There have been tremendous strides in the research of establishing the link between our gut health and overall health. We now know our gut bacteria perform a wide array of important jobs in the human body. Immune, digestive, and mood, as well as pyschological health, are all widely affected by the environment in our GI tract. Many studies have established a link between gut health and inflammation in the body. We know that inflammation is the culprit in the generation of most of our modern day diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Also important to know is the fact that many diseases have been directly linked to bacterial imbalances like depression, arthritis, IBS, and some cancers. Our bodies actually contain ten times more bacteria than human cells. Our microbes have 360 times more protein-coding DNA than we do. It’s no wonder just how important our gut bacteria are in determining good health.
Let’s explore some simple ways to improve gut health and in turn, improve our overall health.
- Eat fibrous carbohydrates. This means plenty of fresh fruits and veggies (preferably organic to avoid GMO’s and pesticides). Most Americans do not consume enough fiber. We should be getting anywhere from 30 to 50 grams of fiber and plenty of water to help it move through our system. These fiber-rich foods are chock full of vitamins and minerals and act as prebiotics (food that feeds friendly bacteria in our gut).
- Use Probiotic Supplements and Eat Fermented Foods. Fermented foods are staples in many cultures and have been for centuries. In Japan, foods rich in probiotics are commonly consumed like miso, kombucha, and fermented veggies of all kinds. Research has proven that probiotics can help ease irritable bowel diseases, boost the immune by decreasing inflammation, improve our mood and brain health and even help us maintain a healthy weight. Probiotics or “friendly bacteria” compete for space in our GI tract with bad bacteria and fungus, produce natural antibodies for immune health and even help destroy the bad bacteria in many cases.
- Avoid over-exposure to antibiotics, sugar, and toxins. The overuse of antibiotics have caused so much damage it’s ridiculous. Anti-biotics kill our friendly bacteria and leave us susceptible to a wide variety of health issues. Sugar feeds bad bacteria and fungus as well as promoting inflammation pathways. Environmental toxins also kill our friendly bacteria and weaken our immune system. Eating plenty of green leafy veggies, healthy fats and proteins as well as drinking plenty of fresh, filtered water will ensure flushing toxins out. Always replenish your good bacteria with a quality probiotic supplement as well as eating plenty of colorful, fiber-rich fruits and veggies.
- Balance out your Omega 6 to Omega 3 Fat Ratio. The overuse of omega 6 to Omega 3 is well known to cause chronic inflammation. Avoid vegetable oils like canola, safflower, soybean as well as hydrogenated fats found in processed foods. Make sure to consume healthy omega 3 rich fats like wild-caught salmon. Supplement with a quality fish oil and consume other healthy fats like coconut oil, avocados, grass-fed beef and grass-fed butter and raw nuts like almonds, walnuts, and cashews. Healthy, stable fats like these promote healing of the gut and decrease systemic inflammation.
- Remove the “offending foods”. Now we are all different, but I’m talking about the basics here…GMO’s, most grains, conventional dairy, processed foods and toxic fats and oils. You’ve got to avoid the foods causing the inflammation if you want to begin healing the gut. You can supplement with licorice root, slippery elm, and L-Glutamine to name a few, to begin repairing the gut.
We also want to keep in mind that our stress levels play a critical role in the health of our gut. Keep your stress levels in check and your friendly bacteria will thank you. Regular exercise, plenty of quality sleep, meditation and adaptogenic herbs can also be a big help in combatting stress. Adaptogens such as Rhodiola Rosea, Eleuthero, and Holy Basil can help modulate cortisol and the stress response.
Lifestyle is key to maintaining a healthy gut. If we can achieve a healthy gut we can achieve overall good health. I hope you’ve found the information here helpful and simple enough to get started on your way to a healthy gut right away.
Speaking of simple, download your Healing Foods Checklist and Shopping Guide here!
Joe Tatta, DPT, CCN