Mood And Brain Function
The health of your gut microbiome impacts cognitive function and mood. This is down to a two-way relationship between the gut and the brain known as the gut-brain axis.
Bacteria in the gut modulates the activity of various chemicals in the brain, known as neurotransmitters. For example, its estimated that 90% of the happy hormone, serotonin, is made in the gut,
Isabel explainsResearch shows that individuals suffering with anxiety, depression and autism tend to have greater imbalance in their gut, with more negative bacteria than positive, compared to healthy individuals.
Diet And Gut Bacteria
Right from the start when we drink either breast milk or baby formula, our diet affects our gut bacteria.
For instance, breastfed babies tend to have better immunity and more diverse gut bacteria than those who are fed formula.
Vegetarian and vegan diets have also been found to be associated with better bacteria diversity than a non-vegetarian diet.
Eating probiotics and prebiotics, such as fermented foods, in appropriate doses have also been seen to cause specific changes in the structure of our gut microbiota and benefit our health.2
Kimchi: A Spicy Alternative To Sauerkraut
A Korean alternative to sauerkraut, kimchi is also fermented cabbage made with several different spices and ingredients. Common ingredients include salt, chili powder, onion, garlic, and ginger. Its sometimes traditionally made with a fish stock base, but its easy to find a plant-based version in stores or to make your own at home.
A 2014 study in the Journal of Medicinal Food confirmed that kimchi is high in probiotics, and is an excellent fuel for gut health. Other studies have shown that kimchi can help to fight cancer, obesity, aging, and constipation, while also contributing to your immune system, skin health, and brain health.
Eat kimchi in bowls, wraps, or as a seasoning on just about anything.
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The 7 Worst Foods For Gut Health According To A Gastroenterologist
If you’re trying to improve your gut health, your daily diet will play an important role.
Certain foods help fuel the gut and promote the growth of good bacteria, while others can cause digestive distress and meddle with the health of your microbiome â or the bacterial environment in the gut.
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Here, experts dish on which foods you may want to avoid or limit to lower your likelihood of gut issues.
Soothe Your Tummy With Tumeric
Tumeric, a spice loaded with curcumin, has anti-inflammatory properties shown to help in a range of conditions triggered by inflammation, including heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease , and even depression, according to a paper published in November 2021 in Drug Design, Development and Therapy. The research also noted that curcumin helps regulate the gut microbiota, bring relief to people with IBD, and reduce inflammation that could likely lead to colon cancer.
Curcumin is a potent anti-inflammatory that can help soothe the digestive tract when you are suffering from an inflammation-related issue, says Finkel.
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Go Easy On Spice To Avoid Tummy Troubles
Many people love spicy food and it does not bother their digestive system. Others find their tummy is upset when they have spicy food.
It’s not just scorching hot foods like chillies that trigger heartburn. Milder but flavourful foods like garlic and onion can also bring it on.
If spicy foods give you heartburn, stomach pain or diarrhoea, go easy on them in future.
If you already have a problem like heartburn or an irritable bowel, avoid them completely.
Good Gut Bugs And How To Get Them
Positive bacteria are often called healthy gut bugs.
Good gut bugs help your body digest and absorb nutrients, synthesize certain vitamins, and rally against intruders, such as the flu and toxic-forming carcinogens.
In the wise words of David Perlmutter, MD: A healthy microbiome translates into a healthy human.
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Follow These 5 Steps To Improve Your Gut Health
Given that we all want to live long, vibrant lives, lets dive into simple ways to improve your gut microbiome.
Foods To Reduce Or Avoid If You’re Prone To Gi Problems
While all food is nourishing, some of the most common foods to avoid are artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols, and a regular habit of eating saturated fats or transfats.
- Beware of “sugar-free” or “calorie-free” foods. Often this means artificial sweeteners have replaced sugar. While helpful for those with diabetes, even one or two servings a day can cause bloating, gas and diarrhea
- Saturated fats are inflammatory to the gut and in almost any product on the shelf, including beef, pork and ham. A better choice is lean proteins or plant proteins like tofu, edamame, quinoa, beans and hummus
- Although dairy is an excellent source of protein, those with lactose intolerance are encouraged to try plant-based milk or milk substitutes
“Remember, overall health involves a combination of things, including emotional, physical and mental health,” says Jonson. “A healthy diet is not all or nothing. It’s about being intentional one day at a time, fueling your body with whole foods and knowing that there is a healthy balance.”
