What’s Up With the Gut?
By: Samantha McCarthy MS, RD/LDN
Our gut. An imperative part of our body that we take for granted. The health of the digestive tract is an essential part of total health, but we often forget about it. We eat food and automatically, the gut takes cares of breaking down that food, absorbing nutrients, and moving it out of our system. Seems simple right? Not as simple as we think.
Currently, there is a lot of money, time, and resources being spent on studying the health of the gut, specifically the gut bacteria. In our digestive tract, we have billions of beneficial bacteria that help our bodies break down all of the foods and beverages we ingest. Our microbiomes (aka: bacteria) are highly sophisticated bacteria that have been linked to many different health conditions. These include:
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Many more conditions are starting to be linked to the health of our microbiome as more research is conducted.
As we discover the importance of the health of our microbiome, it is important to discuss how nutrition can affect our gut bacteria. We all have a different microbiome. We expose our bodies to many different things throughout the day that all affect our gut health. Environmental toxins, pollution, medications (like antibiotics), and of course food intake can all affect the profile of our microbiome. Unhealthy foods like processed snack foods, processed meats, foods high in added sugars, and high saturated fat foods can change our gut bacteria.
To positively influence our gut bacteria, a healthy diet is crucial. At this time, the two things that have been shown to improve the health of our gut are a high fiber diet and intake of probiotic foods. Fiber can be found in foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts. Probiotics can be found in fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, and aged cheeses.
Over the next few years, expect to see more information coming out about the importance of maintaining a healthy gut to prevent and help treat disease. It is a fascinating area of research that has a lot of potential in improving our overall health.