Let us tell you one secret to gut health – it is taking care of the healthy gut bacteria. These not only help break down the foods you eat but even aid optimal nutrition absorption and eliminate toxins. When your gut flora is in trouble, you are in trouble. So, how do you avert it? We have prepared a list of foods to eat (and not eat) to ensure your gut functions at its best. Read on.
What Are The Foods That Restore Gut Health?
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Studies have shown how vinegar can help reduce the growth of Staphylococcus aureus, which are unhealthy bacteria that cause inflammatory conditions like leaky gut (1).
Apple cider vinegar also has antiviral, anti-yeast, and antifungal properties – all of which support the gut microbiome and improve the overall gut health. ACV is also known to treat heartburn and indigestion.
2. Bone Broth
Gelatin is a critical constituent of bone broth, which plays a role in improving the strength of the gut lining. This ultimately contributes to the health of probiotics and gut health. Studies show how gelatin supports the health and integrity of the intestines (2).
Kombucha undergoes fermentation, and this means the beverage is rich in probiotics (3). The tea is also rich in antioxidants, which fight free radicals and protect the digestive system. And some research also shows how it can heal stomach ulcers (4).
Yogurt (and most yogurt products) contains live strains of the healthy bacteria found in the digestive system (5). This helps boost your overall digestive health. Just a quick tip – look for the phrase “live active cultures” on the label before you buy yogurt.
Also, did you know that your gut contains about 100 trillion bacteria? That is about 10 times the number of cells in your body. This only stresses the importance of improving the quality of your gut bacteria (6).
5. Jerusalem Artichokes
These artichokes are some of the finest sources of indigestible fibers – which feed the good bacteria in the gut. One of the important fibers in Jerusalem artichokes is inulin, which ferments into healthy bacteria in the colon.
But ensure you start taking these artichokes gradually as people with sensitive digestive systems might experience issues.
This Korean food also contains tons of gut-friendly bacteria. Also, the longer kimchi ferments, the more the probiotics. Studies show how repopulating the gastrointestinal tract with the good bacteria can prevent several related issues (7).
7. Potato Starch
This is the resistant starch that is also often termed ‘gut superfood.’ Resistant starch works like soluble and fermentable fiber. It travels through the stomach and small intestine undigested, and as it reaches the colon, it feeds the friendly bacteria and boosts gut health (8).
8. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil destroys bad bacteria and candida, thereby improving gut health. In fact, candida imbalance has been found to decrease stomach acid, leading to inflammation and indigestion.
Sauerkraut is nothing but fermented cabbage leaves. The bacteria on the surface of the leaves ferment the veggie’s natural sugars, and the result is sauerkraut. It contains live probiotics that improve digestive health.
Sauerkraut helps treat leaky gut syndrome, ulcerative colitis, and IBS.
Though not a probiotic, honey can serve as a prebiotic. Some studies have found that consuming prebiotics can help increase the levels of healthy bacteria in the gut.
Studies also show how replacing sugars in our food with honey can improve the health of gut microflora (9).
This is especially true with green bananas. They are rich in resistant starch, which is a prebiotic. They also contain a combination of soluble and insoluble fibers. And like we saw, resistant starch feeds the beneficial gut bacteria.
12. Red Wine
Research has shown that taking red wine (in moderation, of course) can help improve the health of the intestinal lining (10).
Beans, or any legume for that matter, help release short-chain fatty acids that strengthen intestinal cells. They also enhance nutrient absorption. Beans also contain high amounts of fiber that nourishes the gut bacteria.
Research shows how beans also improve gut health by enhancing intestinal barrier function (11).
Turmeric helps prevent the overproduction of bile and acid, and this also helps in the production of beneficial gut bacteria. The other antioxidants in the spice help digestion and ease stomach cramps.
Kefir is rich in probiotics, and we know how these help boost gut health. They also relieve an upset stomach (12).
Broccoli has shown to improve the symptoms of leaky gut, which happens when the intestinal barrier is compromised. Broccoli contains fiber, which is another reason it can do good to your gut.
Some studies show that the anthocyanins in blueberries can diversify gut bacteria and improve gut health.
A cup of blueberries also contains 3.6 grams of fiber, which promote regularity and support digestion.
Garlic can act as a prebiotic, and this helps boost the health of gut bacteria. But it is also high in fructans, which is why we recommend people with IBS avoid it – as they might have difficulty in digesting garlic.
Being a prebiotic also makes garlic an important food for gut probiotics to thrive. The prebiotics in garlic are indigestible and hence remain in the intestine, and the existing probiotics can use these as food. A symbiotic relationship!
More interestingly, raw garlic contains inulin and fructooligosaccharides (don’t bother about the pronunciation) that also boost gut microflora (13).
19. Dark Chocolate
Studies show that intake of cocoa (which is what dark chocolate is made of) can improve the health of the friendly bacteria in the gut. Though more research is needed, this sure is a step in the right direction.
What is even more interesting is the fact the gut microbes, in turn, unlock dark chocolate’s anti-inflammatory properties (14).
An interesting study reveals that the gut microbes ferment fiber from coffee, thereby producing beneficial compounds that, in turn, boost gut health (15).
Compared to other tropical fruits, mangoes offer the highest amount of dietary fiber. As we saw, fiber can cut the risk of gastrointestinal issues and promote gut health.
Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids boost the diversity of the gut bacteria, and this improves the overall digestive health.
The omega-3s in salmon also fight gut inflammation and heal any inflammatory disorders.
This is another fermented beverage known for its impressive probiotic content. This helps improve the health of the digestive tract, in addition to preventing gut issues.
Fermented pickles are rich in probiotics, and these can boost gut health. And not just that – some studies show that healthy gut microflora can even cut the risk of colorectal cancer (16).
Well, these are the foods that you can regularly take to ensure your gut is functioning at its absolute best. But there is something else you need to know – and that is the list of foods that can harm your gut.
What To Avoid For A Healthy Gut
The wheat that we consume today is not the same as what our parents had. Today’s wheat is hybridized – it contains specific artificial proteins that cause inflammatory responses and often lead to gluten intolerance. Which is why you need to avoid gluten to protect your gut, especially if you are intolerant to it.
This includes white and brown sugars, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, and processed foods too (like fried foods) as they contain trans fats that can change the functioning of gut bacteria. All of these disrupt the microbial balance inside your gut. Sugar also feeds fungus like Candida albicans, which perforates the gut and attacks the intestinal walls.
Regular antibiotic use kills the gut microbiota. This is because most antibiotics can’t differentiate between healthy and unhealthy bacteria. They attack anything that comes in their line of sight, and some of the collateral damage happens to the strains of the beneficial gut bacteria.
4. Red Meat
Red meat contains high amounts of trimethylamine-N-oxide, which is a chemical known to change the gut bacteria species for the worse. This also holds true for other meat products.
Soda is a big no. Soda, especially the one that is sweetened with sugar, contains loads of simple carbohydrates that reduce the diversity of gut bacteria. This can create problems in the long run.
Taking care of your gut is simple. A few changes in your diet, and you are good to go. If your gut is functioning well, it simply means your entire system is functioning well.
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