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:
- Mental health, including anxiety and depression
- Liver health
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and obesity
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
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.
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.
Foods Which Create Bad Gut HealthWe’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. 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.
Foods That Are Good For Gut HealthGut health can be achieved through the consumption of many nutritious foods. We can classify these foods generally under various heading, including prebiotic foods and probiotic foods.
1- Prebiotic foodsPrebiotic 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
2- Probiotic foodsProbiotic 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.