Let’s talk about the gut.
It’s where all of the action happens, from absorbing nutrients to digesting food. But its role goes far beyond gastrointestinal health. When the gut isn’t healthy, it alerts your body in many ways:
- Upset stomach
- Food intolerances
- Skin irritation
- Unexplained weight gain
Research shows that in order to treat these symptoms, you must first tackle the root of the problem – the gut.
Keeping your gut healthy is the first step in overall wellness. We’re sharing everything you need to know about gut health, including three simple ways to improve your gut microbiome...with food!
Gut health 101
The average adult hosts about 100 trillion types of bacteria, both good and bad, inside their digestive tract. This is referred to as the gut microbiome, and everyone’s is unique. It plays many roles in your health, from metabolizing nutrients, to protecting you against infections. But research shows that’s just the beginning! Several studies show the connection between gut health and the immune system, mood, mental health, and skin health.
While some bacteria may be beneficial to your health, others can be harmful, especially when they multiply. Bad bacteria can influence the growth of certain diseases, such as IBS, Rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and many forms of cancer. So, how can you prevent an overload of “bad” bacteria? By diversifying your gut microbiome! According to research, having a diverse community of bacteria can help lower your risk of certain diseases.
This means you have to replenish and feed the good bacteria to keep your gut happy and healthy. Avoiding processed foods, artificial sweeteners, alcohol, fried foods, and foods treated with antibiotics (AKA animal meat), is your best bet in preventing harmful bacteria growth.
One study found that a diet high in fruits and veggies helped prevent the growth of disease-causing bacteria. In addition to fruits and veggies, increasing your intake of gut-healthy foods can improve your immune system, reduce inflammation, boost metabolism, and much more.
How to improve your gut health: 3 simple steps
1. Eat Prebiotics
Prebiotics are non-digestible substances that increase the growth of beneficial bacteria such as bifidobacteria and lactobacilli. Prebiotics also help to improve gut barrier function and host immunity, while reducing pathogenic bacteria. And although many people turn to prebiotic supplements, you can find natural prebiotics in many whole foods. Fruits, veggies, and whole grains contain prebiotics – such as bananas, asparagus, leeks, apples, oats, flaxseeds, garlic, and onions.
2. Eat Fermented Foods
Fermented foods such as vegan kimchi, tempeh, sauerkraut, miso, and kombucha (sugar-free) are rich in probiotics. Research shows that eating fermented foods can have positive effects on your gut microbiota, and help improve digestion. According to a recent study “probiotics are able to renew, restore, and grow affected tissues lining the digestive tract with beneficial microorganisms – neutralizing the harmful ones.” Pass the kombucha!
3. Eat Collagen-Boosting Foods
Think collagen only promotes younger-looking skin? Think again! There are plenty of reasons to add collagen to your diet, and improving gut health is one of them. Collagen helps build and maintain healthy connective tissue in your digestive tract. It also contains large amounts of amino acids glycine, glutamine, and proline – which can be beneficial to stomach health.
Increasing your intake of certain nutrients can help increase collagen production. Here are the top four nutrients to add to your diet:
- Vitamin C (found in acerola, citrus, yellow peppers, and strawberries)
- Proline (found in asparagus, mushrooms, and cabbage)
- Glycine (found in beans, nuts, and seeds)
- Copper (found in whole grains and chocolate)
Trust your gut
Think of your gut microbiome as a precious ecosystem – it requires multiple sources to thrive. The best way to maintain a healthy gut microbiome is by eating a wide range of fruits, veggies, fermented foods, and vitamins and minerals.
You can also improve your microbiome by getting more sleep and daily exercise. A healthy gut can contribute to multiple health benefits, such as a stronger immune system, improved mood, better sleep, healthier skin, and hormonal balance.