Your gut health is very important to your overall health and wellness. Not only is it the main entrance for all your nutrition, it also holds about 70% of your immune system cells at any given time! Keeping your gut healthy and your bowels on track is of utmost importance for your overall wellness. The good news, is we can hack our gut health with our food choices!
Believe it or not, when we eat food, we also consume about a trillion bacteria along with our food. These microbes can affect our weight, our mood, and even our concentration! Some in good helpful ways, some in symptoms producing ways. Let's talk about growing more of the helpful ones...
The helpful ones microbes break down the food in the digestive system and use it as their energy resource and can even provide us with vitamins and minerals. Some bacteria also help your gut (and immune system) to stay in shape. They play their role in reducing inflammation, protecting you from illness, and possibly preventing heart disease. They also aid in fat burning and support a slim and fit belly.
The term given to the foods that cause the good bacteria thrive is “Pre-biotics”. Much like plants need water to survive, your gut bacteria need pre-biotic foods. Pre-biotics are essential for your gut health; if you don’t feed your bugs what they like to eat, they will behave in less symbiotic ways and some will die off. Which puts your gut and immune systems at a serious disadvantage.
Here are a few foods that can provide the pre-biotics you need to keep your bugs healthy:
Yogurt & Kefir:
If you can tolerate dairy, yogurt is an excellent product that contains the special pre-biotics your gut needs. Plain yogurt is best because it contains next to zero sugar as compared to flavoured yogurt. The sugar and flavouring can contaminate your belly and lead to unhealthy fat. It can contain up to 15 grams (i.e. about 4 tsp) of sugar per serving! That’s too much for a single serving of yogurt. Kefir is a smooth, lactose-free yogurt that is easily digestible. It is a good source of protein as well and has less calories per serving. Note that both yogurt and kefir are also “probiotics” more on this below.
Bananas provide fibre, potassium, and magnesium. Fibre is so good for digestive health as it restores the health of the bacterial community and it keeps you regular. Some of the good bacteria actually eat the soluble fibre, making it an excellent pre-biotic food. Regarding your bowels, think of fibre like a little broom, sweeping out the corners of your colon making sure everything moves along and doesn’t get stuck.
Broccoli and cabbage:
Vegetables play a vital role in the health of your stomach. Vegetables like broccoli and cabbage contain metabolites that are rich in sulphur. These metabolites reduce inflammation and may help reduce the risk of lung, breast and stomach cancers.
Blueberries are excellent for your immune system! Not only does it diversify gut bacteria, blueberries are also a good source of vitamin K, fiber, and antioxidants. They are only good for your gut but also good for your immune system and your mind. Incidentally, the healthiest blueberries in the world grow right here in Newfoundland and Labrador - we have the highest concentration of anti-oxidants in our wild bluebs worldwide!!
Your gut health is directly connected to your weight. If you struggle with weight issues, you most likely have issues with your gut as well. Beans can help support weight reduction. They contain fatty acids that strengthen the cells of the intestine. If your intestinal cells are in good condition the absorption of the micronutrients will improve, resulting in weight loss and good gut health.
You need to increase your intake of fermented foods because they are a source of the healthy bacteria that you want to cultivate in your gut. They produce lactic acid. Such foods are considered “probiotics” rather than “pre-biotics”. Probiotics refers to the good healthy bugs. Pre-biotics refers to the food that feeds the bugs.
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Laura Nurse, BBA, ND
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