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What Are The Best Foods For A Healthy Gut?
Updated on January 31, 2024
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Microbiome
What Are The Best Foods For A Healthy Gut?
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You are what you eat. Or rather, you are what your gut bacteria eat. 

To achieve better gut health, you should feed the healthy bacteria inside your gut with foods rich in the following nutrients:

  • Fiber
  • Prebiotics
  • Probiotics
  • Polyphenols
  • Omega-3 fatty acids

At the same time, you want to avoid foods that feed harmful bacteria or cause other unhealthy changes in your gut environment.

Refined sugars, artificial sweeteners, refined grains, red meats, and foods that are fried or high in saturated fats are the worst foods for your gut.

What Are The Best Foods For A Healthy Gut? 2

Best Foods for Healthy Gut

Several foods can help improve your gut bacteria.3 Below are some of them:

1. Fermented food

Fermented foods act as natural probiotics. They contain helpful bacteria that help balance gut flora. Some examples of fermented foods are:

  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Kefir
  • Miso soup
  • Tempeh

2. Coffee and tea

Coffee and tea are both helpful for your gut. Just be sure to choose natural coffee and tea. Examples include ground coffee, coffee beans, and loose tea leaves.

Stay away from instant coffee and sweet teas. Sweetened alternatives may contain artificial sweeteners. They are known to damage gut health.

3. Fiber-rich foods

Many fiber-rich foods act as prebiotics. This means they nourish the good bacteria in your gut. Examples of fiber-rich foods include:

  • Cruciferous vegetables
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Avocados
  • Black beans

4. Fruits and vegetables

Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is the key to increasing the beneficial bacteria in your gut. It’s because they contain prebiotics which promote their growth.

These foods are packed with antioxidants. Antioxidants enhance the diversity of your gut flora. They decrease potentially harmful gut bacteria, such as Firmicutes.4

Antioxidants can also increase good gut bacteria like Lactobacilli.4

5. Foods with omega-3 fatty acids

Studies show that a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids reduces inflammation, which can be helpful for people with inflammatory bowel syndrome. They also improve gut flora diversity.5

Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include:

  • Salmon and other fatty fish
  • Eggs
  • Walnuts
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Flax, hemp, and chia seeds

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Best Foods for Leaky Gut

Leaky gut syndrome is a condition in which the lining of the intestines becomes permeable. This allows toxins, bacteria, and undigested food particles to "leak" into the bloodstream.11

If you have a leaky gut, here are some foods you’d want to eat:

1. Lactose-free or low-lactose products

Regular dairy products containing lactose can be difficult to digest. This is especially true for people who lack enough lactase–the enzyme that breaks down lactose.12

People with lactose intolerance or a leaky gut may experience stomach upset when they eat foods containing lactose. So you should eat lactose-free and low-lactose options, such as:

  • Hard cheeses (e.g., parmesan or cheddar)
  • Lactose-free milk products
  • Dairy alternatives (e.g., almond milk)

2. Yogurt

Yogurt is one of the best foods for leaky gut. It contains live bacterial cultures which help break down lactose.

Keep in mind that frozen yogurt doesn’t offer the same benefits because it lacks beneficial bacteria. It can have the opposite effect and irritate your gut.

3. Foods rich in healthy fats

Healthy fats are a great way to reduce inflammation in the gut. They help to soothe the digestive tract.13 Some of the best sources of healthy fats include:

  • Olive oil
  • Avocados
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

4. Organic produce

Fruits and vegetables that contain pesticides may cause gut inflammation. Opting for organic alternatives will help you avoid this—reducing your risk for a leaky gut.14

5. Gluten-free alternatives

For those with celiac disease, gluten can trigger an autoimmune response that damages the gut lining. This can lead to leaky gut symptoms like:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

Some experts believe that gluten can cause problems for those who are sensitive to it. Choosing gluten-free alternatives lowers your risk for gut problems.

6. Bone broth

Bone broth is rich in collagen and other nutrients essential for gut health.

Collagen helps repair the gut lining. Glycine and proline (amino acids found in bone broth) may help reduce gut inflammation.15

Glucosamine is a natural compound of collagen. Supplementation can have a positive impact on your gut's function. It can also improve your gut flora diversity.16

7. Hypoallergenic proteins

Hypoallergenic proteins such as pea, rice, hemp, and chia seeds are great alternatives for people with food allergies.

If you're unsure, you can always test for food intolerance and allergies.

Best Foods for Digestion

There are many reasons why healthy digestion is important. For one, the digestive system helps to break down food so that the nutrients can be absorbed into the body.

Healthy digestion also helps to eliminate waste from the body. Additionally, it prevents gut problems such as constipation, diarrhea, and indigestion.

Below are some foods that promote digestive health:

1. Water

Water is essential for gut health and digestion. It helps break down food, lubricates the intestines, and prevents constipation.

Without enough water, stool can become hard and difficult to pass. This can lead to abdominal pain, cramping, and other digestive issues. Dehydration can also make existing digestive problems worse. 

Drinking plenty of water is a good way to stay hydrated and promote gut health. Other fluids, such as juices and soups, can also help.

2. Herbal teas

Many herbal teas improve gut health and digestion:17,18

  • Ginger tea relieves nausea and vomiting
  • Chamomile tea soothes stomach upset
  • Peppermint tea helps with indigestion and alleviates bloating and gas.

Other herbs that have been traditionally used to aid in digestion include fennel, licorice, and dandelion.

Herbal teas increase the production of digestive enzymes, which help break down food more effectively. They also increase the number of good bacteria in the gut.

