We’ve all heard the saying, “You are what you eat” and although that is a true statement, most people don’t know exactly what to eat to stay healthy. In fact, with all the fad diets and social media posts, choosing healthy foods can be more difficult than ever. The reality is that everyone has individual dietary needs based on their health history and current health status, so a personalized nutrition plan is the best option. However, everyone can benefit from eating foods that provide support for a healthy gut, and because the great majority of your immune system is in the gut, eating foods to support a healthy gut will ultimately help support a healthy immune system and overall health.
The first step toward improving the health of your gut is to remove inflammatory foods from your diet. Without giving your intestinal tract relief from inflammation caused by inflammatory foods, you won’t be able to make any progress in healing the gut. Some common foods that can cause inflammation include dairy products (milk, butter, cheese, etc.), grains and gluten (wheat, corn, rice, etc.), nightshade vegetables (eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, white potatoes, etc.), artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, and preservatives. Once you’ve removed these inflammatory foods from your diet, it is time to add a diversity of foods that can improve the gut microbiome.
Research has shown that one of the most common causes of people who are chronically ill is that they’ve lost diversity in the healthy bacteria in their gut. It is therefore important to diversify your diet to include foods that help to improve your gut microbiome. One of the best ways to do this is to eat a wide variety of vegetables regularly and to try new vegetables so that you’re not eating the same thing all the time. Some healthy options include kale, broccoli, spinach, asparagus, collard greens, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, bok choy, beet greens, Swiss chard, and arugula. You can also choose to eat a variety of berries such as blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries because they are high in fiber as well as being loaded with antioxidants and phytonutrients – compounds that help protect the cells of our body.
Prebiotic foods are also a great way to help diversify the gut microbiome. They are basically fiber-rich foods that can feed the healthy and beneficial bacteria in the gut which helps them grow and become more active, resulting in a healthier gut. These foods include onions, garlic, leeks, chicory root, dandelion greens, and certain mushrooms, just to name a few.
Many people will choose to take a probiotic supplement to improve the health of their gut without changing their diet. Unfortunately, this does not have the same benefits as also improving your diet. Although probiotic supplements contain a variety of healthy, beneficial bacterial species, their effect can be short lived and many of the bacteria never make it past the acid in our stomachs to populate the intestinal microbiome. This is especially true if your probiotic supplement is not made from the best quality ingredients. It is therefore very important to make the suggested dietary changes while also taking a probiotic supplement.