If you suffer from bloating, abdominal pain, or reflux and flatulence or even fatigue, inflammation and joint pain, headaches, or skin problems, it could be all to do with the health of your digestive system. Let’s look at why and how to restore gut health for overall wellness.
About Good Gut Health
A healthy gut supports the immune system, protecting you from acute and chronic illnesses. It also supports your nervous system which makes you feel whole rather than overwhelmed. (I mention restoring gut health in ways of dealing with feeling overwhelmed.)
Good nutrition provides us with overall good health. It helps protect us from chronic illnesses such as irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and heart disease.
What this means is that our wellness depends on healthy bacteria in our gut (your stomach flora or intestinal flora) to manage digestive problems that hamper the vitamin and nutrient absorption1, which we need to fuel our cells for the work they need to do to keep us in top condition.
Growing evidence shows that the gut microbiota is important in supporting the epithelial barrier and therefore plays a key role in the regulation of environmental factors that enter the body1.
Leaky gut syndrome1 is one of those digestive tract problems that affects nutrient uptake and affects a person’s overall health.
Why Restore Gut Health
The human gastrointestinal tract harbors trillions of bacteria, most of which are commensal and have adapted over time to the milieu of the human colon4.
One reason to restore gut health is that the gut is our second brain. It contains trillions of neurons and is where up to 90% of our feel good chemicals (serotonin) are manufactured2, 4. (See also my article on natural ways to increase ‘happy’ chemicals.)
Another reason to restore gut health corresponds to well functioning metabolism3, 4.
We Want To Feel Good
So between the brain and our gut, there is this two-way connection that influences our mental health. (The connection between our senses and our brain is covered in my article about calming our stress levels).
Various aspects of normal psychology, such as pain perception, emotion, cognition, character, stress management, and social behavior, are impacted by the gut microbiota3.
Good gut health means good metabolism. We know that metabolism is what greatly affects our weight gain or weight loss4. It’s not entirely about the calories you ingest but how your body metabolizes those calories and it starts with intestinal health, i.e. having good gut bacteria to improve digestion4.
Human association studies in different parts of the world confirm that there are alterations in the gut microbiota in obese compared with lean individuals…4
A 2014 study confirms the influence of gut flora on body weight when it showed the “bacterium Christensenella minuta, a type of naturally-occurring bacteria in the stomach could fight off quick weight gain that usually leads to obesity” 6.
increasing good Stomach bacteria
How to get healthy gut flora?
Rather than artificial sweeteners and processed foods (which can be the worst foods for gut health), a healthy gut bacteria relies on a beneficial diet.
A Good Gut Diet
You want a diet that will improve gut health by supporting the good bacteria in stomach and intestines.
The recommended gut health foods include greens, e.g., brussel sprouts, fruits, root vegetables, and fiber (soluble and insoluble) rich dietary items. See also my article about the best diet for you and the planet.
A 2016 study published in Food & Function, looking at gut bacteria health connection, found a diet high in fruits and vegetables helps keep at bay the disease-causing bacteria5.
For an anti-inflammatory beverage, consider bone broth as one of the good health foods.
For a healthy gut diet, recent research shows it is a good idea to include the gut friendly foods that feed probiotics (functional microorganisms) along with the prebiotics, which are the substrates on which probiotics grow8.
Best Way to Get Probiotics
The best way to get probiotics is through your diet or, in some instances, by taking supplements.
Gut specialists recommend taking probiotics to re-introduce beneficial bacteria into the digestive tract after a bout of antibiotics7. This is an approach often suggested by medical practitioners for restoring gut flora: simply take probiotic supplements to improve your gut microbiome.
Diet – Best Probiotic Foods
Pre-clinical studies indicate the benefits of fermented foods in relieving perturbed gut function…8
The best probiotic enhancing foods are the fermented products that are produced by the actions of microorganisms9. These can form part of a gut healthy diet.
An example is fermented cabbage with dishes including sauerkraut and the Korean kimchi.
Another is yoghurt that contains beneficial gut bacteria able to survive digestion to enter and support the large intestine microbiome.
For beverages, consider kefir and kombucha, and make sure to drink plenty of water.
Prebiotics include foodstuffs with soluble fiber. Examples are onions, garlic, asparagus, leeks, unripe bananas, chicory root, and Jerusalem artichokes.
Eating fermented foods is a dietary way of getting a dose of probiotics for gut health.
It’s a great idea to check out your diet and see what foods your are consuming to form a healthy gut microbiome.
- Mu, Q., Kirby, J., Reilly, C. M., & Luo, X. M. (2017). Leaky Gut As a Danger Signal for Autoimmune Diseases. Frontiers in Immunology, 8, 598. doi:10.3389/fimmu.2017.00598
- Yano, J. M., Yu, K., Donaldson, G. P., Shastri, G. G., Ann, P., Ma, L., … Hsiao, E. Y. (2015). Indigenous bacteria from the gut microbiota regulate host serotonin biosynthesis. Cell, 161(2), 264–276. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2015.02.047
- Liang, S., Wu, X., & Jin, F. (2018). Gut-Brain Psychology: Rethinking Psychology From the Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis. Frontiers in integrative neuroscience, 12, 33. doi:10.3389/fnint.2018.00033
- Ramakrishna, B. S. (2013), Role of the gut microbiota. J Gastroenterol Hepatol, 28: 9-17. doi:10.1111/jgh.12294
- Klinder A, Shen Q, Heppel S, Lovegrove JA, Rowland I, Tuohy KM. Food Funct. 2016 Apr;7(4):1788-96. doi: 10.1039/c5fo01096a.
- Goodrich, J. K., Waters, J. L., Poole, A. C., Sutter, J. L., Koren, O., Blekhman, R., … Ley, R. E. (2014). Human genetics shape the gut microbiome. Cell, 159(4), 789–799. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2014.09.053
- Rodgers, B., Kirley, K., & Mounsey, A. (2013). PURLs: prescribing an antibiotic? Pair it with probiotics. The Journal of family practice, 62(3), 148–150.
- Aslam, H., Green, J., Jacka, F.N., Collier, F., Berk, M., Pasco, J., Dawson, S.L. 2018. Fermented foods, the gut and mental health: a mechanistic overview with implications for depression and anxiety. Nutr Neurosci. Nov 11:1-13.
- Bell, V., Ferrão, J., Pimentel, L., Pintado, M., & Fernandes, T. (2018). One Health, Fermented Foods, and Gut Microbiota. Foods (Basel, Switzerland), 7(12), 195. doi:10.3390/foods7120195