Gut health matters. When the microorganisms that live in your digestive tracts are out of balance, you may suffer from digestive issues, mood issues, weight issues, autoimmune issues, and so much more. Fortunately, it is possible to restore the balance following these five simple steps. Moreover, if you start including the following simple healing foods for the gut into your diet today, you will support your body’s natural healing process.
1. Probiotics and fermented foods
If you asked around, this is probably the number one answer people would give you. And they are right! Studies have shown that diet and probiotics impact the composition of your microbiome directly.
Examples of fermented foods
Here are the most healing fermented foods for the gut:
- Yogurt (preferably non-dairy yogurt)
- Miso (organic and/or non-soy miso)
- Sourdough bread
If you are on a Paleo diet, you will not be able to have all of these. Eat what you can and experiment to see how your body reacts to these foods.
Probiotics are supplements that provide live microorganisms to repopulate your digestive tracts. It’s a good idea to look for a probiotic that has at least 1 billion colony forming units (CFUs). There are probably dozen of strains available on the market.
Probiotics have been shown to cure digestive issues, help with weight loss, reduce inflammation, depression, and anxiety, help with immune function, skin health, and more.
I have been taking a probiotic that has helped people eliminate symptoms from food sensitivity and gluten intolerance. It reduces the amount of glyphosate and inflammation markers in your blood. Well-chosen probiotics can have a powerful impact on your health.
2. Resistant Starch
Most of the carbohydrates you eat are starches. Some of these starches can’t be digested (non-digestible). They pass through the digestive tracts unchanged (resist digestion in the small intestines). That’s what we call resistant starches.
Foods that contain resistant starch
Our modern diet typically contains 2-4 g of resistant starch while traditional diets provide 20-30 g. You would do well to start including more foods that contain resistant starch in your diet:
- Plantains and green bananas
- Beans, peas, and lentils
- Wholes grains (if you have been Paleo, choose your grains wisely and listen to your body for signs of inflammation)
- Cooked and cooled rice
- Potatoes and yam
Benefits of these healing foods for the gut
The key benefit is that resistant starch turns into short-chain fatty acids after your gut bacteria digest it. Short-chain fatty acids help your body in many ways:
- Feed the good bacteria in your body.
- Feed the cells in your colon (heal your intestinal tracts).
- Improve insulin sensitivity (helps you maintain your weight).
- Improve satiety and aid in weight loss.
- Reduce inflammation.
- Bind with toxins in your body to get rid of them.
3. Olive oil
The fatty acids and polyphenols contained in olive oil help reduce gut inflammation.
4. Cruciferous vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale contain compounds utilized by your gut bacteria. These vegetables have a significant impact on your gut bacteria.
Garlic has antifungal and antibacterial properties. It helps keep harmful bacteria under control and keep balance in the gut.
Ginger stimulates the digestive system. It reduces inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract and reduces symptoms of heartburn. It reduces the growth of the bacteria H. Pylori and protects the stomach lining.
7. Dietary Fiber
Resistant starch is a component of dietary fiber. However, dietary fiber as a whole benefits the gut because they provide food to your gut bacteria. Dietary fiber includes all the elelments of plant foods that pass through the stomach and the small intestines. They are all subject to varying degrees of breakdown by bacteria. Among these other plant components, we find non-starch polysaccharides (NSP) such as cellulose. You may also have heard of lignin and oligosaccharides. Dietary fiber acts as a prebiotic.
Types of fiber
Formally, dietary fiber is classified into two main types:
- Dietary fiber: Found naturally in whole plant foods.
- Functional fiber: Extracted and isolated from whole foods, then added to processed foods.
Another popular method is to classify fiber based on its solubility (soluble vs insoluble) and fermentability (fermentable vs non-fermentable). Soluble fiber blends with water in the gut while insoluble fiber doesn’t mix with water in the gut and remains mostly intact. Most fermentable fiber is soluble, but not all. It promotes the growth of good bacteria in the gut.
Higher intakes of fiber are linked to:
- Less cardiovascular disease
- Lower body weight
- Increased digestive health
A word about legumes
Legumes are the best sources of fermentable fiber. Have you ever heard of the Blue Zones? Dan Buettner coined the term during his travels when he identified five regions where people lived much longer than usual. They had certain commonalities, among which obvious lifestyle practices like strong communities, families, and spiritual practices. Also, they ate legumes every day. Legumes have numerous health benefits, but in the Paleo world, they are usually avoided. The main reason is their phytic acid and lectin content. I find that I have to be careful about overeating grains, but I feel great even when I eat legumes. I recommend you experiment for yourself. Don’t follow Paleo “rules” blindly.
8. Bone Broth
The Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) diet helped me understand the importance of bone broth to heal the gut. Brewing the connective tissues from the bones into water provides the body with natural compounds from the cartilage. The amino acids found in bone broth help reduce inflammation and heal the gut. Have you ever wondered what the difference between bone broth and stock is? Read all about it here.
In conclusion, gut health doesn’t revolve around a few well-chosen foods. Make sure your diet is rich in whole foods. Listen to your body and take care of yourself. Make sure you reduce stress and sleep well.