certain cancer. As a gastroenterologist, I’m seeing more and more patients presenting with colorectal cancer – the second most lethal form of cancer in the U.S. It’s a deadly, scary disease, so I try to do everything I can do keep my body healthy and encourage my patients to do the same.”

4. Prioritize mental health

“The pandemic has been difficult for all industries, particularly healthcare workers. We’re seeing very sick, high-risk patients. In light of this, I try my best to reduce unnecessary risk of exposure to COVID and have eliminated going to the gym or joining group exercise classes. Like many others, I’ve adjusted to the new normal while maintaining healthy routines like at-home exercise. Simple things like going for a walk in the evening after a stressful day have been key to maintaining happiness and regaining perspective.”

How are you prioritizing your health in the New Year?