The gastrointestinal system is also known as your gut. This includes your mouth, esophagus, stomach, intestines, and other parts like your gallbladder, pancreas, and liver, and goes all the way to your colon, rectum. There used to be a time when people did not focus too much on the digestive system, but now we know that it plays a significant role in your body’s overall health.
How do you know if you have an unhealthy gut? There are some signs and symptoms that you can watch out for. If you find yourself with a frequent upset stomach, whether it’s constipation or diarrhea, these may be signs that you need to take better care of your gut. While digestive issues may be the most common sign of an unhealthy gut, there are others that you need to watch out for.
Fatigue can also be a sign. A study published in the journal Microbiome found that people who suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome also had poor gut health due to an imbalance in the organisms found in their digestive tract. Do you find yourself with some food cravings regularly? This may also be a sign that your digestive system is not functioning properly.
Even allergies and skin irritations may be caused by the imbalance in your gut. It’s important to address these issues as they can affect the quality of your life. The best way to take care of your gut is to adopt a gut-healthy diet. This means focusing on including the best foods for your gut in your diet.
We have listed down some of the best ones that you need to get used to eating. These are easy-to-find foods so you won’t have a hard time at the grocery. They can be eaten as a snack or included in your main meals. Once you add them to your diet, you’ll find your digestive issues will become less frequent.
Table of Contents
Best Foods for Gut Health
- Olive oil
- Bone broth
- Apple Cider Vinegar
Yogurt is one of the best sources of probiotics, what we know as the “friendly” bacteria. While other foods here also good sources of probiotics, yogurt is probably the most well-known and most enjoyed by many, as the others may only appeal to some palates. You can have a cup of yogurt for your breakfast or even as a healthy snack. Adding fruit toppings will make it tastier.
When buying go for those that are sugar-free and full-fat. You can also go for yogurt drinks as they can even contain more probiotics, but you need to watch out for the sugar content though.
Inflammation is one thing that you don’t want to happen to your gut or any other organ in your body. To reduce inflammation in your body, you want a diet that is rich in fatty acids and polyphenols, two things that can be found in olive oil. Use olive oil to cook your meals or get the extra-virgin variant which you can enjoy in salads.
Kimchi is a staple in Korean food. Kimchi is made up of vegetables that have been fermented for a long time. There are many types of kimchi, from ones made of napa cabbage to green onions or radish. Traditionally in Korea, kimchi is usually made during the wintertime, where the vegetables are combined with ingredients like salt, sugar, Korean red pepper flakes, and more. They are usually buried underground but now there are specially-made refrigerators where they can be kept.
Another good source of probiotics, kimchi is usually enjoyed as a side dish for grilled meats. It can also be made into a soup, perfect for the cold months. If you want something a little different, you can combine it with your mashed potatoes for a creative take on the famous side dish. For more dishes with kimchi, see more here.
Sauerkraut is very similar to kimchi because they both use cabbage as their base ingredient, and both undergo the fermentation process. But they are different in taste. The German version of this fermented cabbage dish seems to have a more tart taste compared to its Korean counterpart. This may be because the fermentation process for kimchi usually takes about three weeks while sauerkraut is fermented for six weeks.
You can use sauerkraut as a side dish or add it to your burritos and hotdogs. You can even treat it like a salsa and use it as a dip for your nachos.
Probiotics are not just found on fermented foods because almonds have some properties that mimic what probiotics have. Most people use to shy away from almonds and other types of nuts because it may lead to diverticulitis. This could not be farther from the truth.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, the high fiber content of nuts are good for your gut health. Aside from fiber, they contain other nutrients like magnesium, vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids. Almonds and other nuts can be enjoyed as is, but you can also add them to other meals like salads or even bread!
Bone broth may take a long time to make but it is so worth it when you know all the benefits it can give you. Because it is rich in nutrients like amino acids helps to heal digestive diseases like irritable bowel syndrome, leaky gut, and many more. Some other benefits of bone broth include protecting your joints from stress and even alleviate symptoms of osteoarthritis. If you are having a hard time sleeping, bone broth may also help with that.
