Most of us are looking for ways to make our bodies healthier. In fact, over 80% of us take vitamins and supplements every day. But the secret to health might not be in a pill, it might be in the foods we consume. We’ve all been taught about the “food pyramid” and the importance of eating healthy, but we may not think about how important our digestive system actually is. Feeding your “gut” properly can make all the difference to your overall health. Here’s why, and what you can do to keep you and your gut healthy.
It Takes Guts
We used to believe that our digestive system was a simple, one-track tube for food to pass through. Now we know it’s much more than that. Your “gut” is not just a pit in your stomach where food goes, it is a whole microbiome, which is home to 300 species of bacteria and trillions of other microorganisms. We rely on these microorganisms, microbiota or “good bacteria”, to help break down food and extract nutrients, support our immune systems to fight off the “bad bacteria”, and more.
When your gut is healthy and balanced it supports digestion, reduces the risk of autoimmune diseases, contributes to a positive mood and mental health, and improves the quality of your skin, hair and nails. Gut health is impacted by the food we eat, as well as by stress levels, sleep quality, and antibiotics.
The Secret To A Healthy Gut
How do we support this important part of our body? Experts suggest these five steps for a healthier gut.
- Eliminate the junk! Over-processed, sugary foods are hard to digest and over-work the microbiota in your gut. Eliminating these foods makes their job easier.
- Eat fermented foods. Fermented foods are great sources of probiotics, which contain live bacteria cultures that can support the bacteria in your gut. Try unprocessed yogurt, kefir (a yogurt drink), kombucha (fermented black tea), or vegetables like sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), kimchi (Korean-style fermented cabbage and other vegetables), or miso (fermented soybeans).
- Feed your good bacteria with prebiotics. Probiotics feed on prebiotics. Prebiotics are found in fruits, veggies, and whole grains. There are particularly high levels in green (under-ripe) bananas, onions, artichokes, garlic, and sprouted beans or legumes.
- Reduce stress. For many people, stress brings on gastrointestinal issues: stomachaches, irritable bowel syndrome, or loss of an appetite. Other people might turn to comfort foods when stressed out. Neither of these are good for your gut microbiome! Take time to relax each day. Try venting to a friend or partner, writing gratitude lists, or indulging in self care. Staying ahead of your stress levels helps your gut stay healthy.
- Get more (and better!) sleep. Getting plenty of high quality sleep allows you to fully digest your food, so your healthy microbiota can do its job!
By making some of these easy changes and trying new, fermented foods, you can improve your gut health in just a short time. People who follow a gut-friendly diet say their hair is shinier, skin is clearer, and even report more energy and focus. Pay attention to what goes into your body and see what changes – maybe you’ll find relief from a symptom you weren’t even aware of!