Gut health matters! Ask the hundreds of little microbes housed there that boost your immunity and optimise your digestion. The gut helps in the absorption of nutrients and in the elimination of toxins from our body. And, it also keeps our inflammatory response in check.
It was Hippocrates – the father of modern medicine, who said that “all disease begins in the gut.” And, even if we don’t believe in the wisdom of those words from over 2,000 years ago, we know today that many things can go wrong with our health and metabolism when there is an imbalance in our gut.
Studies have shown that there are correlations between good gut health and the state of our immune system, mental health, and emotional health, as well as our risk of contracting autoimmune diseases, endocrine disorders, skin conditions, and even cancer.
So, how can you make sure your gut is in good shape? I recommend eating foods that strengthen the gut, repair the gut lining, and feed the good bacteria of the gut. Seven of these essential healthy foods are mentioned here in this article.
1. Fibrous foods
The fibre in foods feeds the good bacteria and promotes gut health. Whole foods are particularly rich in fibre and prebiotics. Fibrous foods such as asparagus, leeks, beans, legumes, oats, bananas and berries show a positive impact on gut health in numerous aspects.
Wherever possible go for organic, seasonal and local produce. Support your local farmers and shop from your local farmers markets.
2. Fermented foods
Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, yogurt, tempeh, miso and kefir are soothing and nourishing for the gut. They contain all the gut-essential nutrients – a healthy dose of probiotics, and the fermentation process makes them particularly gut-friendly.
These foods also make for great side dishes with your regular meals. For example, add some sauerkraut or kimchi side to your meal and sip on a fruit-flavoured kombucha or kefir drink in place of wine or sugary carbonated drinks!
3. Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar can help in the break-down and digestion of complex foods by stimulating the digestive juices and enhancing the acid production in the stomach. It has powerful antimicrobial and antiviral properties that are effective for removing the bad bacteria in the digestive tract, as well as for getting rid of the excess yeast from the body.
Mix a spoonful of apple cider vinegar (not more than 2 tablespoons or 30ml) with a glassful of warm water and gulp it down every morning. Preferably, on an empty stomach. Drinking apple cider vinegar this way can help you balance your gut, boost gut health as well as aid in controlling your weight if you have weight-related issues. Apple cider vinegar can also be added to salads as dressing.
4. Collagen-boosting foods
Collagen rich foods can be beneficial for the gut. But most foods in this group are of the non-vegetarian variety – such as oysters and salmon – that are unsuitable for vegetarians. Vegetarians and vegans can try leafy greens, citrus fruits, broccoli and red peppers that contain nutrients essential for the synthesis of collagen in the body. Mushrooms can also help in collagen generation in the body, and therefore aid the gut in this way.
Hemp is a good vegan substitute for collagen. Hemp seeds and hemp oil can be added to meals to make them richer and more nutritious.
5. Garlic and onion
Garlic has numerous effective – antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anti-cancer properties. It has a two-pronged prebiotic effect, one that promotes the growth of the friendly gut bacteria and another that hampers the growth of disease-promoting bad bacteria.
Onion too has several effective – antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-cancer and antibiotic properties. It helps the gut flora, aids in the break down of fats, and boosts the immune system.
Chop up onion and crush garlic to add to a salad. Or, lightly roast onion and garlic on medium flame and drizzle with a little coconut oil for flavour, before adding them as seasoning to your favourite dish.
5. Dandelion greens
Dandelion greens are a great detoxifying agent. They also contain fibre, nutrients, antioxidants, anti-inflammation and prebiotic properties. They are rich in vitamins – A and K and minerals – calcium and iron.
Dandelion greens are available as supplements in local supermarkets, or even as powders that can be mixed with water.
Pineapples contain healthy enzymes and fibres that aid in digestion. The enzyme – bromelain, can breakdown large molecules of protein from complex foods into smaller peptides. It can also counter pain and inflammation throughout the body. And reduce the secretions that damage the gut lining.
Pineapples are so versatile in that they can be cooked as well as eaten raw or even blended into smoothies. Avoid eating canned, packaged and/or pre-processed foods, including pineapples this way.
7. Activated charcoal
Activated charcoal is not really food but it has some very positive impacts on gut health. Activated charcoal can help you counter bloatedness, pain, gas, and diarrhea. It absorbs and binds with the toxins in the food as well as the toxins in the digestive tract and dismisses them from the body through faecal matter. This way toxins don’t enter our bloodstream at all and are conveniently excreted before they can do any real damage.
Activated charcoal is available in powder form or as tablets. You can have up to 1 tablet a day or the equivalent in powder-form (not more than 50gms, or as per the instructions on the package) to improve your gut health and flush out toxins.
Diet and health are closely related. I highly recommend that you start incorporating these foods into your diet at the earliest if you haven’t already. I assure you the moment your gut feels balanced and renewed, your overall health will also improve.
After all, a healthy body and a healthy mind can only be when there is a healthy gut supporting them both.
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