When your gut is imbalanced, you not only miss out on the nutrition your food offers, but your immune system and mood are compromised and you are more likely to develop allergies.
- Contains about 70 percent of your immune system
- Is your “second brain”—it has more nerve cells as your spine and as many neurotransmitters as your brain
- Produces 90 percent of your serotonin, the “feel good” neurotransmitter
- Has its own ecosystem, containing gut flora that plays critical roles in digestion and overall health
Digestive complaints are common in the U.S.—74 percent of Americans suffer from gas, bloating, stomach cramps and acid reflux and 14 percent suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Eating foods that contain probiotics, prebiotics and spices to support digestive health can help relieve your stomach troubles, improve your mood, increase the nutrition you obtain from your food and help you feel your best.
Eat probiotic-rich foods. The average adult gut contains around five pounds of bacteria. These friendly flora ferment carbohydrates you would otherwise be unable to digest, producing important nutrients and gut-healing short-chain fatty acids in the process that help train and rebalance your immune system, reduce gut inflammation, and help prevent allergies and pathogenic microbes from flourishing. Probiotic foods are especially important when you experience diarrhea or after a course of antibiotics.
These probiotic-rich foods contain strains of friendly-bacteria that populate your gut and support digestive health:
- Cultured dairy products, including yogurt, kefir, cottage cheese, buttermilk
- Fermented beverages, like kombucha
- Fermented vegetables, like sauerkraut, beets, kimchi
- Fermented soybeans like miso and tempeh
Include foods rich in prebiotic fiber. This fiber passes through your gastrointestinal tract undigested, helps you cultivate a healthy population of friendly bacteria in your gut and prevents the growth of unhealthy bacteria.
Good sources include almonds, asparagus, bananas, barley, beans and lentils, cashews, chickpeas, endive, garlic, greens (beet, mustard, turnip), jicama, kiwi fruit, leeks, oats, onions and whole wheat.
Consume spices that help sooth your gut by facilitating digestion. The following spices have been used for centuries to ease digestion and soothe the gut: cardamom, cinnamon, coriander seeds, cumin, fennel, fenugreek, ginger root and peppermint.
A bonus fourth tip: Avoid foods and medications that hurt gut health by either increasing bad bacteria or decreasing good bacteria. These include:
- Sugar – Excess sugar very rapidly increases the quantity of bad bacteria in your gut. American eat about three times the amount of sugar they should, which explains why three-fourths of Americans have gut issues.
- Foods that trigger allergies and sensitivities, including three main groups:
- Gluten – found in wheat and other grains
- Dairy – primarily due to casein, the protein in cow’s milk. Reactions may also be due to lactose (milk sugar) intolerance.
- Soy – about 93 percent of soy products are GMO (genetically modified organisms)
- Prescription and over-the-counter medications, including antibiotics and acid-blockers – these may be medically necessary but make sure you understand how they may affect your gastrointestinal tract and consume additional pre- and probiotic foods to mitigate their effects.
No matter how nutritious your diet, you can only reap its benefits when you are digesting and absorbing nutrients properly. Good gut health not only helps you to absorb the nutrients your body needs but it also helps reduce stress, anxiety, depression and helps improve your overall mood. When you eat for a healthy gut, you can fully reap the nourishment from the foods you eat and improve your mood in the process.
With this baby steps you will love the way you feel!