By: Shannon Costello, RDN
Our gut can talk and it has a lot to say! It tells us how our body is responding to internal conditions (like inflammation) and external stimuli (like our diet). The human body is home to up to 100 trillion different microbes (different types of bacteria) with most of them living in the gut. That’s about 3-5 pounds of microbes along the digestive tract alone! Starting at birth, these microbes continue to develop throughout our lifespan influencing our overall physiology, behavior, immunity, and ability to use nutrients.
The microbiome does so much for our overall health. It is involved in making amino acids (the building blocks of protein) and vitamins such as the B-vitamins. It breaks down non-digestible carbohydrates for us (a.k.a. fiber). It produces the healthy fats known as short-chain fatty acids and it is constantly talking to our immune system. In other words, the status of our gut health can affect metabolism, inflammation, the ability to fight infections, the absorption of foods and the ability to produce key nutrients. So, I would say the gut is a pretty big deal! Agreed?
Diet and lifestyle have the biggest impact on our gut. What we eat and drink and what we do throughout the day can change our belly which can affect our mood, energy levels, ability to sleep, and even the thoughts we produce! This includes stress. Stress can cause major disruptions in our gut microbiome. Want a healthier gut? Practice limiting stress and choosing foods that encourage “good” gut bacteria. Here are some important yet simple tips to get started:
- Eat more whole-foods. Foods that contain artificial ingredients, chemicals, preservatives or excessive sugar or fat can disrupt the gut. Whole foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains, provide the “good” bacteria the necessary nutrients to stay energized in order to fight off “bad” bacteria.
- Power up with plants. Plant foods are naturally rich in fiber, which your gut bacteria loves. Fiber also helps promote a healthy bowel regimen to get rid of toxins and unwanted materials in the gut.
- Lead with prebiotics. Prebiotics are non-digestible foods from different types of fiber. They feed the probiotics and are found in foods such as onion, garlic, artichokes, bananas, asparagus, and leeks.
- Consider probiotic foods. Probiotics are in themselves healthy bacteria that can help replenish “good” bacteria in the gut. Think of foods first before choosing a supplement with your doctor or dietitian. Try probiotics like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut.
- Avoid refined sugars. Most sources of sugar, whether natural or processed, feed the “bad” bacteria in the gut and are linked to complications like obesity and other poor health conditions. Limit overall sugar intake. When treating your sweet tooth, look for natural sources from fruit that also contain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
- Practice self- Give your body time to rest and heal. Set boundaries around your work and social lives. Build healthy relationships with those you love. And move every day!
So, who’s with me on this journey to a glowing gut? What are some of your favorite ways to nurture your gut? Connect with us @wedishnutrition as we would love to share them with our community!
1. Shreiner, A. B., Kao, J. Y., & Young, V. B. (2015, January). The gut microbiome in health and in disease.
2. Guinane, C. M., & Cotter, P. D. (2013, July). Role of the gut microbiota in health and chronic gastrointestinal disease: understanding a hidden metabolic organ.
3. Holscher, H. D. (2017). Dietary fiber and prebiotics and the gastrointestinal microbiota.
4. Hill, M. (2018, March 12). The Gut Microbiome & Why You Need to Nurture It. Retrieved March 15, 2018, from https://nutritionstripped.com/gut-microbiome/