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Eat Foods Rich In Polyphenols
Polyphenols are plant compounds that have many health benefits, including reductions in blood pressure, inflammation, cholesterol levels, and oxidative stress .
Human cells cant always digest polyphenols. Because they arent absorbed efficiently, most polyphenols make their way to the colon, where they are digested by gut bacteria (
Polyphenols from cocoa can increase the amount of Bifidobacteria and lactobacilli in humans and reduce the quantity of Clostridia .
Furthermore, these changes in the microbiome are associated with lower levels of triglycerides and C-reactive protein, which is a marker of inflammation .
The polyphenols in red wine have similar effects and have even been shown to increase levels of beneficial bacteria in people with metabolic syndrome .
Polyphenols cant be digested efficiently by human cells, but they are efficiently broken down by the gut microbiota. They may improve several health outcomes related to heart disease and inflammation.
Layer In Fermented Foods
Try to eat fermented foods that contain “live active cultures”, such as plain yogurt, kefir, kombucha, or sauerkraut.
Yogurt and kefir are great gut-healthy options for breakfast or a snack throughout the day, as you can add some variety with granola or fresh fruit! You can also use fermented foods as a condiment, like topping off a delicious Asian-inspired bowl with kimchi or adding pickles to a delicious burger!
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Gut Health Affects Your Whole Body
Your diet, what you’re putting into your body, what is going through your gut, so it has a direct impact on not just your gut microbiome, but also the integrity of your gut, says Camille Skoda, RDN, LD, a dietitian at Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine. This we know now is being linked to so many different diseases, not just bowel disorders, but also things like anxiety and depression.
In a perfect world, we would eat whatever satisfied us and what we enjoyed. Our body would process the food as it passed through our gut, we would absorb the necessary nutrients, and what we dont need is eliminated through our bowel movements. However, we dont live in a perfect world and some foods can make us feel lousy, so many of us could probably adjust our diet in order to improve our gut health. This could reduce the risk of developing conditions directly related to the gut and elsewhere in the body.
Another important thing to remember is unless you are drastically ill and need to make major changes quickly, its best to move slowly with your diet adjustments. People who make sweeping and sudden changes may find it hard to continue with their new diet because its changing too much too fast.
Comforting Creamy Soups That Support A Healthy Gut
Enjoy a comforting, creamy soup by trying one of these recipes. They’re equally delicious and nutritious, thanks to ingredients like garlic, onions, leeks and asparagus. These fiber-rich foods help these soups support your gut health, healthy digestion and more. Recipes like our Creamy White Bean Soup and Cauliflower Leek Soup are healthy and tasty options that will keep you feeling good.
This lemony asparagus soup is spiced with a touch of curry and gets added richness from “lite” coconut milk and creamy red potatoes. Top it with a dollop of crème fraîche or plain yogurt and serve warm or chilled.
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May Cause Side Effects In Some People
For most people, water kefir can safely be enjoyed with minimal risk of adverse symptoms.
Like other probiotic-rich foods, the most common side effects include digestive issues like bloating, nausea, constipation and cramps .
These side effects tend to decrease with continued consumption.
You may want to check with your doctor before drinking water kefir if you have any condition that weakens your immune system, such as AIDS.
Though studies generally show that probiotics are safe for these individuals, some case reports suggest that probiotics may be associated with a higher risk of infection .
Water kefir may cause digestive issues in some people. Concerns have also been raised about probiotic use in people with weakened immune function, though evidence is mixed.
What Causes Gut Bacteria To Become Unbalanced
The diversity of our gut bacteria is established at the very start of our development but can be altered by multiple factors.
Our gut microbiome begins to develop when we are still growing in our mothers womb.
It is very sensitive, and something as small as a baby being delivered vaginally vs being delivered by caesarean can affect which strain of bacteria are dominant in our system.
It then continues to evolve over time to become relatively stable at around 3 years old.1
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Kefir: One Of The Most Probiotic
While this cultured product is traditionally made with dairy, its coconut or water-based counterparts can be even better and keep you free from the controversial health effects of cows milk.
You may be able to find dairy-free kefir in your area. Or you can order kefir starters and make it yourself using coconut water or nut milk. Just be sure that you dont oversweeten it because sugar can be bad for your microbiome.
Bananas: One Of The Most Popular Foods In The World
This popular and versatile fruit is brilliant at restoring harmony in your guts ecosystem.
Bananas are also heavy in potassium and magnesium, which can aid against inflammation. A 2011 study in the journal Anaerobe even showed that bananas can reduce bloating and help support release of excess weight.
