We’ve heard for decades, “Bacteria is bad! Wash your hands!” Well, guess what, fellow human? You have more bacteria in and on your body than human cells.
80% of that bacteria lives in your gut, aka your intestinal tract. That gut bacteria are GOOD FOR YOU! The remaining bacteria lives on the skin, in your ears, and in your nose, and if you’re a woman, in the vaginal canal. If you want a strong immune system, you need foods for gut health.
WHY IS GUT HEALTH SO IMPORTANT?
It’s true that some bacteria is correlated to disease, but in the case of your gut, that bacteria is good bacteria. It is what is called your Microbiome. Research has shown that the bigger variety you have of gut bacteria, the healthier you are!
- Bacteria that helps us digest food
- Produces vitamins B12, thiamine, riboflavin, and K, all needed for blood clotting to heal wounds
- May affect brain health (depression, anxiety, mental illness)
- May prevent weight gain, diabetes, and some risks of cancer PubMed
- Your immune system communicates with the gut bacteria and affects how your body responds to disease, viruses, and other contagions. PubMed
- See the Human Microbiome Project for more information
Definition of microbiome
YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT
How do you get a healthy gut and a strong immune system? It all depends on the food and drink that passes your lips. Yep. You are what you eat! Maybe it’s a real challenge to change your diet. I agree that is a hard thing to do. Just thinking about the “diet” overhaul may be too overwhelming. So, the very first thing to do is to start taking a probiotic daily for a healthy gut. Many people think, “Well, I eat yogurt every day. Don’t I get my probiotics there?”
JUST YOGURT? NOT SO MUCH!
Most people consume yogurt that has a high amount of sugar in it. If you’re choosing a low-fat or non-fat yogurt, it probably has even more sugar in it than a full fat yogurt. Yogurt contains good bacteria, Lactobacillus, Acidophilus, and Bifidobacterium, but in general, yogurt does not contain enough probiotics to make a positive difference in your gut health.
LOOK AT THE INGREDIENTS
You need at least 1-10 billion strains of viable probiotic cells daily. If you want to know more specifics about the bacteria you need you can check out the ConsumerLabs.com Probiotics Review. Ask yourself, “Why are you taking the probiotics?” If you are taking it to treat a specific condition, things may get a little more complicated. If you just want to strengthen your immune system, the most simple and immediate solution is to take a probiotic supplement that has a variety of good bacteria. According to reviews.com, this is the best probiotic supplement for a healthy gut and a strong immune system. This supplement was recommended to me by my homeopath also. I’ve been telling my students about this for years. Renew Life 30 billion & 50 billion. For pregnant women, the 50 billion is beneficial.
FOODS FOR GUT HEALTH
Ready for a Diet Overhaul? Don’t take on more than you can chew (no pun intended). You can start out small and slow. Eating a lot of sugar, honey, agave nectar, and artificial sweeteners can wreak havoc on your gut health. These sweeteners can disrupt the balance of the good bacteria in your gut. Try to cut down on the amount of sugar you consume to start with. No need to go “cold turkey”. Even a small change can have big benefits. That good bacteria needs good food to stay healthy and alive. Keep track of what you eat for 2-3 days. Write everything down or keep track on an app. You will probably be surprised at how many processed foods that are common in our Western diet have added sugar. Read labels.
WHAT IS A PREBIOTIC?
Probiotics dine on prebiotics to stay healthy and thrive. Probiotics are live bacteria and the prebiotics act like a fertilizer to nourish and feed the probiotics. Think of the probiotics as a plant and the prebiotics as a combination of the water and the fertilizer that feeds the plant and helps it grow. Those probiotics feed on the prebiotics and grow and multiply. Prebiotics are from the non-digestible parts of complex carbohydrates. Some easily accessible examples of Prebiotics are:
- Dandelion Greens/leaves – add to salads, sandwiches, or smoothies.
- Leeks- use to add flavor to soups and sauces
- Jicama – use in salads, with dips.
- Barley – use in breads, soups, and stews
- Oats – eat plain, use in breads, cookies, and granola
- Cocoa – Try some chocolate bars that are minimum 80% cocoa.
- Seaweed – edible seaweeds: Dulse, Kelp, Nori, Wakame.
- Wheat bran – sprinkle on top of cereal, oatmeal, or add to smoothies, use instead of bread crumbs to coat chicken or fish
These 12 food items can easily be added to most diets without having to make drastic changes.
11 PROBIOTIC FOODS FOR GUT HEALTH
As I mentioned above, your body needs good or friendly bacteria to help develop and keep a strong immune system. Read labels so you know you are getting the good bacteria in the foods for gut health. Think fermented! Here’s a list of suggestions:
- Yogurt with live or active cultures (it should state it on the label) and no added sugar or artificial sweeteners: The National Yogurt Association has a list of refrigerated yogurt brands that have 100 million live cultures per gram of yogurt.
- Kefir is a fermented milk drink with live active cultures – lactic acid bacteria and yeast.
- Buttermilk consumed in Asia is another fermented dairy product. The buttermilk that you buy at your local grocery store does not have probiotics in it.
- Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage. You must again read labels and choose sauerkraut that has not been pasteurized or heated.
- Kimchi is a spicy Korean dish. It is very similar to sauerkraut because the main ingredient is cabbage. Kimchi is usually very spicy.
- Tempeh is fermented soy made from soybeans. It is a common source of protein in a vegetarian diet.
- Miso paste is another soybean product that is fermented with salt. It’s used as a base for Miso soup and as a seasoning.
- Kvass is a fermented drink that tastes like beer and may contain .5% alcohol. Originally Kvass was made from rye bread and fruits and herbs. It originated in the Ukraine.
- Kombucha is a fermented tea. Studies do not show that Kombucha is as effective as other foods but it does have probiotic elements.
- Pickles are cucumbers that have been fermented in salt and water.
- Bragg’s Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar. Take 2TBS every morning. This can be hard for some people so you can dilute with water.
DRINK TO YOUR GUT HEALTH
Taking the time to educate yourself is the first step to building a strong immune system and a healthy gut. Pat yourself on the back. If you get overwhelmed easily, take small steps. If you can successfully make drastic changes and go cold turkey, go for it. Now hold up your glass of unfiltered apple cider vinegar, or your Kvass and say, “Cheers! Here’s to my healthy gut! Kudos to my microbiome!”