Gut health is essential for the overall health of our entire body. With trillions of bacteria residing in the digestive tract, it is essential to keep these bacteria healthy. Any type of imbalance can cause disruption in gut flora which can cause pathogenic bacteria to take over and cause a host of unwanted symptoms.
The gut is also closely connected to the brain. In fact, you may have heard about the gut-brain connection. Imbalances in gut health have been closely linked to things like depression, anxiety, and mood swings. It’s just one more reason to take a look at the foods we are eating and make intentional choices to help support our digestive health.
Let’s take a look at some of the foods you will want to eliminate from your diet, and then some of the foods that are excellent for gut health.
Foods That Can Cause Gut Health Imbalance
- Sugar: Sugar is super inflammatory and can feed the unhealthy bacteria in our gut. Consuming too much sugar can lead to dysbiosis which is an imbalance in the bacteria in the gut and can make conditions like candida worse. It is best to avoid as much sugar as possible by reducing the amount of added sugar in your diet and paying attention to food labels. Choose natural sweeteners like raw honey or pure maple syrup over table sugar, but remember that these are high in sugar as well, so they should also be kept to a minimum.
- Dairy: Dairy can also be inflammatory, and many people don’t tolerate it very well. Some people may have a true dairy allergy while others may suffer from a lactose intolerance or a dairy sensitivity. It can be very hard on the digestive system, and conventional dairy products are loaded with hormones and antibiotics which is the last thing we want when trying to support digestive health. To better support, digestive health, try removing all conventional dairy products from your diet. Keep in mind that things like full-fat unsweetened yogurt are often better tolerated and due to their probiotic content can actually support digestive health. The key here is to stick to a full-fat and unsweetened version and opt for organic when possible.
- Gluten: Gluten sensitivities are on the rise as more and more people are not able to break it down. Gluten can also be very hard on the digestive system, so if you suffer from gut health issues, you may want to try eliminating it from your diet to see how you feel.
- Processed Foods: Avoiding processed foods can certainly help support your digestive system. Again, these foods are highly inflammatory, often full of sugar, added sodium, and additives that can cause chaos in your digestive system and your entire body. Avoid things like fried foods, cakes, cookies, and other store-bought baked goods.
Foods to Support Optimal Gut Health
Now that we know about some of the foods we should be avoiding let’s take a look at some of the foods that will help support optimal gut health.
- Fermented Foods: Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, and miso are all excellent for digestive health. They are rich in probiotics to help feed the healthy bacteria in the gut. Try to make these a regular part of your diet.
- Full-Fat Unsweetened Yogurt: Either organic dairy-based or coconut-based, full-fat unsweetened yogurt is also very rich in probiotics to help feed the good bacteria in the gut.
- Dark Leafy Greens: Leafy green vegetables are anti-inflammatory and full of fiber to help nourish the digestive system. Try to enjoy at least a couple of servings of dark leafy greens per day.
- Flax & Chia Seeds: Flax and chia seeds are rich in plant-based omega-3 fatty acids which help combat inflammation. However, they are also high in fiber which is key to a healthy digestive system.
With digestive health being at the center of optimal health, we need to take the steps necessary to ensure that we are feeding our bodies what they need for an optimal functioning digestive system. Try eliminating the damaging foods and adding in the gut-supporting foods to see what nutrition can do for gut health. Once you start supporting the gut, you may be surprised at how much better you feel!
The Gut Brain Connections. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/the-gut-brain-connection
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rebecca Jacobs N.C is a Certified Holistic Nutrition Consultant, specializing in digestive and women's health. She doesn't believe in dieting but rather making lifestyle changes, and believes that healthy eating must be delicious. Rebecca is also a recipe developer and creates healthier alternatives to traditionally unhealthy foods.