OK, so your intestines are probably not top of mind when thinking about your health. But they should be! Gut health is not to be ignored, because the state of your digestive system can have a huge impact on your overall wellbeing. Plus, tummy troubles bring on discomfort — sometimes extreme pain — and can affect your daily life in more ways than one.
Improving your gut health issues, however, may just be a matter of making a few changes to your diet. Consider these three tips:
1. Eat probiotics and prebiotics to maintain healthy microflora.
Your gut microflora, also known as intestinal microbiota, is a living community of microorganisms that are beneficial to your health. Microbiota play an important role in manufacturing vitamin K and some B vitamins. They can even support the immune system to help prevent and treat leaky gut.
Often gut microflora can get imbalanced, either through diet or through the repeated use of antibiotics. Unbalanced levels of microbiota have been linked to sugar cravings, bowel movement irregularity, and skin conditions like eczema. This imbalance can also lead to chronic inflammation and even autoimmune disorders.
One of the best ways to improve your gut microflora is by increasing your intake of probiotics and prebiotics. Probiotics are living bacteria and yeasts that can restore the composition of gut microflora. Lactobacillus is one of the most common groups of probiotics that can help reduce diarrhea; bifidobacterium is another group that may ease symptoms of IBS.
Food that contain probiotics:
- Yogurts (steer clear of the yogurts filled with added sugars)
- Tempeh (fermented soybeans)
- Kefir (a fermented drink)
- Kombucha tea (fermented tea)
- Kimchi (A Korean fermented vegetable dish)
- Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage)
Look for products that contain “live active cultures” or “probiotic cultures.”
In addition, eating prebiotics can help improve your gut microflora and promote the growth of probiotics.
Foods that contain prebiotics:
- Whole-wheat foods
Eating foods with probiotics and prebiotics can help to improve anyone’s digestive health, but these foods are especially helpful to those with digestive disorders such as IBS or IBD (inflammatory bowel disease).
2. Increase fiber to maintain regularity.
Bowel movements can tell you a lot about how your gut is working and your overall diet and nutrition. Being constipated can cause stomach pain and the straining/pushing can lead to hemorrhoids. And diarrhea is not to be ignored either! When things are moving too fast, you can’t absorb all the nutrients in your food.
Eating both soluble and insoluble fibers plays a role in maintaining healthy bowel habits. Insoluble fiber bulks up movements by helping push material along and speeds the passage of waste through your gut. Soluble fiber soaks up water and also bulks up your stool for easier removal.
Insoluble fiber sources:
- Fruit and vegetable skins
- Whole-wheat bread
- Brown rice
Soluble fiber sources:
- Psyllium fiber (dietary supplement)
Try eating several servings a day of fiber-rich foods to meet your daily recommended dose of (25g for women; 38g for men).
3. Pay attention to food sensitivities-avoid anti-inflammatory foods.
Other inflammatory foods include added sugars and highly refined carbohydrates, highly processed foods, and trans fats.
Incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into your diet provides important antioxidants and other phytonutrients that help decrease inflammation and strengthen your body’s immune system.
Anti-inflammatory foods include:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Foods with omega-3 fatty acids, such as wild salmon, sardines and nuts
- Spices like ginger, cinnamon and curry
Keep in mind that everybody is different. What may be inflammatory to you might be fine for someone else. If you have unresolved health issues or just don’t feel your best, try keeping a food diary that tracks what you eat, along with your symptoms. And if your health issues remain unresolved, consider seeking out a certified dietitian who can test specific foods for intolerances and sensitivities.
Gut health issues are more common than you may think, but in many cases, making a few simple diet changes is all that’s needed to feel better.
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Note: PLEASE consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or medications. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only, and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.