So slice some on your cereal, blend them in a smoothie, or keep them on hand for midday snack attacks.
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The Wellness Benefits Of A Healthy Gut
Within the gut exists a thriving community of bacteria. As well as aiding digestion, they provide essential support for immune functioning, your skin, and brain health.
We have approximately 100 trillion live bacteria living inside of us this equates to 2kg of our body weight, says Isabel Tarrant, Holland & Barratt nutritionist. These helpful bacteria thrive by feeding off the food we eat. So, food is essential not only to feed and fuel us, but also to feed and fuel our friendly gut bacteria.
But how does what happens in our gut impact our overall health and wellness?
The Best Foods To Eat For A Healthy Gut
The gut is the latest focus of modern health, and for good reason. There is still much to learn about the importance of the gut, but we already know that it’s responsible for a great deal of our health and well-being. It’s obviously a key part of the digestive system, but the bacteria in the gut also produce vitamins and keep us well by fighting off harmful bacteria. In fact, 70% of the immune system is found in the gut! It’s even been shown that it can influence our mental health.
With that in mind, it’s a good time to start prioritizing gut health. The best way to do that is through a diverse diet full of nutrient-rich, plant-based foods. Click through the following gallery to see which foods are best for a healthy gut, and why.
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The Best Foods For Gut Health
25 Jan 2022
What should you eat to keep your gut healthy? And can bacteria really be good for you?
With the help of Holland & Barrett nutritionist, Isabel Tarrant, we delve into the science of digestion and reveal some of the best foods for gut health.
Also, find out why fermented foods are the hottest new wellness trend and how to include them in your diet to work towards a healthy gut.
The Fabulousness Of Fiber: Why Its Critical For Gut Health
While people tend to get up in arms about protein consumption, theres another nutrient thats more worrisome as far as deficiency risk: fiber.
Approximately 97% of Americans get at least the recommended amount of protein. But only about 3% of Americans get the recommended 40 grams of fiber they need per day and fiber is the most crucial ingredient for gut health.
Fiber feeds the good bacteria weve been talking about, so its vital to eat fiber-rich foods as often as possible.
Our microbes extract the fibers energy, nutrients, and vitamins, including short-chain fatty acids, which can improve immune function, decrease inflammation, and protect against obesity.
Cut Down On The Sweet Stuff
Theres nothing wrong with a sweet treat every once in a while. However, some evidence from animal studies suggests that a high-sugar diet might impact your gut microbiome.
By reducing numbers of good bacteria and increasing numbers of bad bacteria, a high-sugar diet may increase the risk of metabolic disorders, such as type 2 diabetes and obesity.
And artificial sweeteners might not be much better. Experts now believe that these compounds interact with the gut microbiome.
Some evidence suggests that artificial sweeteners might disrupt your gut microbiome.
Although much of the research so far has involved animals, there is evidence that certain artificial sweeteners can influence gut bacteria in humans.
Can Gi Disease Be Prevented Or Even Cured By A Healthy Diet
Research is limited but rapidly growing. “The Frederick F. Paustian Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center is partnering with Nebraska Food for Health to further microbiome research,” says Jonson. “As we do more research, we hope to use this knowledge to prevent, cure and help manage GI diseases more precisely with nutrition.”
A healthy diet may look different for everyone. “Nutrition and health are much more complex than just looking at the macronutrients in someone’s diet,” adds Jonson. I enjoy talking to patients about gut health because it digs deeper than what many people used to consider to be nutrition education.”
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Foods That Are Good For Gut Health
Adding them to your diet can bring relief for digestive woes
Whether stomach problems such as bloating, constipation, and gas cause you distress regularly or are just an occasional nuisance, youre probably eager to get rid of them.
Like many other people, you may be tempted to try one of the growing number of foods and dietary supplements whose labels claim they will improve gut health. In 2019, U.S. consumers spent around $5.1 billion on digestive-health products such as antacids, laxatives, antidiarrheals, and other stomach remedies, and that figure is projected to increase, according to the market research firm Mintel.
But supplements aren’t necessarily the best way to go. With whole foods, the body is better able to absorb and utilize their ingredients, says Kristi King, R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Man-made versions can be harder to digest.
Another factor to think about: Supplements are not well-regulated. “That means you cant know for sure if they contain exactly whats on the label,” points out Ellen Klosz, a Consumer Reports nutritionist. “They might even have an ingredient that conflicts with a medication you need to take.” Plus, whole foods contain other nutrients that help with digestive and overall health.