Drinking Too Much Alcohol
Alcohol is addictive, highly toxic and can have harmful physical and mental effects when consumed in large amounts .
In terms of gut health, chronic alcohol consumption can cause serious problems, including dysbiosis.
One study examined the gut flora of 41 alcoholics and compared them to 10 healthy individuals who consumed little-to-no alcohol. Dysbiosis was present in 27% of the alcoholic population, but it was not present in any of the healthy individuals .
Another study compared the effects of three different types of alcohol on gut health.
For 20 days, each individual consumed 9.2 ounces of red wine, the same amount of de-alcoholized red wine or 3.4 ounces of gin each day .
Gin decreased the number of beneficial gut bacteria, whereas red wine actually increased the abundance of bacteria known to promote gut health and decreased the number of harmful gut bacteria like Clostridium.
The beneficial effect of moderate red wine consumption on gut bacteria appears to be due to its polyphenol content.
Polyphenols are plant compounds that escape digestion and are broken down by gut bacteria. They may also help reduce blood pressure and improve cholesterol .
Generally speaking, alcohol consumption has a harmful effect on gut bacteria. However, the polyphenol content in red wine may have a protective effect on gut bacteria when consumed in moderation.
Lack Of Prebiotics In The Diet
Prebiotics are a type of fiber that passes through the body undigested and promotes the growth and activity of friendly gut bacteria (
Many foods, including fruits, vegetables and whole grains, naturally contain prebiotic fiber.
A lack of them in the diet may be harmful to your overall digestive health (
One study in 30 obese women found that taking a daily prebiotic supplement for three months promoted the growth of the healthy bacteria Bifidobacterium and Faecalibacterium (
These fatty acids are the main nutrient source for the cells in your colon. They can be absorbed into your blood, where they promote metabolic and digestive health, reduce inflammation and can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer (
Prebiotics are a type of fiber commonly found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. They are important for increasing healthy gut bacteria like Bifidobacterium.
Foods And Beverages Rich In Polyphenols
Polyphenols are food compounds that defend against pathogens and oxidation to protect your cells from damage, all while also fighting inflammation and infection. And if that wasnt enough, polyphenols also promote the growth of good gut bacteria. A few note-worthy polyphenol-rich foods and beverages include:
Green TeaIn green tea especially, the polyphenols may help fight bad bacteria like E. coli and calm symptoms of IBS and peptic ulcers. Well lift our teacups to that.
Wild Blueberry JuiceIn a recent study, participants who drank a wild blueberry beverage for 6 weeks experienced a significant increase of good gut bacteria. This improvement to gut health was thanks to, researchers believe, the plentiful polyphenols present.
Coconut OilAntiviral, antimicrobial, antibacterial and antifungal? Were PRO coconut oil. Coconut oil also has lauric and caprylic acidsaka, fatty acidsthat kill off harmful yeast and bacteria that also work to restore the acidity levels in the stomach.
Coconut isnt the only oil getting a shoutout for gut health. Also packed with fatty acids and polyphenols, studies have shown olive oil can ease indigestion and can lower the pancreas requirement to produce digestive enzymes.
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How The Foods You Eat Help Your Gut
When it comes to maintaining your microbiome at its healthiest level, nothing is more important than what you eat and drink.
The internal environment of your gut is dictated by what you put in your mouth so the foods you choose to eat are a crucial component of maintaining gut health.
The good news is, even a lifetime of bad eating is fixable at least as far as your microbes are concerned. Amazingly, your body can create a new microbiota in as little as 24 hours just by changing what you eat.
What you eat determines which bacteria thrive in your gut. And research tells us that the good gut bugs get stronger when fed colorful, plant-based foods.
A 2014 study in the journal The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society found that vegetables, grains, and beans fed a positive gut environment. But meat, , dairy, and eggs fed a negative gut environment.
Should I Take Probiotics To Improve My Gut Health
You may have heard that taking probiotics or prebiotics is good for your gut. Supplements may be helpful for some people. But theyre not right for everyone.
Probiotics are live germs that are good for your gut. Theyre found naturally in foods like yogurt or kimchi. There are probiotic supplements, too. You can find probiotic pills, powders, shots or drinks. Some foods also have added probiotics, like juices, cereals, smoothies or milks.
Prebiotics are fibers that the body cant digest. They feed good germs in the gut and help them grow. Prebiotics are found in high-fiber foods like vegetables, beans and whole grains. Theyre also available in supplement form.