You can easily get bone broth in groceries nowadays, as there are many products that have come out as more people know about its many benefits. But if you have the time, why not make a big batch at home and freeze your leftovers for other days? For a basic bone broth recipe, you will need about three pounds of bones, some olive oil, white wine, water, and aromatics like bay leaves and salt and pepper to taste. They will need at least 8 hours to simmer and they can be frozen for up to six months.
Kefir is similar to yogurt, but unlike yogurt that is thick and creamy, kefir is more liquid. Both are fermented from milk and present similar benefits. But if you want something with more probiotics, kefir is what you want to add to your diet.
There are many ways to enjoy kefir. You can drink it as is, you can look for some variants that have flavors on them if you want. Or if you want to add your own flavor, you can easily make a smoothie and use kefir as your base instead of yogurt. If you like baking, you can also use kefir instead of buttermilk in your baking goods.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Over the years, more and more discoveries of the benefits of apple cider vinegar have become known. One of the most popular is that it helps the body produce belly acid that aids in the process of digestion. This not only assists in weight loss but also alleviates symptoms of conditions like acid reflux and irritable bowel syndrome.
Many people may not enjoy the strong flavors of apple cider vinegar so they may not feel like using it in a drink. You can mask some of the flavors by combining them with other ingredients depending on what you are making. If you are doing a salad dressing, cook it with some Dijon mustard or you can add it to your morning tea.
Swap your regular white bread for sourdough bread next time. It’s more nutritious than the white variety and is also easier to digest – making it good for your digestive system. It's also a good source of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. The peptides found in sourdough helps in lowering the risk for certain types of cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and signs of aging.
For people who are sensitive to gluten, sourdough is also a better choice as it has lower glucose content than other regular bread.
If you like Japanese foods, then you might be familiar with miso. Another type of fermented food, this time it is made from beans and contains many nutrients such as vitamins B, E, and K. The fermentation process it goes through makes it a probiotic-rich food, perfect for a healthy gut.
The simplest thing you can do with miso is to have it as a soup, which is what many Japanese people have for their morning meal. You can also enjoy it as a poaching liquid for fish or as a glaze for meat, such as in this Sous Vide Miso-Glazed Barbecue Beef Steak.
Other Tips for a Healthy Gut
Avoid Eating Fatty Foods
Now that you know which foods you should be eating, it’s also important to know which ones. you should stay away from. This includes fatty food. Most people think spicy foods should be the ones that you avoid, but in fact, spicy foods may even help keep your gut healthy, according to Penn Medicine.
The same cannot be said for fatty foods. If your diet is composed of too much fatty food, not only will it lead to weight gain but these foods actually bring harmful chemicals to your body. These are called cytokines, which can lead to inflammation and can even create a hole in your gut wall.
While you don’t have to completely avoid fatty foods, you need to find a way to achieve a better balanced diet. Foods like potato chips and cakes or cookies must be something you only give yourself as a treat and not something that is included in your regular diet.
Do you find yourself constantly constipated? Try to add exercise into your routine because this helps to get the food to go through your digestive system better. Not to mention that it would help you from gaining weight as obesity can create problems with your digestive health.
For those who are not used to exercise, small changes can already make a big difference. Try taking the stairs more or going for 10 minute walks around the neighborhood every day. The key is to be consistent. Look for a physical activity that you might enjoy, this could be gardening, hiking, or dancing. These can all be a part of your exercise regiment and will help you be more motivated as you are doing an activity that you like doing.
Manage Your Stress
Stress can play a big part in our health. Many diseases sprout up when we are feeling stress, from simple headaches to more serious ailments. You might have noticed that you get digestive problems when you are in a dilemma or when you have to make a big presentation.
There are ways that you can manage your stress so that it will not create havoc on your digestive system. You can try to do yoga and meditation. With the latter, you can learn some deep breathing techniques so that you can clear your mind and help your body relax. If you smoke because of stress, it may be time to abandon that habit as smoking can cause a plethora of diseases, from respiratory diseases to ulcers and even cancer.
While we cannot escape from the everyday stresses of life, treating yourself once in a while may help keep your life balanced. Go on a spa date, buy something for yourself, or spend time with your loved ones. These can all help to keep your stress at a manageable level.