“All disease beings in the gut” – Hippocrates
This quote was attributed to the Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates nearly 2500 years ago, and he was not far off! Every time we eat or drink we are either feeding disease or fighting it!
A healthy gut equals a healthy immune system, better mood and digestion. The health of the gut is a vast subject, so I am going to keep it simple in this blog post and will look at my top 5 foods you can include in your diet today to improve your gut health.
The importance of looking after your gut
The gut is essential in terms of our health, yet so many people still do not understand the importance of what it does.
The gut is where nearly 80% of our immune system lives and where up to 95% of our serotonin is produced. Yes – although serotonin is known as a brain neurotransmitter, and responsible for our mood, we actually produce most of the hormone in the gut!
You can see that how, when things are out of balance in our gut, our whole body suffers! Our brain and gut are in constant communication, connected by an information highway known as the vagus nerve.
The gut contains 10 times more health determining bacteria than the rest of the body, which means it’s constantly working hard to protect us from infection, support our metabolism, and promote healthy digestion and elimination. Three quarters of our immune system comes from over 100 trillion organisms in the gut, which is why many health professionals are finally turning their attention to the gut when it comes to diagnosing illnesses.
The gastrointestinal tract – our digestive system, doesn’t just break down food into nutrients (which the body utilises for energy, growth, and cell repair), but it also affects our nervous, endocrine and immune system.
The best foods for your gut
The best way to achieve optimum gut health is to cut down on processed foods, too many white refined carbs like pasta, bread, cakes and pastries, dairy and alcohol. These are all foods that place a strain on our digestive system.
Over-the-counter medicines like Nurofen and NSAIDs also damage our digestive health as do courses of prescribed antibiotics.
There are hundreds of species of bacteria in our intestines, each of which plays a specific role in health and requires different nutrients for growth. So it’s good to consume a diverse range of food to ensure we are growing diverse microbes.
Try to include more healthy and nutritious foods like nuts, seeds, legumes, lentils, avocados, olive oil, flaxseeds and a range of vegetables and fruits. And as always, go organic as much as you can.
Here are my top 5 foods for optimal gut health
Kimchi and Saurkraut.
These are fermented foods that are great for gut health. Saurkraut is made from thinly sliced cabbage, which is fermented in a jar using salt. I posted a recipe a while back.
Kimchi is a Korean fermented dish made from napa cabbage, radish, ginger, garlic and chillies.
Both fermented foods are great sources of probiotics and you can make both yourself or find them in your health food shop and supermarkets.
This is a fermented tea made from black or green tea, sugar and a yeast. The fermentation that occurs with kombucha gives it a tangy taste and a natural fizz. It’s full of beneficial probiotics which is good for the gut. Kombucha is becoming wildly available in a range of stores and is often flavoured, making it a refreshing drink and a great alternative to alcohol! You can also make your own with a starter scoby.
This superfood contains antibacterial and antifungal properties which help keep your gut bacteria and yeast balanced and in check. Garlic contains inulin, which is a type of fibre that provides fuel for your good bacteria, allowing them to function well. Use garlic in your cooking, or add it to salads and vegetables. It’s also really nice roasted and spread on sourdough bread.
Do not just save these for Christmas dinner! They are excellent for gut health, as they contain a lot of fibre and antioxidants, helping to prevent constipation and improve bowel motions and nutrient absorption. They also contain a compound called sulphur, which helps to reduce inflammation in the body and detoxify harmful toxins from your gut.
Buy organic if you can and get creative – there are so many ways you can eat them!
Amazing for your digestion, ginger stimulates your digestive juices and the production of stomach acid, which is needed for breaking down food so that the body can digest it. You need good levels of stomach acid for a healthy digestion. It can also help with nausea. Add fresh grated ginger to warm water with lemon and use it in your food wherever possible.
I hope this has helped – those are my top 5, all easy to introduce and readily available in stores. Of course, there are many other fermented foods which will also helpwith gut health, such as miso, kefir, and tempeh. Other good sources of probiotics are natural yoghurt with live bacteria and apple cider vinegar with the mother. A good probiotic supplement will also help keep your gut in good health.
I specialise in gut health. If you are struggling with digestive issues, please get in touch and we can have a chat about how I can help.