Foods for Good Gut Health
Science is proving time and time again just how important gut health is to our overall health. When our gut is healthy, our brain and other organs follow, allowing us a healthier and happier life. Our gut health is highly affected by our diet and that means certain foods are good for our gut health while others can destroy it.
Here we will cover:
- What is gut health?
- Why does gut health matter?
- What determines how healthy our gut is?
- How can we know if our gut is unhealthy?
- What foods can we eat to ensure good gut health?
So to answer that first question…
1. What is gut health?
Inside your gut (mostly inside your intestinal tract), there is a world of microorganisms that create what is known as your microbiome. The bacteria within the microbiome are called microbiota and they’re what determine how healthy or unhealthy your gut is.
Certain microbes are considered “good” and others “bad” because of their interactions with our cells. No bacteria is actually good or bad, their interactions in our body are what make us categorize them as either. Good bacteria help our body to break down our foods and produce byproducts that carry out healthy cellular processes.
We want to focus on the balance of our gut microbiota because that will optimize how we use our food and how our bodies function. So when focusing on gut health, we are looking at finding the right balance of these microorganisms to maintain our wellbeing.
2. Why does gut health matter?
Our cells and organisms in our bodies, always try to maintain homeostasis for optimal health. But when things start to get unbalanced, we are no longer in that healthy state and our body tries to get it back in order.
Dysbiosis is when there is an unhealthy balance of your gut microbiota. Different things can cause the bad to outnumber the good. This makes your body try to get things normalized which often results in an inflammatory response. If this response is “on” for too long, it causes issues in other places of your body because the cells are focused on getting back to a normal state.
Systemic inflammation can lead to diseases, autoimmune disorders, and other long-term health problems.
So if we prioritize our gut health, it can help avoid this cascade of events.
3. What determines how healthy our gut is?
Essentially our microbial balance in our gut will determine how healthy or unhealthy our guts are. The best way to ensure that our guts are healthy is by eating well-balanced meals with a variety of healthy foods. We should also be avoiding sugary, highly processed foods.
While diet is a huge influence on our gut health, there are other factors outside of our foods that can affect our gut health as well, like:
- Stress levels
- Exercise levels
- Sleep schedules
- Eating schedules
- What type of area we live in (rural or urban)
- If we are exposed to bacteria early on to boost our immune system
- If we overuse antibiotics and antibacterials
All of these things, among others, will determine how healthy our gut is.
4. How can we know if our gut is unhealthy?
The best way to know if your gut is unhealthy is to check out your bowel movements and habits. You should be having a bowel movement anywhere from 3 times a day to 3 times a week (this is the general rule of thumb).
The consistency of your stool is another important sign. It shouldn’t be too hard or too liquidy. And you shouldn’t struggle to pass a bowel movement. These are all ways to tell in the restroom if your gut is healthy.
In addition to restroom problems, you may have an unhealthy gut if you experience:
- Brain fog
- Abdominal pains
- Unintentional weight changes
- Sleep disturbances or being constantly tired
- Food intolerance
- Autoimmune disorders
If these sound familiar to you, consult with your doctor about getting your gut microbes checked out to see if you’re experiencing dysbiosis.
5. Diet for gut health
If you’re looking for a particular diet to model to ensure good gut health, you will want to look at the Mediterranean diet. This diet is fantastic for many reasons, but the main one is because it is high in fiber and low in processed foods. If we look at the staple foods in this diet, we will see a variety of extremely healthy foods that include polyphenols, prebiotics, and postbiotics which all lead to an extremely healthy gut.
While you don’t have to eat salads for every meal, keeping in mind that leafy greens (outside of other veggies) offer our bodies a lot of nutritional value. Mixing salads into your diet offers you a lot of fiber and gets you a variety of foods and nutrients all in one sitting.
Try using a variety of leafy greens as your salad bed or on your sandwiches: lettuce, spinach, kale, etc.
Nuts and Seeds
Mixing nuts and seeds right into your salad makes it easy to incorporate them into your diet. You can also add them to your oatmeal in the morning for some extra crunch. Nuts and seeds often add polyphenols and healthy fats to your diet to help your brain and body perform optimally.
Some nuts or seeds you might want to consider: sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews, peanuts, walnuts, etc.
Fruits and Veggies
Fruits and vegetables are full of polyphenols, prebiotics (foods that feed your bacteria to create more probiotics), and postbiotics. This means that they help your healthy bacteria to remain on top. But be careful because the amount of fiber in these foods can irritate your stomach if it isn’t used to a high quantity. Also, be aware that certain fruits are high in sugar. So make sure to listen to your body and incorporate a huge variety of fruits and veggies.
Try adding in: squashes, berries (of all kinds), melons, tubers, legumes, etc.
Fish and Lean Meat
Fish is high in omega 3 and other fatty acids which support your brain and gut health. Lean meats like chicken and turkey can do the same. While we often focus on the other food groups when talking about enhancing gut health, these foods are great too.
Healthy fats from avocados, olives, and their oils are great to support heart, brain, and gut health. Swap out your normal ranch dressing with olive oil-based dressings that contain herbs. You’ll notice your body feeling a lot better and the pounds on the scale reducing.
Herbs and Spices
Herbs and spices are often left out but are so effective in creating a healthy body. Include them in your salad dressings, marinades, or just sprinkle them on as you’re cooking foods. Herbs and spices come from plants making them full of polyphenols as well.
Look at including basil, oregano, rosemary, sage, cumin, turmeric, etc.
When you’re looking to support your gut health the main rules to follow are:
- Avoid sugars and processed foods
- Include a wide variety of healthy foods
- Keep a healthy sleep and exercise routine
- Use supplements like Atrantil that focus on getting your gut in a healthy state and keeping it there
Need some ideas for new meals to add to your mix? Check out our gut-conscious recipe blog at https://atrantil.com/blog/recipes/