Your gut is the single largest contributor to your overall health and wellbeing. In fact, 80% of your entire immune system is located in the digestive tract – insane, right? What if I told you that your gut was the second largest part of your neurological system? The Enteric nervous system, located in the gut, is why many may call the gut a ‘second brain’. Imagine the implications of having such a well-connected gut if not treated right.
Let’s take a brief look at how it all works:
Our gut is teeming with bacteria– this community of bacteria often called the microbiome is very much connected to your immune system, nervous system and hormones. Something called the gut-brain axis is a hot topic in the medical field as we continue to explore the impact our gut health can be on other areas of our lives.
An unhealthy microbiome can lead to low energy, anxiety, a weakened immune system, interference with sleep – which of course, has it’s own set of knock-on effects, playing hazard with your hormones, a variety of diseases and much much more.
In my practice, I focus heavily on gut health and for very good reason… It’s often the first place we should look to heal when we are feeling unwell.
Although we’re learning a lot about the gut, we’re not yet entirely sure of the best ways to regulate it. Despite there being a lot of unanswered questions out there, there are a few foods and supplements that we know can help, and I’m sharing them with you here.
Below are the three top gut healing food types that I recommend ingesting regularly to help reset your gut. As I said before, the health of your gut has profound effects on your overall health, so by changing what you put into it positively, you will receive greater energy levels, more focus, better sleep and an overall health boost. I’ve also included some supplements below that are proving beneficial for gut health.
1. Natural Probiotics
You’ve probably heard of probiotics, and how they can help heal your gut. Probiotics can add to the bacterial diversity and seed more species. But did you know that the supplement industry is notoriously under-regulated? In fact, one study tested 14 commercial probiotics and found that only one contained the exact species as stated on the label. Most experts agree that the gut responds better to real, whole foods than supplement pills.
That’s why I recommend focusing on natural probiotic foods first, like fermented vegetables, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, natto, bonito flakes, tempeh and kefir, before turning to pills.
** Still, some supplements can be high-quality, and when used in conjunction with a good diet and lifestyle, but overall, I recommend starting with food first, and then supplementing only if necessary.
Prebiotics are foods likely to encourage the growth of “good bacteria” already present in the gut. These foods might be even better for you than probiotics, yet aren’t spoken about nearly half as much! Prebiotics, together with probiotics, will lead to higher levels of overall health and you should definitely make room for them. Foods especially rich in prebiotics include leeks, artichokes, garlic, asparagus and legumes.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my research, it’s that adding fiber to your diet is crucial to healing your gut.
It’s literally food for your gut bacteria! Most gut bacteria live in the distal colon (the last area in the intestines) so getting food there is key. However, most food (protein, carbs, and fats) get digested before reaching the distal colon. Fiber doesn’t, so the good bacteria can feed on it when it reaches the distal colon.
Why is it important to feed that specific bacteria? Because these bacteria create short chain fatty acids, which perform the vital function of calming the immune system and making it less reactive. These short chain fatty acids signal more T regulatory cells, which help to prevent autoimmunity and allergies.
If we don’t get enough fiber, the bacteria starve and start eating mucin, which is the lining between our intestinal cells and bacteria.
It’s estimated that hunter-gatherer societies consumed upwards of 200 grams of fiber, while the average modern American now gets just 15 grams a day.
The best source is complex carbohydrates from fermentable plant fibers. So you should eat more cellulose fibers, present in the tough parts of veggies and fruit, like broccoli stalks, the bottom of asparagus, kale stems, and orange pulp.
Make it a goal to eat three to five servings of vegetables a day. This will make it easier to get the fiber your body and gut need.
If you do these 3 things above– in about 2 weeks you will notice that your body and mind feel refreshed!