Whether it’s large, greasy burgers or chocolate-covered sweets, we all have our occasional food cravings. While these foods can be satisfying in the moment, giving in to your cravings too often can contribute to growing health issues, including gut issues. Let’s take a closer look at the importance of gut health and how you can choose better foods for your gut.
The Importance of Gut Health and Bacteria
Your digestive system is home to a diverse microbiome of bacteria and yeasts. These microbes populate your entire digestive tract and, in women, the vaginal tract, but most of these bacteria congregate in the intestines.
While that may seem alarming, the human gut flora has actually been found to fulfill a variety of important roles in nearly all aspects of human health. Most obviously, they have been found to assist in the digestion, breakdown, and absorption of foods, even playing a role in synthesizing certain vitamins and minerals.
Along with its role in digestion, your gut bacteria also help your general gut health. Overactive immune responses are known to result in chronic inflammation, leading to intestinal problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). This may come as a result of dysbiosis, a state of imbalance between the good and bad bacteria in your gut.
Dysbiosis may also contribute to a leaky gut, which is characterized by abnormally large gaps in the tight junctions of the intestinal lining. This results in food particles, bacteria, and toxins passing from your intestines, directly into your bloodstream, potentially contributing to unhealthy immune responses, illnesses, and nutrient deficiencies.
Maintaining a healthy gut may also play a role in your mental health. Recent studies describe the existence of the gut-brain axis, a bidirectional signaling pathway between the gut and the central nervous system. This suggests a link between dysbiosis, gastrointestinal problems, and certain central nervous system and mood disorders (i.e., depression, anxiety).
The Best Foods for Gut Health
While the state of your gut and gut bacteria depends on a variety of factors, food and drink tend to have the most significant effect. Take a look at some of the best foods for your gut below.
High-Fiber Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are packed with essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other healthy bioactives, while remaining generally low in calories and fat. Many fruits and veggies also happen to be high in dietary fiber, a component that is important to overall digestive health. Dietary fiber is essentially plant material that is indigestible by the human stomach, but it adds bulk to your stools, helping you stay regular. In terms of gut health, dietary fiber is considered a prebiotic that feeds your gut bacteria to increase their numbers.
Fiber can be found in numerous fruits and vegetables, including:
- Dark, leafy greens
Most experts recommend a daily intake of 20 to 25 grams of fiber.
Fermented foods tend to be probiotic-rich, meaning they feature plenty of diverse bacteria that can add to the existing bacteria of your gut. Some common fermented, probiotic-rich foods you can eat include:
Along with or in lieu of these fermented foods, you can also take probiotic supplements to support your gut bacteria populations.
Cruciferous vegetables refer to veggies belonging to the Brassicaceae. Along with a healthy dose of fiber, cruciferous vegetables are dense in nutrients and antioxidants. These veggies also contain a compound known as sulforaphane. Studies have found that sulforaphane may enhance antioxidant systems while actually inhibiting the overgrowth of bad gut bacteria and normalizing overall gut bacteria. Cruciferous vegetables include:
- Brussels sprouts
Foods to Avoid
For better gut health, you should also avoid these common foods.
You are probably well-aware of the health issues that alcohol may present, but it may also harm your gut bacteria. Studies suggest that chronic alcohol consumption may alter the composition of your gut microbiota, contributing to greater inflammation and increased endotoxemia.
Sweets can be hard to pass up, but sugar may be doing more harm than you think. Sugar, particularly refined sugars, feeds the bad bacteria in your gut, allowing them to grow out of control. Studies have also found that high-sugar diets may actually alter the gut flora and impair the hippocampus, resulting in potential mood and memory issues. Mouse studies have found that diets high in fructose actually inhibited the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.
Granted, this does not mean you should necessarily cut out all of the sugars in your diet. Most fruits, for instance, contain naturally occurring sugars, and the nutritional content of fruits far outweighs the sugar content. More harmful are the refined sugars and artificial sweeteners added to processed foods.
The biggest culprit to bad gut health (and bad health in general) are processed foods. These are foods that are high in refined sugar, additives, and calories while lacking fiber or any real nutrients. Processed foods were found to actively impair gut microbes while providing zero nourishment to help gut microbes flourish.
Unfortunately, processed foods also tend to be the most easily accessible and tastiest to the palate. The key is to eat more whole foods without any added sugars, sodium, or preservatives.
Feeding your gut may seem difficult at first, but it often comes down to simple rules that you have probably heard plenty of times: eat more fruits and vegetables, cut down on processed foods. Also, avoid sugar and artificial sweeteners for 30 days – just about the amount of time needed to kick the sugar habit. For supplements that may help your gut health, like Colostrum-LD, visit Sovereign Laboratories today.