Are you feeling bloated, constipated, irritable, sluggish… These can all be signs of an unhealthy gut.
What is the gut?
The digestive tract or GI tract is often referred to as the gut which covers the parts of the body involved with food intake and output. This includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, colon, and rectum. The gut is where your body breaks down the food you eat and absorbs nutrients while getting rid of metabolic waste and toxins. If you have an unhealthy gut, the body struggles to remove these toxins which in turn can negatively affect the body.
What is gut health?
Gut health is used to describe the function and balance of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. A healthy gut contains healthy bacteria and immune cells which fight off bacteria, viruses, and fungi to keep the body healthy. A healthy gut contributes to a strong immune system, heart health, brain health, mood, sleep, effective digestion, and can even prevent autoimmune diseases and cancers.
Signs of an unhealthy gut include:
- Stomach issues like gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and heartburn.
- High sugar diets can decrease the good bacteria.
- Weight changes.
- Trouble sleeping.
- Unexplained mood disorders like depression or anxiety.
- Skin irritation.
- Autoimmune conditions and systemic inflammation.
- Food Intolerances.
What you choose to eat daily affects the 100 trillion microbes living in your intestines to create a healthy gut. These microorganisms – bacteria, viruses, fungi and their genes – make up your gut microbiome. Your gut microbiome is mostly made up of bacteria and its health is a direct reflection of your overall health. Keeping these bacteria healthy means giving them the nourishment they need to keep you healthy and your gastrointestinal issues at bay.
Eating for a healthy gut microbiome can benefit you by:
- Decreasing bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.
- Improving digestion and absorption.
- Reducing the risk of inflammatory disease
- Reducing the risk of autoimmune disease.
- Helping prevent colon cancer.
- Aiding in weight management.
- Supporting heart and mental health.
- Reducing the risk of diabetes.
Nourishing your microbes is critical to keeping your gut healthy and aids in good digestive health. But nourishing the right bacteria is the key to unlocking a healthy gut. You have the good, the bad and the ugly bacteria. Feeding the good bacteria supports better digestive health.
What are some of the best things to feed your good bacteria for better gut health?
Prebiotics are the food ingredients that fuel your microbes to grow strong. Prebiotics cannot be digested so they pass through your digestive tract undigested and land in your colon, where they’re fermented and eaten up by your gut bacteria.
Prebiotic-rich foods include:
- Raw chicory root
- Raw garlic
- Raw asparagus
- Raw leeks
- Raw Jerusalem artichokes
- Apple cider vinegar
Probiotics are the friendly live bacteria – mostly Bifidobacteria, Lactobacillus and Bacteroides – in fermented foods or drinks that colonize your gut and become part of the microbiome. Taking probiotics is like adding soldiers to your gut’s army of beneficial microbes. It builds up the army to fight off the bad guys – the pathogenic or bad bacteria.
Probiotic-rich foods include:
Another food source that helps your gut microbiome is fiber. Fiber is the dietary carbohydrates in plants that cannot be digested. Fiber is either soluble or insoluble.
Soluble fibers dissolve easily in water. When these plant-based fibers are combined with the water in your digestive tract they form a gel. This gel helps you feel full.
Soluble fiber foods include:
Insoluble fibers do not dissolve in water. So, when mixed with water in your gut they expand, acting like a sponge and “bulking” up your stool. Insoluble fibers prevent constipation, promote weight loss, and reduce the risk of cancer and diverticulosis.
Insoluble fiber foods include:
- Whole grain
High-fiber diets have been shown to prevent the following:
- Colon cancer
- Diverticular disease
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Making small changes to our diets can have major positive effects on your body. Spend a little time analyzing what you eat in a day — consider writing down your meals in a food journal — and make any adjustments necessary to optimize your digestive health.
If you have questions about how to improve your digestive health or discuss symptoms that you are experiencing, please call the physicians at Hunterdon Gastroenterology Associates today! 908-483-4000