3. Fruits

Fruit is an excellent source of dietary fiber, which is known to aid digestive health. In addition, fruit contains various vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants essential for gut health.

Fiber keeps the gastrointestinal tract clean and functioning properly. It also regulates bowel movements.19

4. Dietary fibers

Dietary fibers—especially insoluble fibers—encourage food to pass through your digestive system. It also increases the bulk of your stool, preventing constipation.19

Foods that are rich in insoluble fiber include:

  • Whole wheat flour
  • Nuts
  • Wheat bran
  • Beans 
  • Green leafy vegetables

Why Is Gut Health Important?

Scientists are beginning to understand that your health largely depends on the delicate balance between the beneficial gut bacteria and harmful gut microbes in your gut.

When you eat healthy foods, you are not just feeding good bacteria. You are creating a healthy gut microbiome with the right balance of good and bad bacteria.

Likewise, eating foods that aren’t healthy encourages harmful bacteria to take over your gut environment. This can lead to gut imbalance or gut dysbiosis.

Maintaining a healthy and well-balanced gut ensures that your gut bacteria is able to perform its many roles. These include:

  • Aiding digestion and nutrient absorption
  • Detoxifying harmful substances
  • Maintaining a healthy gut barrier
  • Protecting against pathogens
  • Regulating the immune system

How Does Food Affect Gut Health?

Your gut is home to trillions of microorganisms collectively known as the gut microbiome. It is made up of both good and bad bacteria.

Just as you enjoy certain foods, gut microbiota reacts differently to food. What you eat can cause certain microbes to thrive and impact your gut health.

For example, high-fiber and calorie-restricted diets are associated with having more Bacteroides (a type of good bacteria) than Firmicutes (a bad bacteria).1

High-fat diets have the opposite effect on your Bacteroides: Firmicutes ratio. They can cause the Firmicutes to increase and the Bacteroides to decrease.2

If you want more of the good guys and less of the bad ones inside your gut, you need to have a healthy diet.

What Are The Effects of Poor Gut Health?

It’s not fully understood how gut imbalance affects your body. However, researchers have linked poor gut health to various inflammatory diseases and gastrointestinal disorders. 

Here are some examples of how an unhealthy gut can affect you:20

  • Having more Firmicutes than Bacteroides increases your risk for weight gain and obesity
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is linked to decreased Firmicutes and increased Proteobacteria
  • People with diabetes tend to have higher levels of Firmicutes and Clostridia
  • Enterobacteriaceae is associated with some inflammatory diseases, including obesity and IBD
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)—another inflammatory disease—has been linked to increased Lactobacillus and Prevotella and decreased Bifidobacteria and Bacteroides

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Updated on January 31, 2024
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20 sources cited
Updated on January 31, 2024
  1. The Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes Ratio: A Relevant Marker of Gut Dysbiosis in Obese Patients?” Nutrients, National Center for Biotechnology Information.
  2. Influence of High-Fat-Diet on Gut Microbiota: A Driving Force for Chronic Disease Risk.” Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care, National Center for Biotechnology Information.
  3. ​6 Gut Health Hacks That Work.” American Association of Retired Persons.
  4. Bittersweet: artificial sweeteners and the gut microbiome.” Nature Medicine.
  5. High Intake of Sugar and the Balance between Pro- and Anti-Inflammatory Gut Bacteria.” Nutrients, National Center for Biotechnology Information.
  6. Meat, dairy and plant proteins alter bacterial composition of rat gut bacteria.” Scientific Reports, Nature.
  7. Intake of Meat Proteins Substantially Increased the Relative Abundance of Genus Lactobacillus in Rat Feces.” PLOS One, National Center for Biotechnology Information.
  8. Effects of a high fat diet on intestinal microbiota and gastrointestinal diseases.” World Journal of Gastroenterology.
  9. "Role of Food Antioxidants in Modulating Gut Microbial Communities: Novel Understandings in Intestinal Oxidative Stress Damage and Their Impact on Host Health." National Center for Biotechnology Information.
  10. Impact of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on the Gut Microbiota.” National Center for Biotechnology Information.
  11. "The Leaky Gut: Mechanisms, Measurement and Clinical Implications in Humans." National Center for Biotechnology Information.
  12. "Country, regional, and global estimates for lactose malabsorption in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis." The Lancet.
  13. "Leaky Gut: Effect of Dietary Fiber and Fats on Microbiome and Intestinal Barrier." National Center for Biotechnology Information.
  14. "A Review on the Health Effects of Pesticides Based on Host Gut Microbiome and Metabolomics." National Center for Biotechnology Information.
  15. "Identification and Structure–Activity Relationship of Intestinal Epithelial Barrier Function Protective Collagen Peptides from Alaska Pollock Skin." National Center for Biotechnology Information.
  16. "Impact of Glucosamine Supplementation on Gut Health." National Center for Biotechnology Information.
  17. "The Effectiveness of Ginger in the Prevention of Nausea and Vomiting during Pregnancy and Chemotherapy." National Center for Biotechnology Information.
  18. "FT-IR characteristics, phenolic profiles and inhibitory potential against digestive enzymes of 25 herbal infusions." National Center for Biotechnology Information.
  19. Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet.” Mayo Clinic.
  20. "The Relationship Between Gut Microbiota and Inflammatory Diseases: The Role of Macrophages." Frontiers in Microbiology.
Ada Sandoval
Ada Sandoval
Content Contributor
Ada Sandoval is a B.S. in Nursing graduate and a registered nurse with a heart for abandoned animals. She works as a content writer who specializes in medical-related articles and pet health.
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