Here are some practical tips on how you can improve your gut health, which is also important for your overall health and wellness.
Did you know that about 80% of your immune system is located in your digestive tract? Many people would probably be surprised by this fact. Your digestive tract is also the home of a complex community of trillions of microorganisms called the gut microbiome. Not only do these important bacteria and other microbes help you maintain good gut health, they’re also vital in maintaining your overall health and wellness. There are both good and bad microbes and it’s the balance of the two that affects your immune health.
The good news is that we can affect this balance of good and bad in our gut microbiome. Although a person’s individual microbe population stays pretty consistent over time, certain factors like your age, lifestyle, and what you eat can change things. Diet is actually one of the best tools that we have for altering the balance of our microbiome.
Here are some tips on what you can eat to improve your gut biome and keep you healthy:
- Limit the amount of processed foods and sugar in your diet and focus on fiber: Refined foods get absorbed rapidly in the intestine and leave your gut microbes starved, setting you up for leaky gut and inflammation. Instead, focus on eating fresh, nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables and other fiber-rich foods like whole grains and pulses (dry peas, beans, lentils, and chickpeas). These foods will keep your gut bacteria happy because they’re full of fiber and they also boast plenty of antioxidants and essential vitamins and minerals. Plus, fiber keeps everything running smoothly in your intestinal tract.
- Eat more fermented foods: Fermented foods are rich in lactic-acid producing bacteria that help acidify your intestinal tract. This creates an environment that healthy bacteria thrive in, which aids in digestion, tames inflammation and boosts your immune system. Sauerkraut, which is made from cabbage, is a fermented food that you’re probably familiar with but here are a few more examples that you may not be as familiar with. Kimchi is a spicy Korean dish made with fermented cabbage and spices. Miso is a paste used in Japanese cuisine that’s made from fermented soybeans. Kombucha is a fermented drink that’s become very popular recently. It’s a fizzy drink made by mixing probiotic-rich bacteria and yeast with tea and other flavorings.
- Enjoy Greek yogurt and kefir: Greek yogurt and kefir are packed with probiotics. These live active bacterial cultures help aid with digestion, boost your immunity and keep your gut happy by keeping the bad bacteria at bay. These nutritious foods are also rich in important nutrients like protein and calcium. The FDA requires at least two strains of bacteria in all yogurts. Kefir, which is a liquid yogurt with a tangy flavor, is cultured longer than yogurt and can contain as many as 12 strains of good bacteria. Look for the words “live active cultures” on the container and choose varieties without too much added sugar.
- Probiotic supplements: If you’re not getting enough probiotic-rich food naturally, you can opt to take a quality supplement. There are a wide variety of probiotic supplements available so be sure to choose one from a reputable brand.
Here are some of my favorite recipes for a healthier, happier gut: