Home to the densest population of microbes in the human body, the gut plays an important role in immunities, mental health, and overall wellness. Leaky gut and other problems can prevent the gut from functioning as it should. Fortunately, the gut has the ability to heal itself, but it needs some help from you and the foods you eat. Read on to learn more about what to eat to heal your gut.
The Importance of Gut Health
Your gut, which generally refers to your intestines, is integral to several components of your health. Foremost, the gut is the part of the digestive system which helps break down food, absorb nutrients, and remove any waste products.
The lining of your intestines consists of tight junctions through which vitamins, minerals, other nutrients, and water can pass into the bloodstream and spread throughout the rest of the body. In a healthy gut, the intestinal walls prevent waste products, undigested food particles, and toxins from passing through these junctions. Leaky gut is characterized by increased intestinal permeability, which allows harmful substances into your bloodstream, potentially resulting in widespread inflammation that may contribute to chronic digestive issues and autoimmune conditions.
Ongoing studies also suggest an innate connection between the gut and the brain, known as the gut-brain axis. This bidirectional link suggests that dysbiosis (imbalance in gut microbiota) and other issues within the gut can contribute to mental health issues; at the same time, mental health issues originating in the brain may cause problems in the gastrointestinal tract. While this connection requires further study, science has shown that gastrointestinal problems are a frequent symptom of those who suffer with depression. Furthermore, a variety of important neurotransmitters, like serotonin and GABA, are produced within the gut, and a compromised gut can interfere with the neurotransmitters that affect mood.
What to Eat for a Healing Gut
Outside of the bacteria passed to you at birth and during early life, your gut microbiome is dictated by the things you put in your mouth. Eating the right foods can help to heal your gut and regulate the balance of bacteria in your gut, while the wrong foods may further hurt your gut and gastrointestinal tract. Take a look at some of the best foods to help your gut stay healthy.
Fiber is known to help with digestion and regular bowel movements, but the average American diet is sadly low in fiber. Fiber is integral to your gut health. Comprised of mainly plant material, fiber is not digestible the way that other foods are. Fiber does not get broken down by stomach acids, which allows it to travel all the way to the colon, where most of your gut bacteria reside. The gut bacteria feed on the fiber, which contributes to their growth and diversity. The more beneficial bacteria you have in your gut, the thicker the mucus wall and intestinal lining, creating an improved barrier.
Fiber comes in two forms: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, turning into a gel-like substance in the large intestine, while insoluble fiber remains relatively intact as it passes through the gastrointestinal tract. Both forms of fiber may present important benefits to your gut bacteria and your overall health.
Soluble fiber is more commonly found in:
Insoluble fiber can be found in:
- Whole wheat
- Green beans
Women need about 25 grams of fiber per day, while men need about 38 grams of fiber per day.
Found in fermented foods, probiotic-rich foods are imbued with the healthy bacteria that your gut needs. Where fiber can help your existing gut bacteria grow and thrive, probiotic foods and supplements can add more of that good bacteria to your gut. Probiotic foods should be naturally fermented and not exposed to high heat (i.e., super-pasteurization) which destroys the bacteria.
You can easily find a wide range of probiotic-rich foods, including:
Colostrum is a nutrient-rich substance referred to as “pre-milk” that contains a dense combination of macro- and micronutrients, including lactoferrin, antibodies, and growth factors. While more research is necessary, colostrum has been shown in several studies to contribute to healthy gut function. In a pilot study on colostrum supplementation for gut health, a combination of colostrum and probiotic supplementation was found to reduce the frequency of certain gastrointestinal symptoms and improvements to microbiota and intestinal barriers. Another studyin athletes found that oral supplementation of colostrum effectively decreased intestinal permeability and concentrations of zonulin (a protein that modulates intestinal permeability).
Foods to Avoid
Most of the foods that are bad for healing your gut are bad for your health in general. This includes overly processed foods and foods high in trans fats. Foods high in refined sugarmay also harm the gut by slowing down gastrointestinal motility and directly harming your gut bacteria.
If your gut is damaged, you may also want to reconsider using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). According to studies, these common pain relief medications, the most common of which is ibuprofen, may harm gut flora, resulting in dysbiosis and potentially increasing intestinal permeability. Ask your physician before starting or stopping any medication he/she has recommended for you.
Improving Gut Health Through Lifestyle
While the foods you eat have the most significant impact on healing your gut, small changes to your lifestyle can also help your gut heal. This includes:
- Getting a healthy night of sleep comprising about 8 hours per night
- Maintaining a regular exercise routine
- Quitting smoking
- Finding ways to reduce your everyday stress
A damaged gut can cause some significant problems to your health and wellbeing, but with the right foods, you can steadily improve the health of your gut. Supplements like Colostrum-LD® are a great place to start. Visit Sovereign Laboratories to learn more.