Why Is Gut Health So Important?
Your gut is composed of a host of microbes which affect your body and brain in a variety of ways – from the way you store fat and how you balance levels of glucose in your blood to how you respond to hormones.
A bad mix of gut bacteria and you’ll be in a world of hurt – it can lead to obesity and other health issues later in life.
Researchers have found that gut bacteria produce neurotransmitters which regulate your mood including chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and GABA.
Scientists have also discovered that a nervous system in your gut (as they called it the “second brain”) is connected to your actual brain. It has an impact on specific diseases and your mental health.
In other words, the health and well-being of both your body and brain depend on your gut health.
How Does Your Diet Help (Or Hurt) Your Gut?
What you eat and drink determines whether or not you will maintain your microbiome at its healthiest level.
The internal environment of your gut is created by the foods you choose to eat.
I have good news for you – it doesn’t matter what you have eaten until now. As far as your microbes are concerned, even a lifetime of bad eating is fixable, because your body can create new bacteria in as little as 24 hours – just by changing your eating habits.
What you eat determines your gut health. Moreover, researches tell us that the good gut bacteria gets stronger when fed colorful, plant-based foods.
A study in the journal “The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society” published in 2014 found that vegetables, grains, and beans create a positive gut environment. However, meat, junk food, dairy, and eggs form a bad one.
The Two Compounds of the Healthy Gut
Probiotics and prebiotics – you have probably heard these two terms as they are becoming more widely known in the fitness community, and outside of it.
Probiotics are the good gut bacteria, and prebiotics is their food.
You can give them to your body by making the right food choices.
You can find probiotics in fermented foods, as well as in some food supplements. Also, the prebiotics you can find in certain fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The most central prebiotic of all is fiber.
Why Is Fiber So Critical To Gut Health?
While most fitness people tend to get up in arms about their protein consumption, there’s another nutrient which is more worrisome as far as the risk of deficiency – fiber.
97% of Americans get at least the recommended amount of protein of protein, but only about 3% of all Americans get the recommended 40 grams of fiber they need per day. Also, remember, fiber is the most crucial ingredient for maintaining great gut health.
Fiber feeds the good bugs we’ve been talking about, so it’s vital to eat fiber-rich foods regularly.
The bacteria in our gut extract the fiber’s energy, nutrients, and vitamins, including short-chain fatty acids, which improve immune function, decrease inflammation, and protect against obesity.
There are two types of fiber – soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fiber balances blood glucose levels and LDL cholesterol. You can easily find it in oatmeal, legumes, and some fruits and veggies.
On the other hand, the insoluble fiber has more of a cleansing effect on your digestive environment. You can find it in whole grains, kidney beans, and in fruits and veggies, too.
Foods That Do More Harm Than Good
The first thing you should do to heal your gut is to remove all foods which make you feel sick and zapped of energy.
Be warned: Many of these foods sometimes hide in the ingredients used in prepackaged products. Make sure you read the label and stick with whole, unprocessed foods, whenever it’s possible.
Now let’s take a look at the foods which hurt your overall gut health:
Despite the common belief, milk isn’t necessarily good for your body. For a ton of people, the two proteins in milk (casein and whey) are hard to digest and can cause problems. People who lack sufficient quantity of the enzyme lactase to break down the lactose in milk can experience symptoms like gas, bloating, and diarrhea as gut bacteria ferment this sugar instead.
Unfortunately, for many people, gluten poses a real problem. Researches have found that up to 30% of all Americans are sensitive to gluten – and most of them have no idea! Science shows going on a gluten-free diet lowers inflammation and insulin resistance while helping people lose weight.
Over 90% of the soy mass-produced in the USA is genetically modified (GMO). Studies show Glyphosate (an active ingredient in soy products) lead to dysbiosis and then leaky gut. It also blocks the production of essential amino acids – phenylalanine, tyrosine, and tryptophan, which are needed by the body.
Same as soy, over 90% of the corn grown in the United States is genetically modified. Corn sensitivity could result in all sorts of reactions, similar to those from gluten and other food allergens. The most common are eczema and hives.
Many people develop sensitivity to egg yolk, egg white, or both. The problem comes from the simple fact that most commercial eggs come from hens fed an unnatural diet of soy and corn. Eating these eggs means that you are consuming these anti-nutrients indirectly. If you still want to eat eggs, look for organic ones from cage-free hens fed natural chickens.
- Lectins and phytates
You can find these anti-nutrients in all gluten-containing grains. You can also find them in beans and some vegetables like tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, potatoes, and corn. Lectins make it hard for your body to digest larger food particles. On the other hand, phytates interfere with the absorption of essential minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, copper.
Tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, bell peppers, sweet and hot peppers all are part of the nightshade family. They produce alkaloids, which can be toxic to humans in large amounts. Common nightshades don’t have enough of them to be deadly, yet some people are sensitive to even tiny amounts. For these people even cooking the nightshades can create problems. Nightshades can be much trouble for people who suffer from arthritic conditions or autoimmune disorders.
Any form of sugar, including refined carbohydrates, high-fructose corn syrup, monk fruit, and coconut sugar, poses a risk to your gut. Sugar creates chaos in your stomach, as it feeds the bad bugs, creates dysbiosis and leads to yeast overgrowth. Most people are not aware of the liquid sugar in the sweeteners and alcoholic beverages. If you want to be healthy long-term, you have to keep your sugar intake in moderation.
Foods That Make Your Gut Healthy!
Probiotics make your GI system function in top shape. The healthy microbiome may help the body to reduce inflammation, a risk factor involved in different illnesses from colds, cancer to heart disease and cognitive decline. The bacteria can also help the body burn body fat and reduce insulin resistance. So to stay slim and healthy, start adding more probiotic foods to your diet.
Let’s begin with these:
The most famous probiotic food. Whether you love Greek or regular, high or low fat, look for the phrase “live active cultures” on the label. You should aim for fewer than 15 grams of sugar per serving, remember the sweet stuff feeds the bad bugs in your gut.
- Miso paste
You can choose varieties of miso paste (white, yellow, red, brown). It’s a great way to add some good flavor, protein, fiber and vitamin K into your diet. Miso is also very high in sodium. One teaspoon has 21% of the daily recommended limit and 32% of the daily limit for those with high blood pressure.
Not all pickles contain good bacteria. Look with those made with brine rather than vinegar. It should have the phrase “live cultures” on the label. Just remember that pickles are salty. One dill offers more than 10% of your sodium needs in a day.
- Kombucha tea
The tea gets its natural carbonation for a bacteria and yeast which ferment the drink and creates the probiotics. It’s another excellent way to introduce live, active bacteria into your lifestyle. Before you buy always read the label to see what you’re getting. Some are made with fruit juice for flavor. It’s better to purchase kombucha from the store because the homebrewed one has been linked to nausea and even toxicity. Also due to the fermentation process, kombucha contains trace amounts of alcohol, so it’s best to drink one bottle a day.
Many brands have pumped up desserts by adding probiotics. May sound crazy, but it’s science backed. There is one study in the International Journal of Food Microbiology which found that the probiotics added to chocolate colonize the gut with healthy bacteria.
To conclude, maintaining a healthy gut environment is one of the most overlooked steps when it comes to creating a diet that supports your fitness and lifestyle goals.
Always strive to get enough fiber, feed the good bugs, and you’ll have no problem keeping your gut happy, which in turn will enhance your mood and keep you healthier than ever