Gut Health is at the forefront of health topics for a reason. Don’t try and fight the tide. You have to go with it for a very important reason. There are 100 trillion microorganisms living in your gut. Those tiny microbes control your waistline, brain, and your immune system. They play a part in daily health and how long you live.
That’s a big load for those important little guys. What makes studying gut health so difficult, and the reason there are so many opinions is that everyone’s gut is different. From the time you were born with your mother’s influence on your gut bacteria beginning, to what you have put in your body for all the years you have been alive, you have developed your own unique gut ecosystem.
You may have conditions you didn’t even know were linked to your gut health
such as anxiety, sleep disturbances, fatigue, skin conditions, autoimmune disorders, food intolerances, to name a few, so you really need to jump on the gut health bandwagon and make sure your gut is healthy. The great news is that even if you haven’t taken care of your gut in the past, you can heal it, and you can do it naturally.
Diets and Gut Health
You may be wondering if you should join the diet craze and start eating Paleo, vegan, keto, or whatever is the latest trend to improve your gut health. If you research each of those, you will find that opinions differ on which one is the best. You will read testimonials of how those diets have benefited some and not been good for others.
It is a myth that one diet rules them all. Since everyone has a specific and unique gut microbiome, no one can tell you that certain foods will improve your gut health. Science has revealed that everyone’s gut has different needs when it comes to food.
What’s most important and applies to all people when it comes to diet and gut health is that everyone should eat a variety of plant-based foods. Which is best varies from person to person. By eating a diverse diet, your body will have the specific bacteria it needs to thrive.
Other factors play a part in gut health other than food. For a good overview of the basics factors to include in building and keeping a healthy gut, check out this YouTube video on 10 Tips for Gut Health.
Factors that Harm Gut Health
Viome is a laboratory that offers advice based on peer-reviewed literature and results seen in their own laboratories on natural ways to improve the health of your gut. This includes things to eat and do, and things to avoid.
Basically, sugar feeds the harmful gut bacteria like Candida albicans. Diets high in sugar have been shown to alter the gut function and the composition of the microbiome. Remember, highly processed foods can convert to sugar as can carbs and alcohol.
2. Artificial sweeteners
These babies are the devil in disguise. While you may think artificial sweeteners are better than sugar, they are bad news for humans. They have been shown to cause metabolic abnormalities, dysbiosis, and imbalance the gut ecosystem. They can alter the function and composition of your gut’s microbiome so much that they can cause glucose intolerance which leads to disease. Yeah, they are that bad!
3. GMO foods
If you are wondering what the big deal is with eating genetically modified organisms or GMO foods, this has to do with your gut health. GMO foods are processed by using Round Up. Round Up contains glyphosate which is a pesticide. This pesticide was developed to kill microorganisms. When you eat GMO some of these pesticides make it to your gut. Are you getting the picture? Yes, the glyphosate will kill your good gut bacteria.
Check your food labels. There is a good chance that if you don’t know an ingredient and you can’t pronounce it, it is probably a preservative. Preservatives such as polysorbate 80, carboxymethylcelluse (CMPF) wreak havoc on your gut flora. For more information on how preservatives affect the but microbiome, check out this article by Science Daily.
The reason antibiotics alter the gut microbiome is because of the take out the bad bacteria in your gut as well as the good. We know antibiotics are needed sometimes. However, they should not be used unless absolutely necessary. Doctors tend to overprescribe them so don’t take them if you have something you can heal with healthier alternatives.
You know NSAIDS as Advil and aspirin. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs alter the composition of your gut microbiome and can cause leaky gut. Leaky gut is when your intestinal lining has been compromised and weakened. This allows particles to leak into your bloodstream and lead to inflammation and autoimmune disease.
We know the gut and brain communicate through the vagus nerve, by hormone signaling, and in other ways. What you may not know is how stress affects your gut health. Stress has a negative impact on your gut health, and the worse your gut health is, the more you stress. This is a bad path to take. Find ways to take time for yourself and reduce your stress levels.
If you didn’t already know smoking was bad for your health, it’s not only killing your lungs, it’s also damaging the composition of your gut microbiota. Studies have shown that smokers have a gut microbiome that is similar to those who are obese and have inflammatory bowel disease. Just one more reason to quit.
Ways to Naturally Improve Gut Health
Healthline has its finger on the pulse of ways to naturally improve your gut health. These are science-based tips that have shown to improve good gut bacteria.
Eating Diversely is Key
When you eat a diet rich in diversity, your gut microbes will also become more diverse. The healthier and more diverse your gut bacteria, the better your overall health. Each species of gut flora plays a different role in your health, but they also require different nutrients.
What this all means is that you benefit from a diverse range of microbiota. The more good species you have in your gut, the greater the number of health benefits you will reap. A diet rich in different gut-healthy foods will broaden your gut microbe diversity.
