Tips to weed and feed a healthy gut!
This month I’m excited to share that I received my Certificate of Advanced Education in Gut Health from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition! Those of you who know my story know that gut health is important to me and the reason I got into health and nutrition coaching to begin with. In this month's blog I want to share some of what I’ve learned over the past 6 months on gut health.
Gut health is an important part of your overall health and wellness. Did you know that over 70% of your immune cells reside within your gut? There are trillions of microorganisms in your body, the majority of which are found in your small and large intestines which make up your gut microbiome.
The microbiome consists of microbes that are both helpful (having a symbiotic relationship where both you and the microbes benefit) and potentially harmful (specially pathogenic and promote disease). When you are healthy, the helpful and potentially harmful microbes may coexist without issues. If an imbalance occurs (referred to as dysbiosis) then your body may be more susceptible to disease. For this reason, it is believed that many chronic diseases and conditions are linked to our microbiome.
The make-up of our microbiome is originally determined by our DNA, and then influenced at birth by method of delivery and consumption of breastmilk. As we get older, environmental factors and diet can change our microbiome.
So what actions and lifestyle changes can you take now to influence your gut health? See below for tips on “weeding and feeding” your microbiome.
How to weed your gut to reduce dysbiosis
Limit the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as Advil or ibuprofen. There is evidence that NSAIDS can cause inflammation, bleeding, ulceration, and damage along the gastrointestinal tract.
Reduce the use of antibiotics when possible. Antibiotics are widely prescribed to treat bacterial infections, however those antibiotics can also kill healthy bacteria disrupting microbial balance and possibly leading to gastrointestinal issues.
Reduce the use of harsh antibacterial soaps and cleaning products when not needed. As COVID-19 posed huge risks to our daily health, the use of hand-sanitizer, antibacterial soaps, and heavy household cleaning products increased. These products help reduce the spread of germs, however they have the capacity to change the environmental microbiome and alter the human microbiome composition and function.
Reduce animal meat consumption. People who consume diets high in animal protein may experience harmful changes in their gut microbiome that can lead to increased risks of inflammatory bowel disease.
Avoid artificial sweeteners, including Splenda, aspartame, and saccharin. Artificial sweeteners are found in many foods including soft drinks, candy, and chewing gum. They are popular due to lack of calories, however recent research indicates that artificial sweeteners may impact the balance of microbes in your gut.
How to feed and support a healthy gut
Consume plenty of fiber. A diet rich in fiber helps feed your helpful microbes and makes them thrive. As a result, these microbes will increase in number and diversity. Foods high in fiber include fruit, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
Eat fermented foods such as yogurt, kombucha, kefir, kimchi, miso, and sauerkraut. Fermented foods enhance the diversity of the gut microbiome and can help decrease inflammation.
Cook with a variety of herbs and spices, such as basil, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger, oregano, rosemary, sage, and turmeric to help aid in digestion and support a healthy gut.
Eat foods rich in polyphenols. Polyphenols are plant-based molecules that have anti-inflammatory properties. Foods rich in polyphenols include dark chocolate, red grapes (wine!), almonds, onions, blueberries, broccoli, and green tea.
Identify ways to manage chronic stress and activate the parasympathetic nervous system through meditation, deep breathing, and gentle exercise. The sympathetic nervous system is associated with the “fight or flight” response, while the parasympathetic nervous system is sometimes called the “rest and digest” state and is better for our digestion and overall gut health.
This blog just scratched the surface on some important considerations for a healthy gut and like every part of your overall health and wellness, bio-individuality is key. These tips are provided to begin to create awareness. Acid reflux, bloating, skin issues, fatigue, joint pain, and even hormone problems can be directly tied back to the health of your gut and depending on your specific issues, the diet and lifestyle recommendations may vary. If you are experiencing any gut related issues, or you just want to learn more about how you can improve your gut health, I’d love to chat! Set-up an initial consultation today.
Until next time…Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well.