Gut Health 101 and Gut Healthy Foods

Before we talk gut healthy foods, we need to understand more about what and where our gut is and overall

Before we talk gut healthy foods, we need to understand more about what and where our gut is and overall gut health.

The mouth is actually the first part of the gut. (gastrointestinal tract) When we eat food, it passes down the throat, into the stomach and then into the small intestine. The small intestine is where food is digested and absorbed by the bloodstream. 

After that it proceeds into the large intestine, also known as the colon, and the final part of the colon leads on to the rectum, where waste products are stored until they are excreted.  

Simply put, that is your gastrointestinal tract – and your gut!

Why is good gut health so important?

More than 2000 years ago, Hippocrates, the father of medicine, proclaimed that all diseases begin in the gut. Of course, he was way ahead of his time and not many in those days understood or appreciated what he meant.

Research has proven just how right he was!  Gut health is indeed critical to good health. Studies have shown that poor gut health contributes to diseases which include diabetes, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, acne and even depression.

Several aspects of our modern day lifestyle may be directly contributed to the poor gut health. 

Medicines such as antibiotics, birth control and NSAIDS (non-steroid anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen) kill the good bacteria living in our gut.  Yes, you have GOOD and bad bacteria living in your gut.  Good bacteria plays a major role in defending our bodies against bad bacteria and it even helps fight chronic disease.

FUN FACT-It is estimated that adults have 1-2 pounds of bacteria living in our gut! 

The typical SAD diet (standard American diet) is high in sugar and refined carbohydrates.  It is very processed and this decreases the amount of good bacteria in our guts.

The SAD diet is typically low in fiber which is what feeds our good gut bacteria and helps it to multiply and grow.

By eating more fruits and vegetables along with foods rich in fiber and consuming less sugar filled, overly processed foods, you can really make a huge improvement on your gut health and overall health!  More on that later…..

Give yourself a gut health check up!

Do you have any of these symptoms of an unhealthy gut?

  • Excessive gas and abdominal bloating.
  • Heartburn and/or acid reflux.
  • Digestive problems related to what you eat.
  • Diarrhea. 
  • Constipation.
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
  • Ulcerative colitis.
  • Lower abdomen pain.

The colon and the bowel are breeding places for problems which may not become apparent until the ailment is reasonably far advanced.

If you have at least one or more of the above symptoms, it could be a sign that your gut health needs urgent attention and you should discuss it with your doctor.

Poor gut health leads to many disorders which affect the colon’s ability to function properly. It can make you vulnerable to developing some serious ailments. 

Here are some of the major problems of poor gut health:

  • Colon cancer.
  • Polyps in the colon which can become cancerous.
  • Ulcers of the colon and rectum.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome which will not clear up.
  • Autoimmune illnesses.
  • Poor immune system function.
  • Chronic skin problems.
  • Chronic digestive troubles.
  • Type 2 diabetes.
  • Increased risk of depression and/or anxiety.

All of these illnesses are serious and it is possible that some may lead to long-term, permanent damage to your health if you ignore the symptoms and do not take care of your gut health.

How to have better Gut Health.

The foods you eat play a huge role in promoting and maintaining good gut health. You will often see the terms probiotic and prebiotic.  Probiotics add good gut bacteria whereas prebiotic means it feeds the gut bacteria you already have.

Gut Healthy Foods

Yogurt is a fermented, probiotic food well known for providing healthy gut bacteria.  If you are vegan or can’t consume dairy products, there are soy based yogurts available for purchase now.

Fermented foods such as pickles, sauerkraut, kefir (fermented milk), Kimchi (Asian pickled cabbage), miso (a fermented paste used in many Asian soup, tempeh (similar to tofu but only it’s fermented soybeans), and my personal favorite drink, kombucha!  This is a fermented tea full of probiotics.  Try hibiscus kombucha-my personal fave!  I love it and make my own.

Cottage cheese and parmesan cheese are fermented and have great probiotic benefits.

Your gut bacteria feeds on fiber so be sure to consume lots of high fiber fruits and vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts and whole grain carbs.  These include avocados, pears, strawberries, apples, bananas, raspberries, beets, carrots, broccoli, artichokes, sweet potato and brussels sprouts.  High fiber beans and legumes like lentils, chick peas, split peas, black beans, edamame.  Popcorn, almonds, oats and chia seeds are also great high fiber foods.  Consider switching to whole grain bread vs white.

Prebiotic rich foods include asparagus, garlic, onions, leeks, bananas, Jerusalem artichoke, dandelion greens, apples, oats, barley, cocoa, flax seeds, and wheat bran.  These foods help feed the good gut bacteria you already have.

One of the best ways to maintain gut health is to combine a good-quality probiotic supplement with your diet and take it on a daily basis. It’s important to note, not only do you want a large quantity of good gut bacteria, it’s important to have a wide variety of bacteria as well.  You will likely see the term “strains” of bacteria.  Each strain has different health benefits and contributes to good gut health.  Choose a probiotic high in quantity and strains of bacteria.

Foods to limit or mostly avoid:

  • All sugars and refined foods made from flour, including processed foods.
  • High fat meats and fried food, sorry, even French fries!
  • Chilli peppers, which give chronic heartburn and negatively affect IBS.
  • Alcohol, which is full of sugar and high in acid.
  • Caffeine rich drinks like tea and coffee, sodas and energy drinks. Opt for decaf if you do want to have coffee – and no sugar of course!
  • The lactose intolerant folks must also avoid full-fat dairy products which will aggravate the bowel and cause inflammation.

You can cure yourself of many ailments which affect your daily life. The power of probiotics and a healthy diet rooted in gut healthy foods can make this possible and can help restore your health from the inside out.

In addition to eating gut healthy foods, it’s very important to manage your stress for better gut health.

Studies show that there is a 2 way street between stress and gut health. Chronic stress reduces the amount of good bacteria living in our gut and having low gut bacteria can cause us to feel more stress.  There is a gut/brain connection that we are only just beginning to understand.

If your lifestyle is stressful, take some steps to manage and reduce your stress for your gut’s sake!  Stress itself cannot cause stomach ulcers or chronic bowel disease but if are stressed by events in your life, it can cause the colon to react in a way which may at times give you diarrhea or constipation. 

Find ways to handle your stress and try to not pig out on junk foods to make yourself feel better. (we’ve all done it!)  Processed junk foods can negatively your gut health and cause other digestive diseases.  Too much junk food just makes everything in the gut so much worse.

So how’s YOUR gut health?  

Will you be consuming more gut healthy foods?  Do you currently take a probiotic?  Be sure to let us know in the Veggie Obsessed Facebook group.

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Hi, I'm Jodie!

Hey there my friend! My name is Jodie Crandall and I’m a veggie loving certified health and nutrition coach on a journey to spread the word about how amazing veggies are for our health!  I am a self-proclaimed “plant-based meat eater” who has recently lost almost 50 pounds by eating more veggies!

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