In This Article
In This Article
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:
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.
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. Below, we'll talk about the foods you should eat and avoid.
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Several foods can help improve your gut bacteria.3 Below are some of them:
Fermented foods act as natural probiotics. They contain helpful bacteria that help balance gut flora. Some examples of fermented foods are:
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.
Many fiber-rich foods act as prebiotics. This means they nourish the good bacteria in your gut. Examples of fiber-rich foods include:
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
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:
Some foods decrease healthy gut microbes and increase the presence of bad bacteria. This can lead to gut imbalance, which is why you need to avoid them:
Artificial sweeteners negatively alter the gut microbiota of healthy people. It also impairs glucose intolerance or the body’s ability to move sugar from the blood into the muscles and fat.6
This means that the intake of artificial sweeteners not only causes gut imbalance. It increases your risk for weight gain and obesity.6 Some artificial sweeteners to avoid include:
A diet high in sugar and refined grain causes gut imbalance. It increases your risk for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and metabolic disorders like diabetes and obesity.7
High-sugar diets have been shown to decrease microbial diversity and Bacteroides while increasing the number of Proteobacteria in the gut.7
So try not to eat too many refined carbohydrates and sugars like:
Eating red meat occasionally can be healthy. But making a habit out of it isn’t. You should limit your intake of red meats such as:
Compared to white meats, a diet high in red meats is associated with a decrease in the beneficial bacteria, Lactobillus.8
Meat-based diets are also linked to lower levels of Bacteroides, Fusobacterium, and Prevotella—or bacteria that produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs).9
If you eat more red meats, you may not be able to enjoy their health benefits.
Lactobacilli help maintain gut health, while SCFAs protect against obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other inflammatory diseases.9
Saturated fats are not only bad for your cholesterol levels but also for your gut.
Diets high in saturated fatty acids decrease your gut microbial diversity and increase your Firmicutes, which is associated with weight gain and obesity.1,10
Examples of foods that are high in saturated fats include:
Avoid cooking with coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil since they can saturate your food with unhealthy fats.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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
For those with celiac disease, gluten can trigger an autoimmune response that damages the gut lining. This can lead to leaky gut symptoms like:
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.
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
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.
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:
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.
Many herbal teas improve gut health and digestion:17,18
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.
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
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:
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:
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
Yes. Gut health supplements usually contain the same probiotics found in probiotic-rich foods and will make an excellent addition to any healthy diet.
But if you need something to help with your overall digestive needs, we recommend ONNIT Total Gut Health. Besides probiotics, it has prebiotics, digestive enzymes, and yeasts.
This unique blend is designed to improve digestive health while balancing your gut flora.
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