That Gut feeling: What to Eat for a Healthy Gut
We all know eating well is important, but what if I told you that every food choice you make is either helping – or harming, the 100 trillion bacteria that call your intestines home. Called the microbiome, this vibrant community of microscopic organisms is now the focus of cutting-edge science, which is exploring how the microbes in out gut influence every aspect of our physiology, including the activity of every brain cell.
Just what do your gut bugs do you for? For starters, they aid in digestion and the absorption of nutrients. They support the immune system and the body’s detoxification systems. They produce and release important enzymes and substances that collaborate with your biology, as well as making brain chemicals like serotonin, the “feel good” transmitter. They keep the gut wall from becoming ‘leaky’ or permeable (a cause of inflammation). We now fully embrace the notion that depression is an inflammatory disorder, and that this inflammation is mediated by gut bacteria. Put simply, your microbiome influences practically everything about your health, including how you feel both emotionally and physically.
What you eat is arguably the most powerful way to promote the health and diversity of your microbiome, determining whether or not your gut is populated by health-sustaining organisms or by bad bugs.
This is my dietary prescription for managing your intestinal bacteria:
Eat more prebiotic-rich foods
Prebiotics are indigestible fibre and they are the ingredients that good gut bacteria use as fuel to nourish their own growth and activity, so they can do their job keeping their host (that’s you!) healthy. Prebiotics occur naturally in a variety of foods, and some of the richest sources include garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, chicory, Jerusalem artichoke and dandelion greens. Foods high in prebiotics have been a part of the human diet since prehistoric times. It has been estimated that the typical hunter-gatherer consumed as much as 135g of inulin, a type of prebiotic fibre, daily. Most of us don’t get anywhere near enough prebiotics, so you should try to add them to your daily menu. I recommend two servings of prebiotic-rich foods each day.
Enjoy fermented foods daily
You can get your probiotics (or beneficial bacteria) from a broad spectrum supplement, but I’d also suggest consuming whole, natural fermented foods daily. These foods are naturally rich in probiotics, making them exceptionally bioavailable, or more easily accepted by your body. Long before probiotics became available in capsules, people enjoyed the health benefits of fermented foods – in fact evidence suggests that humans have been fermenting foods for at least the last 7,000 years. Try making the following probiotic-rich fermented foods part of your regular diet, enjoying them as a side dish or a condiment once or twice a day.
* Yogurt with live cultures (or coconut yoghurt)
* Kefir, a fermented drink made from milk or coconut milk
* Kombucha, a fizzy, fermented black or green tea
* Kimchi, a traditional Korean dish made from cabbage
* Pickled fruits and vegetables
* Fermented meat, fish and eggs
Boost your healthy fats, reduce your carbs
I believe the optimal eating plan for a healthy gut and for overall health is a low-carb diet that’s devoid of simple sugars, gluten-containing grains and flours, and is rich in healthy fats as well as prebiotic fibre. By healthy fats, I mean extra virgin olive oil, coconut and sesame oil, butter, and the natural fats found in cold-water wild fish, grass-fed meat, poultry, and pork, eggs, avocados, nuts and seeds. This particular diet supplies the ingredients to nourish not only healthy biology – and in turn a healthy microbiome – but also a healthy brain. A low-carb diet is a diet that keeps blood sugar balanced and gut bacteria balanced. Ultimately, our gut microorganisms are our body’s best friends, so let’s do our best to take care of them.
Dr David Perlmutter
Dr David Perlmutter will be visiting Australia from 22-24 April to educate health care practitioners on the gut-brain connection at the 4th BioCeuticals Research Symposium.
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