What to Eat To Improve Your Gut Health

What to Eat To Improve Your Gut Health

What to Eat To Improve Your Gut Health

Home to the densest population of microbes in the human body, the gut plays an important role in immune health, mental health, and overall wellness. Leaky gut and other digestive 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 help 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 (barrier) of the 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 the bloodstream.

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 mood issues; at the same time, mental health concerns 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.

Eating for a Healthy Gut

Aside from the bacteria passed to you via a vaginal birth and during early life, your gut microbiome is dictated by the things you put in your mouth. Eating the right foods consistently can help heal your gut and regulate the balance of good and bad bacteria within the gut, while the wrong foods may further affect 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 astoundingly low in fiber. Fiber is integral to gut health. Composed 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.

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.

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 commonly found in:

  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Oats
  • Carrots
  • Barley
  • Psyllium

Insoluble fiber can be found in:

  • Whole wheat
  • Nuts
  • Green beans
  • Potatoes
  • Cauliflower

Women need about 25 grams of fiber per day, while men need about 38 grams of fiber per day.
Most experts recommend a daily intake of 20 to 25 grams of fiber.


Found in fermented foods, probiotic-rich foods are imbued with the healthy bacteria; this means that they contain plenty of diverse bacteria strains that can add to the existing bacteria in your gut. Where fiber can help your existing gut bacteria grow and thrive, probiotic foods and supplements can add more of that good bacteria. Probiotic foods should be naturally fermented and not exposed to high heat (i.e., super-pasteurization) which destroys the bacteria.

Along with or in lieu of these fermented foods, you can also take probiotic supplements to support your gut bacteria populations.

You can easily find a wide range of probiotic-rich foods, including:

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Kimchi
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kombucha
  • Tempeh


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 study in athletes found that oral supplementation of colostrum effectively decreased intestinal permeability and concentrations of zonulin (a protein that modulates intestinal permeability).

Foods to Avoid:

You are probably well-aware of the health issues that alcohol consumption may present, but it may also harm your gut bacteria. Studies suggest that chronic alcohol consumption may alter the composition of the gut microbiota.

Refined Sugar
Sweets might 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.

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.

Changing your diet to feed your good gut bacteria 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 nutritional supplements that may help support gut health, try liposomal bovine colostrum.

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:

  • Consistently getting restful sleep, about 8 hours per night
  • Maintaining a regular exercise routine
  • Quitting smoking
  • Finding ways to reduce your everyday stress

A damaged gut lining and imbalance of gut bacteria can cause some significant problems to your health and well-being, but with the right foods, you can steadily improve the health of your gut. A daily supplement such as liposomal bovine colostrum is a great place to start.