People who talk about their guts can be divided into two groups: those who are referring to gut health and those who are referring to the extra weight they might be carrying around their midsections. No matter where you are on the gut conversation spectrum, this guide can help fix your gut.
What Is The Gut?
The “gut” refers to your digestive system or the portion of your digestive tract that runs from the mouth to the exit. This includes your mouth, esophagus, stomach, and small and large intestines. When we consume foods, they pass through the digestive tract, where essential vitamins and nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream and sent to various parts of the body for use.
The gut is essentially the gatekeeper of your body, and it uses what you eat to help your body thrive. It communicates with other systems in your body, like your immune and nervous systems, and it even plays a role in the health of your skin by a mechanism known as the gut-skin axis.
What Is Gut Health?
When we talk about whether or not we have a healthy gut, we are referring to the health of the gut microbiome, which is primarily located in the large intestine. The microbiome is home to a diversity of bacteria. There are trillions of these bacteria — some of which are good, and some of which aren’t.
To stay healthy, we need to feed the good bacteria and starve the bad bacteria. To do this, we need to eat certain foods, like prebiotic and probiotic-rich foods. As we’ll discuss, some foods help the good gut bacteria to thrive, while others promote the growth of bad bacteria.
It’s important to keep these bacteria in balance. When the balance is off, our bodies experience discomfort and disease. This can range from mild cases of constipation, gas, bloating, and upset stomach, to more dangerous conditions.
Is Gut Health Really a Big Deal?
It’s a fair question. The temperature of the health and wellness industry can make anyone second-guess whether or not something is just a fad or truly important.
It’s estimated that between 60-70 million Americans suffer from some type of digestive disease, and that number is climbing.
The reason? Unhealthy guts. The culprit? The classic American diet.
The team at L’Evate You is on a mission to normalize the conversation about gut health and help you avoid gut-related illnesses by discussing how to take better care of your body. Read on to learn some of the best ways to care for yourself and improve your gut health.
What Are Some of the Best Foods for Gut Health?
The single most effective way to protect your gut health, and by extension, the health and wellness of your entire body, is by choosing gut-healthy foods. Most of us don’t get enough of the good, healthy foods that help our gut function improve. Consider this your shopping list the next time you go to the market.
1. Prebiotics and Probiotics
You grew up taking antibiotics, so these terms might sound slightly familiar to you. Unlike antibiotics, which, though effective, usually eradicate all the bacteria (both good bacteria and harmful bacteria) in the gut, prebiotics and probiotics help feed and protect the good bacteria.
Prebiotics are ingredients that feed your gut flora (the good bacteria in the gut). They contain indigestible fiber (aka “roughage”) that healthy gut microbes love to eat. Sources of prebiotics include oats, lentils, whole grains, root vegetables like garlic and onions, artichokes, and asparagus.
Probiotics are versions of healthy bacteria. Think of consuming probiotics like sending in the reserves to the army of gut bacteria that’s already on the front lines. Probiotics can be taken as supplements, but you can also find them in fermented foods like kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, kombucha, miso, and tempeh.
To keep your gut healthy, you need both reserve troops and the food to feed them.
2. Complex Carbohydrates
While some carbohydrates are not healthful and can eed bad bacteria (think refined carbohydrates like table sugar), some carbohydrates have health benefits we don’t want to miss.
Complex carbohydrates contain essential vitamins and minerals our bodies need to function and our guts need to thrive. Sources of complex carbohydrates include whole grains, beans, peas, and most vegetables.
3. Healthy Fats
If you grew up in the nineties, you probably remember the fat-free fad. It had all our parents switching from whole milk to skim and swapping butter for margarine. The problem was our overall health didn’t improve by avoiding fat. In fact, we got sicker.
That doesn’t mean it’s time to put fried foods and processed snacks back on the menu. Instead, we need to give our bodies healthy fats, like those found in avocados, fatty fish like salmon, and walnuts. These foods contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to support for heart health and better overall wellness.
4. Leafy Greens
Green, leafy veggies are some of the best choices for your gut health. These vegetables include fiber, vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. They also include a complex carbohydrate that is essential in preserving and protecting your gut health.
Dietary sources of leafy greens include spinach, kale, collards, and mustard greens. The recommended daily serving of leafy greens is approximately two cups per day. As reasonable people, we understand that a serving of spinach doesn’t qualify as a satisfying snack.
