We know how a good morning routine can set the tone for your day. Journaling, a warm beverage, and quiet time can start your day off on the right foot. Our gut benefits from our morning habits too. What aids digestion in the morning can vary from person to person, but there are key suggestions that can set you on the right path.
Importance of gut health
Gut health is more than your bathroom habits; it can affect everything from your immune system to your mental health. Your microbiome, which is a bustling community of bugs in your digestive system, works hard to break down your food and keep you healthy.
Many experts admit that there’s still a lot to learn about gut health; although, there are some simple morning habits for gut health that you can implement to begin your day. On the other hand, an imbalanced gut microbiome can lead to issues like digestive problems, weakened immunity, and higher incidence of certain diseases.
We spoke to dietitian experts to find out which simple habits you can incorporate first thing in the morning to keep your gut happy, and set you up for success.
Morning habits for optimal gut health
Hydrate before you caffeinate
Dani Lebovitz, MS, RDN, food education expert based in Franklin, Tenn., says, “The simplest habit that offers maximal impact for gut health is starting your day with a glass of plain ol’ water. Not only does water move nutrients and waste products throughout the body, water actually contributes to your gut microbiome. In fact, a 2022 study found that the drinking source—well, bottled, tap, and filtered water—can influence the variation as well as the diversity of gut microbiome.”
If you struggle to drink enough water, consider keeping a reusable water bottle with a straw at your work space. Having the visual cue of the bottle and the easy access of a straw makes a big difference in how much you end up drinking each day!
We all wake up mildly dehydrated after no water for anywhere from 5–10 hours, so giving your body a hydration boost is essential, according to Kelsey Kunik, RDN, nutrition advisor for Fin vs Fin. “Staying hydrated helps improve bowel movements, can minimize bloating and gas, and relieves constipation,” she adds.
Drinking water before coffee gets you major gut-health bonus points because caffeine in the morning is a “Goldilocks Situation.” It will take some experimenting to find the right dose for you. “Caffeine can be beneficial for gut health by stimulating digestion,” says Kristin Draayer, MS, RDN. “However, more isn’t necessarily better. Too much caffeine can irritate the gut lining. If your morning coffee is too much, consider lower-caffeine alternatives like chai or green tea to support gut health without irritation.”
Choose to begin your day with a balanced breakfast
Breakfast is still the most important meal of the day, and it’s a great way to kickstart your gut health first thing. Choose a variety of plants at breakfast that are high in nourishing fiber for your gut bugs. The good gut bugs in your microbiome eat fiber and use it as a source of fuel to grow and create more of the good guys.
Kim Kulp, RDN, owner of Gut Health Connection, in the San Francisco Bay Area shares her number-one morning habit for gut health: “The best way to improve gut health is to eat a variety of plant foods. Start your day with a breakfast of oats, topped with a mix of fruit, nuts, and seeds. This will feed your gut microbes some of the 30-plus weekly plants needed to keep you healthy and happy.”
The fiber in plant foods, also known as prebiotics, nourishes the beneficial bacteria in your gut, promoting a healthy gut microbiome, says Jessie Hulsey, RD, an Atlanta-based dietitian. “Having a fiber-rich breakfast helps regulate blood sugar levels, reducing the risk of blood sugar spikes and maintaining stable energy levels throughout the morning. This can positively impact overall health and mood, as well as contribute to a healthy gut-brain connection,” she adds.
Stress relief first thing in the morning is good for the gut
If you have ever experienced an upset stomach from nerves, then you have experienced first-hand the gut-brain connection. Stress has a direct influence on our gut health and is impacted by the vagus nerve that runs from our brain to our digestive tract.
If you’re picking up your phone first thing in the morning, you may be contributing to increased stress to start your day.
Caroline Young, MS, RD, LD, RYT owner of Whole Self Nutrition shares her recommendations for a relaxing morning: “Build a mindful moment into your morning routine to help set the stage for a low-stress day ahead, which will help keep your gut healthy all day. It can include meditation, a short yoga session, journaling, or sipping a cup of tea or water while listening to the birds. I suggest taking your mindful moment before logging onto emails and social media.”
On a more logical note, stress in the morning can interfere with your daily bowel movement. “Protect your pooping time,” says Amanda Sauceda, MS, RD. “Most of us have a morning bowel movement, and your gut loves a good routine. Feeling stressed and rushing through your morning can throw off that routine. So if we give ourselves proper time, we’re more likely to poop in the morning and less likely to feel uncomfortable during the day.”
Start your day with gentle movement
“A simple habit to promote gut health to start the day is with physical activity. Whether it’s a simple walk or weight training session, research shows that movement can help improve the diversity of the gut microbiota and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria,” explains Wan Na Chun, MPH, RD.
If you’re not a morning person, you don’t have to do anything strenuous to reap the health benefits of morning movement. Consider gentle movement like yoga, stretching, or going for a walk to improve your gut health to start your day!