Why is gut health so important? And what are the best foods for gut health? Get answers so you can heal your gut, stay regular, and achieve good health.
When someone suggests you should “go with your gut” — they’re more right than you probably realize.
Thanks to a whopping 40 trillion bacteria perpetually hard at work, your gut helps power your entire body.
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 (known as the “second brain”) 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.
Good ‘Gut Bugs’ and How to Get Them
Positive bacteria are often called healthy “gut bugs.”
Good gut bugs help your body digest and absorb nutrients, synthesize certain vitamins, and rally against intruders, such as the flu and toxic-forming carcinogens.
In the wise words of David Perlmutter, MD: “A healthy microbiome translates into a healthy human.”
So how can you keep your digestive system feeling good and functioning optimally? What are the best foods for gut health? Think fiber, fermentation, and nutrient-dense foods.
How The Foods You Eat Help (Or Hurt) 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 published in the journal The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society found that vegetables, grains, and beans fed a positive gut environment. But meat, junk food, dairy, and eggs fed a negative gut environment.
Probiotics and Prebiotics: Two Gut-Healthy Compounds
These two terms — probiotics and prebiotics — are becoming more widely known, so you’ve probably heard them.
Probiotics are beneficial good gut bugs. And prebiotics are food for these bacteria.
You can get both probiotics and prebiotics by eating the right foods.
Probiotics are found in fermented foods, as well as in some supplements. And prebiotics are found in certain fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The most central prebiotic of all is fiber.
The Fabulousness of Fiber: Why It’s Critical for Gut Health
While people tend to get up in arms about protein consumption, there’s another nutrient that’s 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 we’ve been talking about, so it’s vital to eat fiber-rich foods as often as possible.
Our microbes extract the fiber’s energy, nutrients, and vitamins, including short-chain fatty acids, which can improve immune function, decrease inflammation, and protect against obesity.
Cleanse Your System
There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fiber helps lower blood glucose levels and LDL cholesterol. You can find it in oatmeal, legumes, and some fruits and veggies.
Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, offers more of a cleansing effect on your digestive environment. Find it in whole grains, kidney beans, and in fruits and veggies, too.
Fiber Helps Prevent One of The Most Common Gut Disorders
Fiber also plays a role in one of the most common digestive illnesses worldwide: diverticulitis (aka inflammation of the intestine).
According to a 1998 study published in The Journal of Nutrition, eating insoluble fiber-rich foods has been found to reduce the risk of diverticulitis by an impressive 40%. -Food Revolution