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best foods for gut health l how to improve gut health l foods good for gut health l gut health diet l improve gut health

Keep­ing your gut healthy is vital­ly impor­tant at every stage of your life. What you eat deter­mines the health of your gut and your entire sys­tem, so fol­low­ing a diet rich in gut-healthy foods is imperative. Foods that pro­mote gut health feed good bac­te­ria and main­tain a pos­i­tive bal­ance of ben­e­fi­cial bac­te­ria, and this helps the body to digest food, as well as help­ing the body to guard itself against bad bac­te­ria, yeast, and oth­er microbes. Con­verse­ly, less healthy foods can cause gas­troin­testi­nal prob­lems or dam­age gut bac­te­ria, and these foods should be avoid­ed or con­sumed only rarely. Of course, dif­fer­ent foods will affect each person’s gut health dif­fer­ent­ly depend­ing on that person’s gen­er­al diet and indi­vid­ual reac­tion to food, so expert med­ical advice should always be sought in the quest to ensure the health of your body. In this arti­cle, we present some basic guide­lines to fol­low to pro­tect the health of your gut.

best foods for gut health l how to improve gut health l foods good for gut health l gut health diet l improve gut health

Why does gut health matter?

Before we exam­ine spe­cif­ic foods that can improve the health of your gut, let’s con­sid­er the impor­tance of gut health. The gut is a com­plex sys­tem made up of mul­ti­ple organ­isms, and this com­plex­i­ty influ­ences the rest of the human body. Micro­bio­mes in the gut must remain in bal­ance to pre­vent cer­tain organ­isms from grow­ing out of con­trol and caus­ing fun­gal and oth­er types of infections. As an exam­ple, tak­ing antibi­otics can cre­ate changes in gut bac­te­ria that may leave some peo­ple more vul­ner­a­ble to yeast infections. It has been sug­gest­ed that gut health can impact gen­er­al health fac­tors as far-reach­ing as:
  • Inflam­ma­tion
  • Men­tal health, includ­ing anx­i­ety and depression
  • Liv­er health
  • Irri­ta­ble Bow­el Syn­drome (IBS)
  • Meta­bol­ic syn­drome, dia­betes, and obesity
  • Inflam­ma­to­ry Bow­el Dis­ease (IBD)
 

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What is FODMAP?

  FODMAP relates direct­ly to diet and gut health, and it stands for:   Fer­mentable, Oligosac­cha­ride, Dis­ac­cha­rides, Mono­sac­cha­rides, and Polyols.   This term is used to describe foods and ingre­di­ents which may be harm­ful to a person’s gut and over­all health, and which may irri­tate the stom­ach. High FODMAP foods include:  
  • Fruit juices
  • Agave, hon­ey and many oth­er sweeteners
  • Processed foods con­tain­ing high fruc­tose corn syrup, sor­bitol, and oth­er arti­fi­cial sweeteners
  • Condi­ments, such as jam, rel­ish, and hummus.
Oth­er high FODMAP foods include apri­cots, figs, and avo­ca­dos, which are high­ly nutritious.

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So which FODMAP foods should I eat?

Again, the right foods and ingre­di­ents will dif­fer for each per­son. To find the right foods for your­self, some experts sug­gest an elim­i­na­tion diet, which involves remov­ing cer­tain foods or ingre­di­ents from your diet alto­geth­er and mon­i­tor­ing any poten­tial changes to gut health. Foods that were elim­i­nat­ed can be con­sumed again as long as they cause no changes to gut health in the long term.

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Foods which create bad gut health

We’ve already list­ed some high FODMAP foods which are like­ly to cause bad gut health, and we can add to this list of food that is known to intro­duce bad bac­te­ria into the gut. Meat and dairy prod­ucts are wide­ly con­sumed through­out the world and offer cer­tain health ben­e­fits. They are known to be rich in pro­tein, choline, and oth­er nutri­ents, but they can also be harm­ful to the gut microbiome. Reg­u­lar con­sump­tion of ani­mal pro­tein has been found to increase the risk of inflam­ma­to­ry bow­el dis­ease, which is usu­al­ly an indi­ca­tor of poor gut health. Meat may also con­tain antibi­otics. Large-scale farm­ing is known to intro­duce antibi­otics to ani­mals to reduce their risk of infec­tion. The prob­lem is that peo­ple who con­sume a lot of ani­mal prod­ucts from large-scale farms con­sume antibi­otics, and exces­sive expo­sure among peo­ple who are not sick can lead to antibi­ot­ic resis­tance in the gut. The bac­te­ria in the gut evolves to resist antibi­ot­ic drugs, so when a per­son does get sick and takes antibi­otics, the drugs will be less effec­tive, or not effec­tive at all. The vol­ume of antibi­otics in the gut can also kill help­ful bacteria.

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Anoth­er type of food that is harm­ful to the gut is fried foods. Fish and chips, fried chips and chick­en, burg­ers, and fast food items are all very tempt­ing and usu­al­ly easy to find, but they car­ry a hid­den danger! The body must work hard­er to digest fried foods, and the oils and trans fats that are used for fry­ing the food can fur­ther irri­tate the stom­ach and cause con­di­tions such as diar­rhea, gas, and stom­ach pain. Fried foods also help harm­ful bac­te­ria to grow in the gut. So, even though fried foods may taste great and pro­vide much-need­ed com­fort, they can also increase the risk of con­di­tions such as liv­er dis­ease and can cause a vari­ety of gas­troin­testi­nal problems.

best foods for gut health l how to improve gut health l foods good for gut health l gut health diet l improve gut health

Foods that are good for gut health

Gut health can be achieved through the con­sump­tion of many nutri­tious foods. We can clas­si­fy these foods gen­er­al­ly under the var­i­ous head­ing, includ­ing pre­bi­ot­ic foods and pro­bi­ot­ic foods.

