Do you want to take charge of your health and your life? Start with your gut. Many look to diet and exercise as ways to improve their health, but the fact is that healthy eating alone is not enough. Not all foods, even those considered healthy, are appropriate for everybody. Many have minor intolerances that aren’t life-threatening. Instead, their bodies react by bloating up, causing acne or other skin conditions, or even interfering with their mental health.
In short, if you have any of those minor intolerances, they are putting a lot of strain on your body and health, and you won’t even realize it. If you want to supercharge your diet in 2023, you need to focus first on improving your gut health and understanding what foods are heroes to your body and what ones are the sinister turncoats.
The Potential of Probiotics
Chances are, you’ve heard about probiotics as a good way to boost your gut health. These probiotics are actually live bacteria, but before you start to worry, know they’re the healthy kind that are a key component to the digestive process.
Bacteria are a critical part of the gut microbiome, which is made up of over 200 types of microorganisms. In fact, there are trillions of individual microorganisms in your digestive system right now, and they’re all working hard for the sake of your body. These organisms play a crucial role in your digestion, mental health, immune system, and more.
This ecosystem requires a very delicate balance, which can be interrupted by processed foods and refined sugars. If your gut is imbalanced, you’ll experience a range of health issues.
This is where probiotics come in. Probiotics help to increase the number of healthy bacteria in the gut. By improving their numbers, you can improve gut mobility. This means that foods can move more efficiently through your digestive tract to alleviate symptoms of conditions like constipation, diarrhea, and bloating.
Probiotics can also improve your immune system since they’ll help reduce inflammation in your body, which causes many issues in its own right and has been linked to many chronic conditions. There’s even a brain-to-gut link that means improving your diet can directly improve your mental health and help you better manage stress and anxiety.
All that, and that’s not even looking at those with chronic stomach issues like IBS, which is a common disorder that can cause abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea. Many have used probiotics to help ease their digestive issues and bring relief.
There are a few ways to incorporate probiotics into your diet. One option is to eat fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut, which are naturally rich in probiotics. If you want to know for a fact you’re giving your body what you need, however, a probiotic supplement is the way to go. You can even take an online probiotic quiz to help you choose the right product for your needs and goals.
Gut Healthy Foods to Add to Your Diet
Probiotics and other supplements like prebiotics or digestive enzymes are a good place to start, but they aren’t the only place you should look to improve your gut health and, therefore, your diet as a whole. You’ll also want to add:
Fiber-rich foods are foods that contain large amounts of dietary fiber, which is a type of carbohydrate that the body can’t digest. Dietary fiber is important for maintaining good health as it helps regulate digestion, promotes feelings of fullness, and can help lower cholesterol levels.
There are two main types of fiber. The first is a soluble type, which dissolves in water and works to slow down digestion. Insoluble, on the other hand, adds bulk to stools to help prevent constipation.
Some examples of fiber-rich foods include:
- Whole grains: oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat bread
- Fruits and vegetables: apples, bananas, carrots, broccoli
- Legumes: lentils, chickpeas, black beans
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, chia seeds, flaxseeds
Fermented foods are a secret ingredient for promoting optimal gut health. These foods undergo a special process called fermentation, where microorganisms such as yeast or bacteria convert sugars into organic acids, gases, or alcohol. Not only does this enhance the flavor and shelf life of the food, but it also boosts its nutritional value and beneficial bacteria content.
Some examples of fermented foods include:
Ginger Ginger boasts anti-inflammatory and digestive-stimulating properties. Many use it to ease upset stomachs and relieve bloating and gas to great effect. It’s for this reason that ginger shots are becoming so popular, and also why many juices now come with ginger included.
Turmeric is also anti-inflammatory, which has been known to reduce irritation in the gut to improve digestion. The benefits are similar to ginger, and like ginger, turmeric can be added to drinks and food alike to help your gut be happy. Green Vegetables
Of course, you need to eat your veggies. When it comes to the types best suited to boost gut health, however, look to the dark, leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, and collard greens. These vegetables are a great source of vitamins and minerals and can help to support gut health by providing essential nutrients for beneficial bacteria.
What to Keep in Mind
Not every food is going to be your best friend, even ones that are healthy and can support good gut health. Take cheese, for example. While cheese is a good source of natural bacteria, it also contains lactose. Since many have a minor intolerance to lactose, eating more cheese isn’t going to help with your diet or overall health concerns. If you suspect there may be something sabotaging your diet, it’s important to remove it. Always remove just one type of food at a time, and maintain this for a week so that you can gauge how you feel and what impacts the removal has made on your health. If you feel similar, go ahead and continue to eat that cheese, but remember to look to another common culprit, like acidic foods.