Many probiotic and prebiotic supplements claim to help with certain health problems. In some cases, they may be useful. Probiotics may help some people who need to take antibiotics for an infection, says Dr. Jasutkar. Certain probiotics have been linked to better cholesterol levels, too.19
There are many types of probiotic germs, though. Not all of them will be helpful for all conditions. And many havent been well studied. The research is ongoing. Patients should speak with their doctors before taking a supplement, Dr. Jasutkar says. Together you can decide whether a supplement will be useful for you.
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Additional Gut Healthy Foods & Standouts
Apple Cider Vinegar Apple cider vinegar helps create HCLhydrochloric acidwhich is a beneficial stomach acid that helps the body digest fats, carbs and protein. This means ACV can aid in weight loss, which is huge in itself, but apple cider vinegars probiotics and amino acids also help relieve acid reflux and IBS symptoms. A true Jack-of-all-trades in the wellness department.
Wild SalmonAbundant in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, adding wild salmon to your diet isnt just delicious, it can help heal gut inflammation and help prevent future issues. Take note: the wild distinction is important for gut health benefits.
Chocolate Yes. This is really here. Rejoice! A treat thats also a surefire way to get your probiotic and prebiotics in? Count us in. Raw, dark, and certified organic chocolate are your best bets for the best health benefits, and a number of brands are even creating chocolate bars with additional prebiotics and probiotics. Delicious.
Bone BrothOne of the most nutrient rich foods on the planet is bone broth and it is a great idea to incorporate for gut health. Thats because the slow cooking process draws out all the minerals and amino acids from bones and marrow to create a seriously nutrient-dense soup that’s full of things like L-glutamine, that heals and seals the gut lining, which helps with a whole host of problems, including leaky gut and IBS.
How To Achieve A Healthy Microbiome
Diversify, diversify, diversify. Eating balanced amounts of both probiotics and prebiotics can help ensure that you have the right balance of bacteria to keep your gut microbiota healthy. And many factors, including the foods you eat, can impact the type of bacteria found in your digestive tract. Generally speaking, a diverse microbiome equals a healthy microbiome. This is because the more species of bacteria you have, the more health benefits they can support. In fact, several studies show that elderly people possess a more diverse gut microbiota than younger adults. Between long-living Chinese, Japanese, and Italian people, all cohorts revealed diverse and balanced gut microbiota.
Image by Michelle Nash
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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.
Increase Your Intake Of Probiotics
Probiotics are live microorganisms, usually bacteria, that provide a specific health benefit when consumed.
Probiotics dont permanently colonize the intestines in most cases. However, they may benefit your health by changing the overall composition of the microbiome and supporting your metabolism .
A review of seven studies found that probiotics have little effect on the gut microbiome composition of healthy people. However, there is some evidence that probiotics may improve the gut microbiome in those with certain diseases .
One review of 63 studies found mixed evidence of the effectiveness of probiotics in altering the microbiome. But the researchers noted that the probiotics strongest effects seemed to be in restoring the microbiome to a healthy state after it had been compromised .
Nevertheless, some studies have shown that probiotics can improve the functioning of certain gut bacteria, as well as the specific types of chemicals they produce .
You can increase your intake of probiotics by consuming more probiotic-rich foods, including fermented foods like kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut, and yogurt.
Alternatively, you can consider using a probiotic supplement. However, be sure to talk with your doctor before starting supplementation, especially if you are taking other medications or have any underlying health conditions.
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What Should I Eat For A Healthy Gut
Think bacteria are bad? Think again. Bacteria and other microbes are often thought of as sources of disease, but in fact many play an essential role in keeping you healthy. Your body contains trillions of microbes, most of which are beneficial. The most dense microbe population is in your gut, where they play a critical role in digestion, immune function and weight regulation. What you eat can quickly change your microbes, but are you eating the right foods to help your good gut bacteria?
Eat A Diverse Range Of Foods
There are hundreds of species of bacteria in your intestines, each of which plays a specific role in health and requires different nutrients for growth.
Generally speaking, a diverse microbiome is considered a healthy one. This is because the more species of bacteria you have, the more health benefits they may be able to contribute to (
Unfortunately, the traditional Western diet is not very diverse and is rich in fat and sugar. In fact, an estimated 75% of the worlds food is produced from only 12 plant and 5 animal species .
However, diets in certain rural regions are often more diverse and richer in different plant sources.
For this reason, a few studies have shown that gut microbiome diversity is much greater in people from rural regions of Africa and South America than in people from urban areas in Europe or the United States .
Eating a diverse diet rich in whole foods can lead to a diverse microbiome, which is beneficial for your health.
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Why Gut Health Is Important For Your Body And Your Mind
The gut is composed of a whole host of microbes that affect your physiology and keep your body and brain functioning as they should.
As studies tell us, these gut microbes affect the way you store fat, how you balance levels of glucose in your blood, and how you respond to hormones that make you feel hungry or satiated.
