That Gut Feeling
When it comes to gut health, we are talking about the gut microbiome.
Cara Adams, Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Expert
Our gut microbiome consists of over 100 trillion microorganisms that line our digestive tract beginning in the mouth and ending in the rectum.
These include bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses.
In a healthy individual, all these different “gut bugs” coexist peacefully. Most of these bugs are beneficial to the body, and smaller amounts are harmful to the body, or disease-promoting.
The beneficial gut bugs play important roles in metabolism, digestion, immune system support, protection against pathogens or contaminated foods, and even potential treatment or prevention of diseases.
So, is it possible to eat your way to a happier, healthier gut?
Anything that can feed these beneficial gut bugs or help keep them plentiful is going to be beneficial to overall health. Specifically, eating a high-fiber diet has great benefits for a healthier gut.
The average American consumes only 10-13 grams of fiber daily. For optimal gut health, men should aim for 38 grams of fiber per day and women should aim for at least 25 grams per day.
Many sources of fiber also serve as prebiotics. Prebiotics are non-digestible parts of food that feed and nourish those good bugs that exist naturally in the gut.
Prebiotic fiber is found highest in in raw sources of: Garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, dandelion greens, bananas, and seaweed. Fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains such as wheat, oats, and barley are also good source of prebiotic fibers.
Keep in mind that a high intake of prebiotic foods, especially if introduced suddenly, can increase gas and bloating. These foods may need to be introduced in small amounts to see how well they are tolerated.
Probiotics, on the other hand, are live microorganisms that function like the beneficial gut bugs. Ingesting foods containing probiotics can help increase the number of good gut bugs, overwhelming the harmful gut bugs.
Probiotic foods consist of:
The bottom line:
Improving gut health can have a variety of other benefits to the body. Prioritize eating a high-fiber diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Incorporate various sources of prebiotics and probiotic foods into your diet to help nourish and multiply those beneficial microbes that make up your microbiome.