Gut health has been a hot topic of discussion for quite some time now, and for good reason. Our digestive system digests and absorbs the nutrients that are vital for maintaining the health of our whole body and contains hundreds of trillions of microorganisms, known as our gut microbiome (i.e. the living bacteria in our digestive tract).
Experts have only recently begun to understand the extent of the role that the microbiome has on health and disease. Our microbiome aids digestion, regulates metabolism, produces certain vitamins, fights inflammation and plays a major role in immune function (about 70% of our immune system is in our gut). Several studies indicate that our microbiome affects our mental health, blood glucose balance, hormones that signal hunger and satiety, and ultimately fat loss or gain.
The food we eat is vital in promoting the growth of “good” bacteria and reducing the amount of “bad” bacteria in our gut, strengthening the intestinal wall, improving absorption of nutrients and reducing inflammation. For example: inulin (an insoluble fiber found in asparagus, leek, onion and bananas) isn’t digested by our small intestine but instead travels to our colon, ferments and produces more good bacteria, crowding out bad bacteria.
This helps to keep our gut healthy for a healthy, fit and lean body.
Common symptoms of poor digestion:
• Digestive issues such as heartburn, reflux, nausea, bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea
• Difficulty losing fat or gaining lean muscle, or gaining weight
• Frequent sickness, lack of energy, brain fog, lethargy, fatigue or feeling generally under the weather
Tips for a healthy gut:
• Eat a varied highly plant-based whole food diet. This ensures you are getting a variety of micronutrients and fiber.
• Include prebiotic foods in your diet (these contain inulin fiber and resistant starch which feeds the good bacteria in your gut) – bananas (greenish), oats, Jerusalem artichoke, bone broth, gelatin, cooked and cooled potatoes and cooked and cooled white rice.
• Include probiotic foods in your diet (these contain live good bacteria and improve the health of our gut) – natural/Greek sugar-free yogurt, fermented foods such as kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, pickled vegetables.
• Include high fiber foods in your diet – wholegrains, flax (meal or crushed seeds), psyllium husk, legumes, beans, vegetables.
• Supplement with probiotics (remember to keep these stored in your fridge as they contain live bacteria).
• Consume only free-range, organic, hormone free meat.
• Limit alcohol, refined carbohydrates (sugars), hydrogenated fat (margarine, fried food, industrial seed oils such as canola), processed foods, preservatives and antibiotics (where possible).
• Identify and eliminate known food allergies and intolerances which can cause gut inflammation and leaky gut.
• Eat slowly and chew your food well to improve digestion and absorption of nutrients.
• Take steps to manage stress (exercise, meditation, yoga, seek professional help).
Written by Tristen Van Der Kley – The Balanced Body Nutrition