A simple definition of Gut Health:
Gut health is defined as achieving the gut bacterial balance with optimal nutrient digestion and absorption through a plant-focused diet rich in prebiotics and probiotics. These fiber-rich foods help the gut bacteria to produce a protective mucosal barrier in the lumen of the intestine, protecting the gut integrity and preventing entry of harmful toxins, viruses and bacteria.
Why is gut health important?
Our gut bacteria and us humans have a mutually beneficial relationship. Why? We cannot digest fiber, but the good bacteria in our gut can. How do the bacteria benefit? We feed them the food they like (what we eat). The good bacteria digest the fiber and produces nourishing components for our gut cells and other parts of the body.
The right balance of contents from the digestive tract entering the bloodstream is essential for all parts of your body to function optimally. Without the pathway from the food you eat to your bloodstream, you have no building blocks to create cells, produce hormones, fight inflammation, and many more essential tasks.
Prebiotics vs. Probiotics – What’s the Difference?
Fermented food tips:
- Not all of these foods will contain live cultures depending on the product or brand. Look for keywords like probiotics, live cultures, or fermented to ensure you’re getting the real thing. Incorporate these foods, but don’t overdo it. They should be part of a balanced diet!
- Certain gut bacteria like specific foods to grow. When in doubt, eat whole foods of all different colors. This is good for your gut bacteria and confers health benefits including reduced inflammation and improved immunity.
- Don’t like these foods? That’s understandable, they can be an acquired taste. You might need to give them a few tries.
- Please note prebiotics may not be suitable for some people with IBS as the foods can exacerbate the digestive symptoms.
Ways you can improve your gut health:
- Reducing physical and emotional stress daily by engaging in relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, and gentle yoga.
- Balanced food choices, focusing on fiber from whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
- Reducing saturated and trans fats; over consumption of these have shown to negatively affect the intestinal barrier.
- Getting enough sleep
- Exercise! Moving your body keeps contents in your gut moving along. Exercise also helps manage stress and supports a healthy sleep schedule.
- Supplements? There’re some supplements out there that can aid in gut health.
Everyone’s gut microbiome is unique - Which means each individual will be affected differently by the composition of their microbiome. The development of your microbiome starts in utero and continues through toddler years. Composition of microbes is dependent on factors such as the health and diet of the mother, type of birth, breastfeeding, skin to skin contact, and environment. Once your microbiome is established in early childhood, it doesn’t change much. Which could mean some of your health outcomes are predetermined before you are even born!
We recommend talking to a medical provider to find out if this would be beneficial and right for you and your body’s personalized individual needs. You can book a free nutrition consultation with our Registered Dietitians here to learn more.
This article is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding diet.
This article has been reviewed by a Registered Dietitian, Waverly Taki, MS. RD. CD. and Dietetics Student, Danielle Lycklama, for additional accuracy.