Originally posted on askdrnandi.com
In the dark recesses of your digestive system, there are trillions of “bugs” hard at work keeping you healthy. The complex community of bacteria and other microbes in your gut is called the gut microbiome.
These microbes play a vital role in our health and well-being. We call them “bugs” because they are too small to see, but their collective weight is equal to that of the human brain.
Your gut microbiome has important body-wide effects even more than you imagine. Your microbiome not only helps you digest food and extract nutrients, but it also helps regulate your immune system, your blood sugar levels, and your mood.
There are many factors that can affect the health of your gut. Diet is one of the most important factors as it provides food for the good bacteria in your stomach. Stress is another factor to consider as it can affect how well you digest food and how much energy you have to fight off infections. Keeping our microbiome healthy and balanced is key to preventing disease and maintaining our physical and mental health.
Improving your gut health can be done with a few simple steps: eating a nutritious diet, getting enough exercise, managing stress levels, and getting enough sleep.
A diet high in refined sugar has long been associated with obesity and other gastrointestinal disorders. “Light” products and artificial sweeteners don’t do any better.
Sugar substitutes have a negative impact on the microbiome, according to research studies conducted on animals. When mice were given artificial sweeteners, their blood sugar levels rose, and they had trouble using the insulin bodies produced.
“Diets that include a lot of ultra-processed foods are intrinsically nutritionally unbalanced,” says Carlos A. Monteiro, MD, PhD, Professor of Nutrition and Public Health at the University of Sao Paulo. These include artificially sweetened drinks, which “stimulate cravings for sweetness, making people more likely to eat sweet foods.”
You can manage stress through activities like exercise, meditation, hobbies, and hanging out with friends or in nature.
When we’re stressed, our brain activates our fight-or-flight response, which can affect our digestion. Chronic stress has long been known to contribute to the onset and worsening of symptoms in multiple gastrointestinal disorders, including irritable bowel disorder and other bowel diseases.
Garlic is naturally high in inulin, a type of non-digestible carbohydrate or “functional fiber” that feeds the good bacteria in your digestive system. Basically, it acts as fuel for those bacteria to do their job better, which makes your gut function better overall.
A study in Food Science and Human Wellness also revealed that garlic promotes the growth of friendly bacteria (bifidobacteria, specifically) in the gut and prevents disease-promoting bacteria from growing.
It’s important to know that garlic will start to lose its prebiotic benefits the more you cook it (and raw is best for gut health), so try rubbing it on toast or adding it to guacamole or salad dressing instead of cooking it.
Learn more about the amazing health benefits of garlic.
Ginger is a spice that is most commonly used for flavoring foods, but it also has many medicinal properties. Ginger can help relieve nausea and vomiting, as well as other stomach-related symptoms.
A study published in the journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology found that ginger increases the presence of prostaglandins, which are hormone-like substances in the body. They function to increase the permeability of the gut lining to allow more nutrients to be absorbed by your body.
The compounds found in ginger are called gingerols. These compounds have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, which may be why they work so well on digestion problems. Gingerols also have antioxidant properties that help protect against damage from free radicals, which play a role in aging and disease development.
Learn more about the amazing health benefits of ginger
Adding ginger to your daily life will not only improve your overall digestion but optimize your gut health. Try making a simple ginger tea with Spice World Minced Ginger.
Onions of all colors (including white) are good sources of vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, and folate, while garlic is rich in vitamin C, vitamin B6, thiamin, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, copper, and manganese.
“Onions are packed with disease- and free-radical-fighting antioxidants, which help repair and protect damaged cells in your body. They’re one of the best sources of flavonoids (including quercetin), phytochemicals with powerful antioxidant properties.”
Onions contain a high amount of prebiotics and fiber. In the body, this helps improve gut health by aiding digestion, strengthening the immune system, and lowering inflammation.
Learn more about the amazing health benefits of onions.
Quick Gut-Healing Onion Soup
Food that has undergone fermentation—where yeast or bacteria break down the sugars they contain—has undergone this process. Fermented food includes:
Many of these are high in lactobacilli, a type of bacteria good for your health. According to research, people who consume a lot of yogurts have more lactobacilli and other prebiotics in their intestines. They also have lower levels of bacteria linked to inflammation and a number of chronic illnesses.
To reap the gut health benefits, ensure the label reads “contains live active cultures.”
Some berries are known to help chronic inflammation and improve gut bacteria. Here are the top eight berries for gut health:
Berries are among the healthiest foods available. They’re high in fiber, vitamin C, and antioxidants while being low in calories. Many berries have been linked to improved heart health, including lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
They may also help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and are excellent alternatives to sugary snacks. Consume a few servings of berries per week and experiment with different varieties. Serve them on salads or as a healthy breakfast topping.
Animal-based diets promote the growth of different types of intestinal bacteria more than plant-based diets. Several studies have found that vegetarian diets may benefit the gut microbiome due to their high fiber content.
According to a 2019 review, plant foods are high in specific nutrients that can increase the levels of beneficial bacteria while decreasing harmful strains of bacteria to support gut health.
Leafy greens, such as spinach or kale, are excellent sources of fiber, as well as nutrients like folate, vitamin C, vitamin K, and vitamin A. Research shows that leafy greens also contain a specific type of sugar that fuels the growth of healthy gut bacteria.
Eating a lot of fiber and leafy greens allows you to develop an ideal gut microbiome — those trillions of organisms that live in the colon.
Improving your diet is one of the quickest ways to boost your overall gut health. Here’s how you can add garlic, ginger, and onion to your meals without the added inconvenience of chopping and peeling these powerhouse nutrients.
Are you still peeling those bulbs? If you’re always on the go or simply hate peeling and chopping, you’ll love these fresh, ready-to-use garlic, ginger, and onions! These will make you enjoy eating healthy even more — and your gut will thank you for it.
It’s no surprise that you’ve heard this before: Getting enough sleep is important for your health. But what you may not know is that a lack of sleep can also have a big impact on your gut. According to Dr. Boxer, sleep deprivation can lead to changes in your gut microbiome. It can even affect what you choose to eat the next day. When you don’t get enough sleep, it’s more likely that you’ll reach for sugary snacks or unhealthy comfort food instead of healthier options. Unsurprisingly, this can have a negative effect on your gut health. To ensure your gut is functioning properly, the National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get seven to nine hours of sleep every night. So, make sleep a priority!
Eating a wide variety of healthy foods daily along with managing your stress, decreasing your sugar intake, exercising, and getting a good night’s sleep will keep your gut health in check.