Food is required for us to sustain life; however, not all food available on the market is necessarily “food” in the traditional sense. Many foods are packed with preservatives, man-made sugars, and fats and can cause gut problems, including digestive issues and weakening your overall health and immune system. Maintaining a healthy digestive tract is important to long-term health, and the role of nutrition in maintaining gut health is often overlooked.
When your gut bacteria are happy, your entire body is happy. The gut is directly connected to the brain, and when something is wrong, we get signals such as nausea. What goes into your gut fuels your entire body. When food is all broken down, its nutrients, proteins, sugars, vitamins, acids, and fats get sent through the body.
There are foods that contain all kinds of wondering things, and there are foods that are less-than-great for us. Let’s take a look at what and what not to eat.
Probiotics increase good bacteria and decrease bad bacteria. Like it hot? Try kimchi. like it sour? You can literally drink sauerkraut juice or eat it. Both are great for your stomach. For vegans, there’s soy-based tempeh, and if you’re really short on probiotics go for kefir or miso paste.
Plants are the best food for gut health. Any green vegetable will do the job. Broccoli ranks up top, of course, but jicama or Jerusalem Artichokes are also great sources. Garlic is also a good option It is a relatively common ingredient too; just be careful with how much you use.
Go bananas for bananas! They practically replant good gut bacteria. Put them in cereal, oatmeal, or eat them by themselves. Their cousins plantains are also a good source of fiber. Green apples have a similar but less dramatic effect than bananas, but they can be consumed in a sweet or savory form. Legumes, beans, flax seeds, and grains are the best source of fiber. Soluble and insoluble fiber feeds your gut bacteria, which fills you up and clears you out.
Foods to watch out for
Processed, man-made foods are notorious for their long, hard-to-pronounce ingredients, preservatives, dyes, and unnecessary fats and sugars. Unfortunately, they comprise much of what we find in grocery stores today. Your gut is unable to recognize these preservatives and therefore doesn’t know how to process them.
While foods with crazy ingredients are probably best to be completely avoided (think things in plastic packaging), there are some nutrients and foods that are alright, so long as you consume them in moderation.
Fat isn’t bad, although some are better for you than others. Heavily fatty diets are suited to some climates, long journeys with no stops for food, distinct food growing and production seasons, or heavy, manual labor. But if you don’t find yourself a nomad who suffers from food insecurity fighting off bears in the Tundra, an excessively fatty diet isn’t advisable.
Alcohol might have some limited health benefits. One glass of wine has antioxidants and one aperitif might help digestion after a meal. But excessive drinking is highly toxic for your liver. Fat and toxins build up, impacting your gut and digestive system. This increases your risk of cancer and other medical conditions far worse than a stomach ache.
Various forms of dairy sensitivity and lactose intolerant aboutn, particularly among certain ethnic groups. There are multiple explanations for this, including settlement and migration patterns. Sometimes a single chemical or compound in dairy products can set off a tummy ache. If this applies to you, then talk to your doctor and know your dairy limits.
Many Americans feel that a meal without meat is incomplete; but that’s far from true. While meat has many essential nutrients, most health professionals recommend low amounts of meat only once or twice a day. And it’s best to stick to lean meats, like poultry and fish, and to limit red meats, like pork and steak, to only a couple times a week. And, of course, bacon is delicious, but if you eat an entire plate of it for breakfast everyday your tummy and heart will not be happy. Remember that a lot of the meat we eat comes from farms where animals are pumped with hormones, so when we eat the animal, we’re also eating the artificial hormones, which may have long-term implications we eat. So watch out for where your meat is sourced as well!
Analyzing your food
Unable to tell if food is good or bad? Never be too timid to read a label or research where your food comes from. Sometimes labels may lead you astray. “Sugar-free” and “fat-free” foods (especially processed foods) frequently replace that sugar or fat with a chemical that is even worse, and “whole grain” processed foods may house all kinds of preservatives that aren’t great for your body.
Some medical conditions and medications negatively impact gut health and digestion. Consult with your doctor and educate yourself on symptoms and side-effects of a condition or medication. Ask about lifestyle changes, including dietary guidelines.
If your gut feels off, trust it, and treat it well. Give it “whole” and nutrient-rich food. Limiting your bacon intake may be a hard transition, but your healthy stomach, clear mind, and renewed energy will make the compromise worth it.
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