What you eat – and what you don’t – has a huge impact on the bacterial balance in your gut. Here’s what to eat (and what to avoid) in order to maintain good gut health…
Every year, it seems more and more information comes to light about the importance of healthy gut bacteria for our overall health – including maintaining a healthy weight. The health of your gut has also been positively linked to many mental health issues, from depression and anxiety, to ADHD, autism, and even Alzheimer’s disease. Maintaining a healthy gut microbiome is essential for good health, but what should you eat to make sure your microflora stay healthy? Here are a few ideas:
1.) Fermented Foods
Our ancestors consumed fermented foods on a regular basis. Fermentation was a healthy way to store fresh foods and keep them from going bad as quickly before the advent of refrigeration. Fermenting milk in the form of yogurt, soured cream, and various cheeses helped to allow for the transportation and storage of milk before consumption, fermenting fruits and vegetables also increased their shelf-life, and fermenting grains and beans before cooking helped to make them more digestible and nutritious.
Unfortunately, modern-day Americans don’t eat many fermented foods anymore. Cheese and yogurt are the only widely consumed forms of fermented foods (even pickles that you buy at the grocery store aren’t actually fermented anymore – they are brined in vinegar and salt) – and these are often loaded with sugar and made from pasteurized milk depleted of its natural enzymes that help with fermentation as well as digestion.
The best thing you can do for your gut health is to start consuming more fermented foods! But stay away from store-bought yogurts full of sugar – if you want to eat yogurt, make your own at home instead. Fermented foods – including yogurt – are surprisingly easy to make, and you can experiment with a wide range of ingredients to suit your tastes. You can even make yummy things like naturally fermented ginger ale and other sodas! (Just watch the sugar content, as sugar encourages the growth of not-so-healthy bacteria…)
Along with fermented foods, you may want to supplement with a daily probiotic for added digestive support. You can also drink cultured beverages such as kombucha or kefir, but as mentioned below, avoid the highly sugared commercial kinds.
If you have digestive issues, especially when consuming dairy, protein, or raw vegetables, you may be lacking digestive enzymes. Our bodies produce fewer of these as we ages, so supplementing with extra enzymes before a meal can help to keep your digestive system working properly, and support the presence of healthy bacteria.
However, maintaining a healthy bacterial balance is just as much about what you don’t eat as what you do. The infographic below provides a few ideas for what to avoid in order to support your gut bacteria and maintain good gut health.