The wrong internal mix can set the stage for obesity and other health issues later in life.
Scientists have also found that gut bacteria produce neurotransmitters that regulate your mood including serotonin, dopamine, and GABA.
Researchers have also discovered that a nervous system in your gut communicates with the brain in your head. It also plays a role in certain diseases and in mental health.
In other words, the wellness of both your body and your brain depend on your gut health.
An Important Note About Eating Pickled Vegetables
Making pickled veggies, like sauerkraut and kimchi, part of your diet can be a healthy step. But pickled veggies should only be part of your vegetable consumption.
They are usually very salty. And people who make pickled vegetables a primary source of vegetables in their diet tend to get more sodium than is optimal, which can contribute to higher rates of certain forms of cancer.
So to be sure not to increase your risk of cancer, aim to make fresh, non-fermented vegetables a more significant part of your diet than pickled vegetables.
Think about eating small portions of fermented foods daily and using them as a source of salt, replacing table salt, soy sauce, or other salt sources with pickled vegetables.
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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.
Ease Indigestion With Stomach
Its inexpensive, nonaddictive with little to no side-effects, and its highly effective, says Brian Lacy, MD, a gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida.
Peppermint oil can be included in many recipes or even tea, but more often is taken as a coated supplement, which allows it to pass into the digestive tract without causing heartburn, according to the National Center of Complementary and Integrative Health. Digestion tip: Taking peppermint oil for at least four weeks has been shown to significantly reduce IBS symptoms. It appears to work as an antispasmodic, smoothing out and relaxing the bowels, according to a study published in 2020 in Gastroenterology.
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Don’t Take Antibiotics Unless You Really Need To
There are certainly times when antibiotics are necessary, but you shouldnt be taking them if you dont really need them. .
Antibiotics can affect the gut microbiome, Dr. Boxer says, explaining that they can eliminate or change existing populations of microorganisms. If antibiotics are a necessity, he recommends eating probiotic-rich foods, like kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, yogurt, and kombucha, or taking a probiotic supplement to help counter the damage the antibiotics might cause. While there are hundreds of these supplements on the market, Dr. Boxer says one isnt necessarily better than another, but he recommends choosing a large name brand versus a small, expensive one online. For the best advice, ask your doctor which over-the-counter probiotic they suggest, or if simply eating more probiotic foods will do the trick.
Diet And Gastrointestinal Disease
“Like other types of chronic disease, I strongly believe an individual’s diet affects the management, and in certain situations, even the progression of a chronic GI disease,” says Marta Jonson, MMN, RDN, LMNT, Nebraska Medicine nutrition therapist. “Food is fuel, and if we are not getting the nutrients we need, our bodies will have a difficult time-fighting disease or helping us maintain the quality of life we want.”
Like other chronic diseases, GI patients often experience chronic inflammation, potentially leading to additional health problems. The way we eat may help prevent and keep chronic inflammation at bay. Research reveals connections between diet and inflammation:
- Foods high in saturated fats and transfat may increase inflammation
- Healthy fats may help decrease inflammation
- Phytonutrients in fruits and vegetables may help protect against inflammation
Lifestyle also plays a role in managing GI disease:
- Stress management
- Limit exposure to environmental toxins, smoking, excess alcohol
Diet becomes crucial in preventing disease progression for those with certain GI-related autoimmune disorders. Those with celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease are highly impacted by what they eat.
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What Is Water Kefir Benefits Uses And Recipe
Water kefir is a beverage favored for both its fizzy flavor and impressive health benefits.
Besides packing a powerful punch of probiotics, this tasty drink has also been shown to amp up immunity, slow cancer cell growth and improve overall health.
Best of all, it can be made at home using just a few simple ingredients.
This article reviews the benefits and uses of water kefir and how to make your own.
Eat More Whole Grains Nuts Load Up On Veggies Beans And Fresh Fruits
Here is yet another reason to eat fresh, whole foods. Barley, oats, quinoa, bulger, and other whole grains have fiber that we need to bulk up our intestines and help things to move through.
Whole grains then become a type of feed for the bacteria inhabiting the microbiome. It may sound strange that we have all these minute bacteria floating around in there, but they keep things running smoothly.
Eating more whole grains has been shown to increase the types and numbers of bacteria in our gut. The same is true of nuts, so pick up a variety of walnuts, pecans, pistachios or almonds, remembering that a serving is what fits into the palm of your hand.
Whole, fresh vegetables, beans and legumes, and a variety of fresh fruits serve as nutrition for the bacteria in our gut. Shop your local farmers market for fresh, whole foods in season and prepare your microbiome for your locale.
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