Instead, you can sip on a deliciously flavored blend of greens, pro and prebiotics, antioxidants, and cellular superchargers, by using L’Evate You’s Vitality Daily Greens. With just 15 simple calories per serving, you’ve already checked off four of the most important ingredients to help the beneficial bacteria in your gut flourish.
5. Lean Protein
Protein choices can come in packages that contain high levels of animal fat that isn’t good for our guts or our heart health. Instead of reaching for protein sources like red or processed meat, focus on lean proteins like chicken, fish, soybeans, and nuts or legumes.
These sources can help balance the levels of good and bad bacteria in the gut.
What Are Some of the Worst Foods for Gut Health?
Now that you know what you need, here’s the lineup of foods you should avoid. Not only are these foods damaging to your gut health, but they also don’t provide any health benefits for your body.
Consuming them is like consuming empty calories because your body can’t use them for any specific purpose other than fat storage. And let’s be honest, none of us really need any more help storing excess weight.
1. Fried Foods
You know them and you love them, but those greasy fried foods aren’t doing your gut (digestive or belly) any favors. Fried foods promote an imbalance in the healthy and bad bacteria in the gut, causing harmful bacteria levels to rise.
Not to mention, fried foods are usually ripe with trans fats, which can cause your cholesterol numbers to rise and your energy levels to plummet.
2. Red Meat
You might be a steak and potatoes kind of person, but your gut is team beans n’ greens. Red meat isn’t a good fit for your gut health. Research has shown that your gut microbes release a particularly inflammatory compound in red meat that can disrupt your digestive tract.
Instead of steak, marinate some chicken and throw it on the grill the next time you’re at a barbecue; you’ll feel better and keep your gut happy, and probably keep your cholesterol numbers in check.
Don’t shoot the messenger, but if you’re serious about caring for your gut health, you’ll want to limit or avoid alcohol. Alcohol was once thought to have some health benefits when consumed in moderation, but now we know that there is no amount of alcohol that is truly beneficial to our health.
Alcohol is particularly offensive to your digestive tract, negatively impacting the mucous lining of your stomach and leading to gas and abdominal discomfort.
4. Refined Sugar
Sugar isn’t good for us in terms of calories, packing on excess weight where we don’t need it, and in terms of blood sugar levels, causing rises and falls that can even impact our mental health. In the gut, sugar feeds bad bacteria and lowers the number of healthy bacteria, opening the door to many gut-related health problems.
The real problem with sugar is that it’s hiding everywhere. It’s often used as a preservative in foods that don’t even taste sweet. When avoiding it, be careful not to substitute artificial sweeteners to satisfy your sweet tooth. One study showed that some artificial sugars (like sucralose and saccharin) can negatively impact gut bacteria.
5. Refined Grains
When we process grains, we strip them of the good stuff (fiber, vitamins, and minerals) and replace them with bad stuff (like sugar and trans fats). This is usually done to keep foods shelf stable, which is why there’s such a push to consume more “whole foods,” or foods that haven’t been processed.
Refined grains like cereal and bread aren’t beneficial to the gut and lack the ingredients that the gut needs, like those insoluble fibers that healthy gut bacteria need to flourish.
The Bottom Line
Your gut? It’s important. And if you focus on your gut health, there’s a good chance your physical gut will look a little different, too. Making healthy changes is manageable if you do it one simple step at a time.
Adding L’Evate You Vitality Daily Greens is a simple way to feed your gut the right ingredients and improve your overall health and wellness. The best part? It tastes delicious, so making the change doesn’t seem like a challenge.
Do your body good. Get your greens, and feed your gut.
Definition of gastrointestinal tract - NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms
Gut–Skin Axis: Current Knowledge of the Interrelationship between Microbial Dysbiosis and Skin Conditions - PMC
Digestive Diseases Statistics for the United States - NIDDK
Antibiotics as Major Disruptors of Gut Microbiota - PMC
Why We Got Fatter During The Fat-Free Food Boom : The Salt : NPR
Vegetable of the month: Leafy greens - Harvard Health
Gut microbes affect harmful compound in red meat | National Institutes of Health (NIH)
No level of alcohol consumption is safe for our health|WHO.int
Artificial Sweeteners Negatively Regulate Pathogenic Characteristics of Two Model Gut Bacteria, E. coli and E. faecalis