Gut health is all the rage when it comes to wellness. But the most important step to keeping your gut happy and healthy is to use food. Gut healing and food go together – one cannot happen without the other. But there are three steps to take to heal your gut with food, and fall in love with how a healthy gut makes you feel.
The gut is more than what it seems
Why do we want to heal the gut in the first place? There are many reasons that could apply. Some people think that it's only to fix digestive problems. But the gut is much more than what it it seems to be.
The gut is:
- A major part of the immune system
- A major source of the neurotransmitter serotonin
- Full of gut flora that can offer benefits or harm, depending on the balance
- Where nutrition is absorbed
- A major pathway of excretion and elimination
So healing the gut with food can have a massive impact on your health and well-being. The state of the gut is linked to many other body systems including:
- The immune system
- Liver and detoxification system
- The skin
- The nervous system
- Glands and the endocrine (hormone) system
- The reproductive system
If you need to optimize your health in any of these areas – you need to heal your gut with food.
Healing the gut
In order to heal your gut effectively, there are three steps you need to take. You need to weed out the foods that are harming your gut. You need to plant the seed of good gut flora. Finally, you need to feed your flora and your gut the foods they need to flourish and heal. So let's go through each step.
Step 1: Weed
Our guts are very much like a micro-organism garden. So it makes sense to weed out the bad parts. In this case, it means getting rid of the flora that are making you sicker, and making the garden more inviting to good flora.
How do you do this? You starve the flora, and optimize the environment. So let's get our tummy gardens cleared out.
The foods that you are allergic to will make you sick. But they will also inflame your digestive tract. An inflamed digestive tract means that nasty bugs can thrive, and good ones get beaten down. So if you know you can't eat a specific food, please don't for your gut's sake!
Many of us have mild intolerances, particularly to foods containing gluten, dairy or fructose. Unfortunately even a seemingly mild intolerance can cause widespread inflammation.
Remove Processed Foods
Processed foods are full of things that can damage your gut health. The additives and sweeteners can cause irritation and inflame the tract. The sugar can feed the less beneficial flora, including nasty fungi like candida. Combine these effects, and you could end up with serious health problems.
Step 2: Seed
Back to your tummy garden. Once you've worked on clearing out the bad, it's time to prepare for the new. You want to plant the best seeds you can. The best seeds are those that can boost your gut health, repair damage, help with nutrient absorption and help balance out the bad guys.
Add Fermented Products
The best seeds are known as 'probiotics'. These are micro-organisms that offer health benefits of any kind. And how can you get probiotics into your diet? By using fermented foods and beverages daily.
Sure, you could add in a supplement to help with 'seeding'. But fermented foods and beverages contain a far greater variety of strains. So why not get more bang for your fermented buck?
There are plenty for you to include, such as:
- Natural, unpasteurized yogurt
- Pickled vegetables
- Milk kefir
- Water kefir
An important note is to add these in slowly, and gradually increase over time. By adding in the good guys, you can sometimes cause a reaction. This reaction, known as 'die-off', can make you feel unwell for a few days.
The best way to avoid it is to start small. So start off with 50mls of fermented drink or 1 small serve of fermented food per day. Remember not to cook them, otherwise the beneficial bacteria may be damaged or destroyed.
Step 3: Feed
Finally, it's time to feed those seeds and your tummy garden the good stuff. The best foods are those that will fuel your seeds and soothe the digestive tract. This will ensure your gut is healthy for a long time to come.
Include Prebiotic Foods
You can't just put probiotics into your body and expect them to survive. You need to support them and fuel them. That's where prebiotic foods come in.
Prebiotic foods contain a particular type of fiber that fuels your good bacteria. By feeding them, you help them to establish themselves in the garden.
Prebiotic foods include:
- Legumes & lentils
Ideally, you want to include these foods daily. As with probiotics, increase your intake slowly. Prebiotic foods are rich in fiber, so you may experience slight bloating, bowel changes and/or some gas if you eat too many too quickly.
Include Anti-inflammatory Foods
You want your probiotics to live in a friendly environment. That means a calm, happy digestive tract. And that is where anti-inflammatory foods come in.
Their purpose is simple. They reduce any inflammation in the digestive tract, which speeds up healing. It also means that you can absorb more nutrients from your food.
Anti-inflammatory foods are also high in antioxidants. These can protect your cells from further damage that can cause inflammation.
Anti-inflammatory foods include:
- Oily fish such as salmon and sardines
- A variety of seasonal vegetables
- A variety of fresh fruit
- Olive oil
- Green tea
- Herbs and spices
- Nuts and seeds
- Dark chocolate (yum!)
Anti-inflammatory foods are another staple of your daily diet to include. Ideally, each meal will contain an anti-inflammatory food of some kind.
Having a healthy, happy gut is so important. So give these steps a go. All you have to gain is wellness and happiness, after all! If you love your gut, it will love you back.