The typical American diet is filled with fast and processed foods and sugar is in almost everything we eat. You have to step out of the ordinary and broaden your diet with good food if you want better health.
Legumes, Vegetables, and Beans “Oh My”
Oh, yes. And include fruit. Hands down, fruit and veggies are the best sources for getting the nutrients that feed good gut microbes. The reason they are good is that they are high in fiber. Fiber is good for keeping you regular and good gut bacteria love it. It stimulates their growth.
Legumes and beans are also high in fiber. Some of the high-fiber foods that good gut bacteria love includes the following:
• Kidney, pinto and white beans
• Leafy greens
• Whole grains
Eating these diverse foods will not only provide the fiber your gut bacteria needs, but it also may prevent the growth of disease-causing bacteria.
Fermentation converts sugar into probiotics by using yeasts or bacteria. These good bacteria that result from the fermentation process can improve digestion, boost your immune system, and help regulate weight.
For more information on fermentation, check out Eating Well’s article on fermented foods.
Here is a list of foods you can try that are rich in lactobacilli, the bacteria that is very beneficial to your gut health. Find a few that you like. That is probably your gut’s way of telling you that those are the foods that make them happy.
• Fermented vegetables
People who build a strong base of lactobacilli in their gut have fewer Enterobacteriaceae, the bad bacteria that are associated with causing inflammation and several chronic diseases.
One word of caution about choosing yogurt. Some of the flavored yogurts have high sugar levels. Choose organic if you can and stick to plain, natural yogurts and sweeten them with honey or fruit.
Getting Your Prebiotics
Prebiotics also feed the good gut bacteria. They are mostly found in fiber or complex carbs that are not digested by our intestines. However, certain strains of good bacteria in our gut break them down and use them as fuel.
Prebiotic specialists recommend getting your prebiotics with some of the foods from this list of healthy choices.
• Raw Chicory Root
• Jerusalem Artichoke (a root vegetable that looks like ginger)
• Raw Dandelion Greens
• Wheat Bran
Many prebiotic foods have their compositions changed when they are cooked. In the case of prebiotic foods, it is best that you eat them raw as through the cooking process, you will lose some of the prebiotic fiber.
Another great source of fiber and non-digestible carbs like beta-glucan, whole grains promote the growth of certain good gut bacteria. Whole grains are not absorbed in the small intestine. They make their way directly to the large intestine and feed beneficial bacteria.
Try to go with organic grains. Studies have shown that grains can increase your feeling of fullness and reduce inflammation as well as reduce the risk of heart disease.
Eat Your Polyphenols
What is a polyphenol? Polyphenol is a compound that is found in plants and has many health benefits. Some of the benefits include reduced blood pressure, lowering inflammation and cholesterol levels, and reducing oxidative stress.
Polyphenols are like fiber in that they aren’t usually digested in the intestines. They make it past the digestive process to the colon where they are devoured by good gut bacteria. Polyphenols can increase, Bifidobacteria, lactobacilli, and Clostridia, some of the bacteria powerhouses.
Foods rich in polyphenols:
• Dark chocolate
• Red wine
• Grape skins
• Green tea
Increasing those powerhouse bacteria has been shown to lower the levels of triglycerides and C-reactive protein, an inflammation marker. So enjoy that occasional glass of red wine and a hunk of dark chocolate.
If you are having difficulty building your good gut bacteria, you can consider taking a quality probiotic. These are filled with live bacteria which may help boost the health and composition of your gut microbiota.
While probiotics through supplements may not permanently colonize in the intestine, they may help by changing the overall composition and support metabolism. There is some evidence that suggests probiotics can improve the microbiota associated with certain diseases.
Research probiotics before you buy. Find a probiotic with a high CFU, that contains a high number of well-researched strains, is all-natural and allergen-free, and that has a stomach acid resistant method of delivery.
Don’t Overlook Your Lifestyle
Did you know you can increase your exposer to more good microbes by being outside? People are not out in nature as often. By expanding your exposure to different ecosystems, you can increase your variety of microbes.
Another lifestyle change that can help with your gut microbiome is intermittent fasting, where you go 9 to 12 hours without food. Putting a little more time between dinner and your next meal can help the bacteria that don’t thrive in a calorie-dense environment.
Get plenty of sleep. Make sure you are getting enough exercise. Stick to a schedule to develop a strong circadian rhythm, and take time to reduce the stress in your life.
There is no getting around the fact that your gut bacteria are extremely important for your overall health. You can find natural ways of developing and maintaining a healthy gut microbiome. Without good gut health, you can expect a greater chance of mental and physical health issues as well as a greater chance of contracting diseases.
The best way for you to develop and maintain healthy gut microbiota is to make good food choices. Look at the list of foods rich in prebiotics, probiotics, and polyphenols. Find the foods you like the best and begin to incorporate them into your diet. Your gut will flourish and you will feel healthier and happier. Think of your brain and gut as codependent and a happy gut will mean a happier you.