Traditional naturopathic healing principles have always been based around ‘heal the gut first’. This is the first thing we learn in our education and it is something that we evaluate in every patient that we see. Here we will explore the best foods for gut health.
‘All disease beings in the gut’ – Hippocrates
This famous statement was said over 2000 years ago, yet it is only in the past few decades that science has caught up and the enormity of this statement is being fully understood.
We now know that gut health not only determines the quality and efficiency of our digestion and metabolism, but it is also critical to our overall health. Poor digestive health, and most importantly a poor gut microbiome (the ecosystem of bacteria that lives within our gut) contributes to a wide range of diseases such as mental health issues, obesity, diabetes, autoimmune conditions, autism spectrum disorder, chronic fatigue, skin disorders and poor immune health.
When it comes to optimal gut health, it is a necessity that we look at the diet first and foremost. What we eat reflects everything in regards to the health of our gut and our entire health.
When we eat well then all the influencing factors of good gut health fall into balance.
This includes –
- Good level of digestive enzymes to break down the food that we eat
- A robust and healthy gut lining to promote nutrient absorption
- Optimal gut-brain connection to stimulate the movement of digestion
- A healthy liver to process our food and detoxify toxins
- Minimal inflammation
- A diverse colony of good bacteria
Sounds complex, but when we address all these areas our health thrives.
So what are the best foods for gut health?
Foods to heal the gut lining
The lining of the gut is a tight network of cells that selectively lets certain sized molecules into the circulatory system. When this becomes damaged and ‘leaky’ then we set ourselves up for a whole host of health complaints.
Support your gut lining with these foods – bone broth (rich in nutrients that heal the gut lining), grass-fed butter (contains butyrate which is a preferred fuel source for these cells), slippery elm and aloe vera.
Your digestive enzymes start the whole process of digestion, if it goes wrong at the beginning then your body will struggle to continue the process of digestion.
Enhance your digestive enzymes with these simple foods – apple cider vinegar, kiwi, pineapple, lemon and papaya
The liver has a central role in digestion is the process the nutrients that are absorbed in the small intestine.
Try to include these foods in your diet – dandelion coffee, globe artichoke, garlic, onions, turmeric, leafy greens and beetroot.
A healthy balance of good bacteria can be achieved by including fermented foods in your diet daily. These will always offer a more diverse range of bacteria that can survive the digestive process than any probiotic will.
These foods include anything fermented such as sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, miso, kimchi. These foods will provide the right bacteria but we also need foods that feed these bacteria within the gut so that they can colonise and get to work. Prebiotics are the foods required for this and they include coconut oil, fermentable fibres (sweet potato, onion, garlic, dandelion greens, leek, chicory, cabbage, banana, oats, lentils)
Anti Inflammatory Foods
Inflammation is at the root of all damage to our cells and therefore it is a direct influencer of our level of health and quality of ageing. Consuming anti-inflammatory foods will not only support your digestive health, but the health of your whole body.
Anti-inflammatory foods include – turmeric (this is one exception as it is best taken in supplement form for a therapeutic benefit), coconut oil, aloe vera, wild caught oily fish, green leafy vegetables, beetroot, walnuts, berries, ginger, chia seeds, flaxseeds and pineapple.
Anti Microbial Foods
Just as we want to encourage the colonisation of healthy bacteria we want to get rid of the bad bacteria that is destroying our digestive system. We will naturally be exposed to bad bacteria in the foods that we eat, and when our digestion is not the best then we will be at more risk of these strains of bacteria from taking over. Including regular amounts of naturally anti-microbial foods will help to kill off these bad bacteria. Don’t worry about them killing off the good bacteria, mother nature and our bodies are much smarter than us and will selectively kill off the bad bacteria only.
Try to include – coconut oil, garlic, onion, fermented foods (see above), honey, turmeric, horseradish and pineapple.
Just as important as what we do eat, is what we don’t eat. You most probably know the drill here –
1 – Avoid processed and packaged foods
2 – Limit sugar intake
3 – Eat a diet in fresh whole foods in their natural forms
4 – Avoid factory raised animal products
5 – Reduce stress
6 – Only take antibiotics if they are absolutely necessary.
So if you are ready to take charge of your gut health get your free copy of
12 Tips for a Healthy Gut.