Your gut plays a more significant role in your health than you realize. The gut is the foundation of health, and imbalances in this vital system contribute to nearly every medical condition, including physical conditions such as fatigue, diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, inflammation and pain. An imbalance in the gut also contributes to emotional and mental illnesses such as anxiety, insomnia, brain fog and depression. Why is gut health important, and what are the worst and best foods for gut health support?
Why is Gut Health So Important?
You know that the gut is the fueling station of the body, digesting and absorbing nutrients the body needs for energy. But did you know that the gut also houses 70% of the immune system and 90–95% of the happy hormone, serotonin?
Imbalances in gut health directly affect your body’s ability to fight infections, regulate hormones, and properly absorb the fuel your body needs for optimal health.
The body comprises many interrelated systems, each a piece of the larger network. Like a complex game of dominos, when the first piece topples, it takes the other pieces with it.
The first piece to topple is almost always the gut.
What Contributes to a Gut Imbalance?
While dietary and nutritional choices influence gut health, several other factors lead to imbalances in this vital yet delicate system. You can eat the best foods for gut health and still have an imbalance brought about by medications, your lifestyle, your environment, and stress.
The use of medications, especially antacids or antibiotics, are equal opportunity destroyers of the gut microbiome. These drugs do not differentiate between good and bad gut bacteria, so they kill them both. When good bacteria are decreased within your gut, the microbiome is no longer in balance.
Medications also decrease the gut’s reserves of B12, an essential vitamin for brain function, energy, and cell production.
Many unhealthy lifestyle choices impact gut health, such as lack of exercise, overindulgence in alcohol, or smoking.
Poor sleep habits interfere with gut health too. Sleep deprivation causes fluctuations in gut flora and encourages the production of harmful bacteria that causes diabetes, slowed metabolism, and weight gain.
Toxins surround us in our daily lives, from outdoor pollutants to preservatives in the foods we eat, the chemicals we use to clean our homes, and even the products we use for personal hygiene.
Many of these environmental toxins are unavoidable, and each contributes to imbalances in your gut’s microbiome. That’s why, despite eating the best foods for gut health support or making lifestyle adjustments, you may still suffer from poor gut health.
Stress causes the fight-or-flight response in the body. One defense mechanism the body uses to fight stress is slowing digestion, which leads to GI upsets such as constipation, bloating, and nausea.
Stress leads to a leaky gut, a term describing an increase in the permeability of the gut lining, which allows bacteria to seep out and into the body. When this happens, your body responds with chronic inflammation and pain.
How Do I Know if I Have a Gut Imbalance?
Some signs of an unhealthy gut are apparent, such as abdominal pain, bloating, or GI upsets that may include nausea, diarrhea, weight fluctuations, and constipation.
Other subtle signs may seem unrelated to your gut health, including fatigue, chronic pain, autoimmune disorders, depression and anxiety, fatigue, brain fog, skin conditions, mood swings, and headaches.
What are the Best Foods for Gut Health?
There is truth in the old adage “You are what you eat.” Your dietary choices directly impact your gut health.
While each person has unique dietary needs and any given food may be better or worse for an individual, some common foods for gut health include the following listed below.
As this food group’s name suggests, anti-inflammatory foods fight inflammation through vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids. Some of these foods include the following:
- Vegetables such as broccoli and peppers
- Fatty fish such as anchovies and salmon
- Fruits such as grapes and berries
- Flax seed
Probiotic foods contain live microbes to boost the gut’s production of good bacteria. These are fermented foods, including the following:
- Fermented soy foods
Fiber assists digestion, prevents constipation, and protects against weight gain and chronic illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart diseases. These are some of the best foods for gut health support:
- Vegetables such as peas, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and artichokes
- Whole grain bread, pasta, and cereals
- Fruits such as oranges, pears, and berries
- Oat and wheat bran
- Whole grains, including brown rice, quinoa, and barley
- Dried fruits such as raisins or prunes
Prebiotic foods help maintain the gut’s microbiome, providing food for good bacteria. Some of these include the following:
The key to maintaining gut health is to eat a wide variety of the best foods for gut health.
The Worst Foods for Gut Health
While eating the best foods for gut health keeps your gut balanced, many foods should be avoided whenever possible. These foods include the following:
These foods contain additives and preservatives such as salt and sugar and are low in fiber.
Artificial sweeteners are linked to the production of harmful gut bacteria such as E. faecalis and E. coli. They pass through the gut undigested, causing imbalances in the gut flora.
Sugary Drinks and Foods
By far the worst culprit of poor gut health, sugary foods negatively impact the production of good bacteria and lead to leaky gut and inflammation.
Drinking more than one or two drinks daily harms the gut microbiome and is linked to many health conditions, including acid reflux, anxiety, skin disorders, digestive issues, and anxiety.
At Thrive Naturopathic, Your Healthy Gut is Our Priority
At Thrive Naturopathic in Alexandria, VA, we understand the importance of gut health. We have a specialized team to help create your comprehensive wellness plan, including a diet of the best foods for your gut health.
Getting started on your journey to restored health is as easy as 1-2-3:
- Schedule a discovery call
- Schedule your wellness evaluation
- Start your customized wellness plan to achieve your health goals
Don’t leave your well-being up to chance. Take charge of your health and happiness by scheduling your discovery call now.