Keeping your gut healthy can ward off disease, give you energy, strengthen your immune system and boost your overall health. Potential gut distributors are everywhere, from the food we eat, to the stress we feel.
What we eat is the biggest factor for gut health. Everyday you either eat foods that help or that hinder your gut. So how do you know if your gut is off balance?
Let's start with what a healthy gut looks like. Inside your small intestine is where the large majority of gut bacteria live. When your gut is healthy it has a strong gut lining and a broad range of good gut bacteria. These human digestive-tract associated bacteria are referred to as the gut microbiome.
Unhealthy Gut Symptoms
- Acid reflux
- Throat and nose issues (clearing throat, runny nose, etc.)
- Inflammation anywhere in the body
- Skin disorders anywhere on the body
- Negative reactions to food
- Loose stools or constipation
From a holistic perspective it's important to get to the root cause of your symptoms. An imbalance of gut bacteria may be the root cause of the following conditions:
- Celiac/ Gluten Sensitivity
- Yeast Overgrowth
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Small Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth (SIBO)
- Food Allergies/ Sensitivities
- Skin Conditions
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Weight Gain
- Leaky Gut
- Autoimmune Disease
When you have problems in your gut like an overgrowth of bad bacteria, inflammation and leaky gut it can negatively affect the health of your entire body. A damaged gut means that the barrier that's supposed to keep what's in the intestine out of the rest of the body isn't functioning properly. This allows toxins and tiny food particles to come into the bloodstream and cause full body inflammation. Eating foods like refined carbohydrates, sugar and modified and processed foods all contribute to an unhealthy gut.
Not all carbohydrates are created equal, some are harmful to your gut and others are beneficial. Simple or refined carbohydrates like in baked goods, pop, and processed grains like white rice and refined flour are harmful. They not only cause weight gain and blood sugar issues but can create an overgrowth of bad bacteria in your gut.
Modified and Processed Foods
Eliminating processed foods from your diet has numerous benefits. These foods contain additives that disrupt gut bacteria.
Antinutrients, which include phytic acid, lignans, saponins, phytoestrogens, oxalates, phenolic compounds, and others, are found in almost all foods, although the types and amounts vary tremendously from food to food. Legumes (including beans, soybeans and peanuts) and grains contain the most lectins, followed by dairy, seafood and plants in the nightshade family. Repeated exposure to lectins may eventually damage the gut wall leading to leaky gut.
So does this mean you should never eat these foods again? It's a controversial topic in the world of nutrition. You can dramatically lower the levels of these anti nutrients by cooking the foods, soaking them and sprouting them. If you have an autoimmune disease or digestive problems eliminating foods high in anti nutrients or at the very least taking the measures to lower them (like sprouting and soaking) can be beneficial.
Healthy Gut Foods
The ideal diet for a healthy gut involves foods that feed the good gut bacteria and have anti inflammatory properties.
Resistant starch is a specific type on complex carbohydrate that travels to the colon and gets fermented by gut bacteria. This fermentation produces short chain fatty acids that are key for gut health. Foods high in resistant starches are green bananas, green peas, cashews and raw oats.
Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and pickles are ideal foods for a healthy gut. They contain live bacteria called probiotics and prebiotic fiber to nourish your good gut bacteria. Eating some fermented foods everyday can help to keep your gut a happy, healthy place.
Plants have indigestible dietary fiber the food that feeds you good gut bacteria. Eating enough of indigestible plant matter to nourish your gut bacteria is essential and the most important thing you can do for a healthy gut. It doesn't matter what you eliminate, if you aren't eating enough plant foods your gut will suffer. When we don't eat enough plant fiber we are starving our good gut bacteria, so make eating your plants foods your top priority.
When it comes to down to eating for gut health getting enough fiber and plant foods and limiting your sugar, processed foods and potentially reducing your anti nutrient intake is key for a healthy gut.