Rejuvenate Your Gut Health
The digestive system is one of your most important allies to being happier and healthier, and new research proves it. Do your body some good by tweaking what you eat, including consuming more fiber, probiotics, and prebiotics. Why not consider a “workout” routine to include your gut? You’ll likely feel better, have more energy, strengthen your immune system, and you may even lose a little weight.
by Kim Samuelson
Diet has a powerful effect on a person’s microbiome. As JFK once said, “The best time to fix the roof is when the sun is shining.” But if what you eat is working against you, rethinking your diet may alter the make-up of your gut ecosystem and can be a game changer for your overall health.
Let’s face it — talking about your gut is personal and uncomfortable. But “go with your gut” is more than just a saying. It’s a call to action to understand how our digestive system works and what we can do to make it feel better.
ANATOMY OF A GUT
While you might not realize it, your digestive system actually starts in your mouth and ends in your bum. It’s composed of a vast ecosystem of microbes that affect your physiology, keeping your body and brain functioning as they should. A wealth of research shows that our overall health involves the digestive system. Researchers believe the key is your gut flora, the trillion or so bacteria that inhabit the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and help regulate everything from metabolism to immunity and mood. Established during the first two years of life, this gut microbiome is shaped by diet, antibiotic use, stress, and environmental factors.
The good news: The latest research indicates that specific changes in your diet can re-establish a healthier bacterial balance. And while we typically think of bacteria as something potentially harmful, in fact, the right balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut can actually help keep you well. Even if you consider yourself a healthy eater, some seemingly benevolent habits can impact your digestive capability over time. And there are foods that are especially harmful for your gut and disrupt the balance of the good and bad bacteria. If you start by simply removing culprits like refined sugars and processed foods, you should feel the positive influences immediately.
THE THREE GUT DEFENDERS
The three leading defenders in terms of regulating a healthy digestive system are fiber, probiotics, and prebiotics.
FIBER (includes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) does several essential thingsfor the body, like promoting colon health, lowering cholesterol, and managing weight. There are many different types of fibers found in a variety of foods. Although most fibers have more than one positive effect, no one fiber does everything. It is important to eat a variety of fiber types every day to help the body function well.
PROBIOTICS (includes tempeh, kefir, sauerkraut, pickles, and aged cheeses) are the “good” bacteria or living creatures that help us digest food, absorb nutrients, and keep “bad” microbes from taking over.
PREBIOTICS (includes barley, Jerusalem artichokes, onions, and garlic) are simply food for the probiotics and can also contain fiber. Prebiotic food parts go through the small intestine undigested and are fermented when they reach the large colon. This process helps to increase the number of desirable bacteria in our gut.
Our Favorite Gut-Friendly Brands
LIGHTLIFE TEMPEH Founded in 1979 in an old, converted car wash, Lightlife Foods has been dedicated to making great-tasting plant-based foods for a better you and a better planet.
LIFEWAY KEFIR The Lifeway story begins in 1986, when Russian immigrant Michael Smolyansky wanted to share his health secret and began making kefir in the basement of his Skokie, IL home.
BOB’S RED MILL BARLEY On Bob’s 81st birthday, he surprised all his employees by creating an Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP) and making everyone an employeeowner.