Gut health has been a popular subject of discussion for the past few years and rightly so. With up to 80% of our immune system located in our gut, it’s critical to our overall health. And in order for our body to function at its full capacity, we need to have a healthy amount of good bacteria in our guts and digestive system. Considering on average we have about 100 million gut microbes that’s no small feat!
Not only do these gut microbes support a healthy immune system, they’ve shown to play a part in our emotions, metabolism, appetite, and mental health. Scientists are also learning that gut health directly affects many of our organs, including our brains.
There are many symptoms of an unhealthy gut and there have even been some arguments that it is an epidemic related to countless other illnesses. If you’re experiencing anxiety, depression, skin problems, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, or frequent infections, it’s worth asking your doctor about the possibility of a gut imbalance.
Even if you’re not displaying any symptoms it’s always a good idea to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients you need to support a healthy digestive system.
The good news is that it’s not difficult to support a healthy gut with some gut-friendly foods and supplements:
What your gut really needs is prebiotics, which is a non-digestible carbohydrate that combines with probiotics (a bacteria) to create a synbiotic. These synbiotics improve the life and survival of the good bacteria in your gut.
Synbiotics are found in food combinations like yogurt with honey or oats, miso paste, feta cheese and onions, and pickles or fermented foods with a soluble fiber.
Taking a probiotic supplement on its own has its advantages as well, including fighting infection, preventing yeast infections, improving digestive function, and fighting food-born illnesses. Some studies have found that taking a probiotic supplement has helped healthy adults lose weight as well.
Harvard University recently found that cutting out meat and cheese and switching to a vegetarian diet has a profound effect on the health of our guts in only a few days. Beans, blueberries, bananas, and tempeh have all been found to crowd out unhealthy bacteria and bring in healthy ones in our guts.
Since our cells age by oxidizing, an anti-oxidant is simply a nutrient that delays or stops the oxidization of our cells. Vitamin C, E, A, beta-carotene, and Lutein are all examples of a wide range anti-oxidants that are found in foods and superfoods.
Antioxidants offer a range of benefits for our skin, organs, mind, and for our guts. They delay the aging process, fight illness, keep our organs healthy, and support our immune system.
Taking supplements with antioxidants can have a variety of health benefits but taking too much can have an adverse effect, so ensure to check with your health care provider if you have any specific health concerns.
Fermented foods have come back into trend in the past few years, not only because there are endless ways to make delicious fermented foods but because they pack a powerful nutritious punch. Fermented foods been through a process of lactofermentation in which natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid. This process preserves the food, and creates beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics.
Essentially fermented foods are packed with the bacteria, lactic acid, and flora that our guts and digestive system needs to fully break down food and absorb nutrients.
Not only are these amino acids great for your brain power and mental well-being, but your gut loves them as well. Getting these amino acids from fish oil, flax oil, or a supplements can help with digestive issues relating to Crohn’s disease and support the health of pro-biotics in your guts.
Like vanilla, licorice root and extracts are more than just a delicious flavouring, it’s packed with antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, and between 134-170 chemical compounds (depending on the species of licorice root).
But it’s the Glycyrrhizic acid combined with the other compounds in licorice root that really gives our guts a boost. It has been used to treat leaky gut and ulcers for hundreds of years and works as a mild natural laxative while supporting your colon.
However with any supplement or food, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Excessive licorice root can cause headaches, fatigue, or other unwanted symptoms. Be sure to check with your health care provider if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.
We’re still learning about the complex workings of our bodies and digestive systems, but really anything we put in our bodies ends up in our gut. So it’s fair to say that anything that is good for your gut is good for you!
Want more information on food and health? Read our article on Brain Foods: Nutrients for Memory, Clarity, and Focus.