1- Prebiotic foods

best foods for gut health l how to improve gut health l foods good for gut health l gut health diet l improve gut health

best foods for gut health l how to improve gut health l foods good for gut health l gut health diet l improve gut health

Pre­bi­ot­ic foods help feed good bac­te­ria. They are foods or food ingre­di­ents which the body does not digest. Instead of digest­ing them, the bac­te­ria fer­ment them and use them for sustenance. Pre­bi­otics are all a type of fibre, but not all fibres are pre­bi­otics, so it’s help­ful to know exact­ly which foods or ingre­di­ents are most help­ful for gut health. Ben­e­fi­cial pre­bi­otics you should con­sume include:  
  • Wheat aspara­gus
  • Gar­lic
  • Soy­beans
  • Oats
  • Onions
  • Arti­choke
  • Leeks
 

2- Probiotic foods

Pro­bi­ot­ic foods add ben­e­fi­cial bac­te­ria to the gut and include:  
  • Fer­ment­ed foods such as kim­chi, tem­peh, miso, and sauer­kraut. Add these fea­tures to your dish­es, and not only are you help­ing to keep your gut healthy, but you can enjoy a culi­nary jour­ney from Korea to Ger­many and Japan, among oth­er places.
  • Cul­tured cot­tage cheese and oth­er dairy prod­ucts with bac­te­ria cultures.
  • Cul­tured yogurt.
We pre­vi­ous­ly men­tioned that dairy prod­ucts could be harm­ful to gut health, but now we are say­ing that yogurt is good for gut health. The key­word is ‘cul­tured.’ Cul­tured yogurt is dif­fer­ent from oth­er yogurts, and it is impor­tant to remem­ber this dis­tinc­tion when fill­ing the shop­ping cart! Keep in mind that these foods or ingre­di­ents may not be as ben­e­fi­cial to one per­son as anoth­er, because some pre­bi­ot­ic and pro­bi­ot­ic foods are clas­si­fied as high FODMAP. As men­tioned pre­vi­ous­ly, it is, there­fore, help­ful to con­sult a med­ical expert while try­ing to achieve opti­mal health and when try­ing to cre­ate the opti­mal diet for you as an individual.

3- Greens

In par­tic­u­lar, con­sume what are known as leafy greens. Leafy greens are food such as spinach, sil­ver­beet, and kale as well as cab­bage, water­cress, romaine let­tuce, swiss chard, and bok choy. They also con­tain folate as well as vit­a­min C, vit­a­min K, and vit­a­min A, which have added ben­e­fits for your over­all wellbeing.

4- Whole grains

Research indi­cates that opti­mal colon func­tion requires at least 25 grams of fibre per day, and foods that con­tain this fibre con­tain added nutri­ents, such as omega‑3 fat­ty acids. Help­ful fibre can be found in foods such as multi­grain and whole­grain bread, brown rice, oat­meal, and whole-grain corn.

5- Fruits low in fructose

best foods for gut health l how to improve gut health l foods good for gut health l gut health diet l improve gut health

best foods for gut health l how to improve gut health l foods good for gut health l gut health diet l improve gut health

Fruits are good for us. We are taught that from child­hood, and we all remem­ber our par­ents try­ing valiant­ly to force us to eat fruit, any fruit, as a child. While fruit is nutri­tious and ben­e­fi­cial to over­all health, some fruits may be more ben­e­fi­cial to gut health than others. Fruits such as apples, pears, and man­go are high in fruc­tose and can cause dis­com­fort in some peo­ple. In con­trast, low fruc­tose fruits are found to cause less bloat­ing or gas, and they include berries, bananas, and cit­rus fruits such as oranges and grapefruit. Not only are bananas low in fruc­tose, but they car­ry the added ben­e­fit of con­tain­ing a lot of fibre and inulin, which stim­u­lates the growth of good bac­te­ria in the gut. The ben­e­fits of bananas are thus numer­ous, and ath­letes often refer to them as nature’s ener­gy bar.

6- Lean protein

Hav­ing estab­lished that ani­mal pro­tein can be harm­ful to the gut, we can add that lean pro­tein can be good for the gut. Replace red meat with lean meat such as chick­en, and intro­duce more salmon and sim­i­lar fish to your diet.

best foods for gut health l how to improve gut health l foods good for gut health l gut health diet l improve gut health

Last but not least

Main­tain­ing good gut health is impor­tant and achiev­able. Lim­it the con­sump­tion of high FODMAP foods and ingre­di­ents and resist the urge to eat food that might taste great, but con­tains antibi­otics or ani­mal pro­tein, or is heav­i­ly fried. Fill your plate instead with pre­bi­ot­ic and pro­bi­ot­ic foods that pro­mote the pres­ence of good bac­te­ria in your gut. Remem­ber that each person’s body is dif­fer­ent, so it is vital to find and stick to a diet that suits you as an indi­vid­ual. Meth­ods for find­ing your per­son­al­ized gut-healthy diet include the elim­i­na­tion approach and a con­sul­ta­tion from a med­ical expert. If you fol­low the guide­lines and sim­ple advice set out in this arti­cle, you should be well on your way to a healthy gut and a healthy lifestyle!  
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