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The gut-healing diet: All you need to know

Writer: Joel
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Updated on: March 5, 2021
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A happy gut is crucial for a healthy life. Besides supplying your body with essential nutrients, it facilitates cognitive function and immune response. 

Needless to say, not everything you eat is suitable for your gut. Sometimes the food you consume will upset the delicate balance within it, causing all kinds of trouble (acne, sleep problems, weight loss, constipation).  But, thankfully, there’s a way to fix it. All you may need is a gut-healing diet.

What does a gut-healing diet look like?

The gut-healing diet is a food regimen designed to eliminate unpleasant digestive issues. It may involve actions as simple as removing irritant food groups, like dairy, or as complicated as abstaining from several types of foods.

Unlike other diets (think keto), gut-healing regimens don't necessarily restrict how much one is allowed to eat, nor do they place limits on nutrient intake and eating patterns. The goal is to create an environment that helps your digestive system. It's done by eating food that promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria while staying away from anything known to trigger undesirable digestive symptoms.

Gut healing diets vary among individuals. Since everyone's digestive system is unique, they have different needs, which means their diets can’t be the same.

Although all foods can fit into a healthy lifestyle, there are a few you'll want to avoid or at least limit if you want a healthy lifestyle.

We reviewed the top 5 microbiome test kits for testing your gut health. Read Now.

What you should avoid in your gut-healing diet

Not everything that tastes good is ideal for your gut.  Here’s what you need to avoid.

Processed grains

Refined carbohydrates, like white flour, encourage undesirable gut bacteria growth, which upsets your digestive system's microbial balance. Also, processed carbs are more challenging for your gut to process, so they are likely to cause undesirable gastrointestinal conditions.

Processed foods

You'll need to cut back on your consumption of processed foods for a healthier gut. This food group lacks the nutrients that support good bacteria. Besides, studies suggest they promote the growth of inflammation-causing micro-organisms. Many of these items also contain gluten; you'll want to avoid them entirely if you have celiac disease.

Fatty food

Fat may be a crucial macronutrient, but consuming excessive amounts will train your gut and affect microbial diversity. Fatty foods (especially those rich in saturated fats like sausages and bacon and Trans fats, like fries, donuts, and stick margarine.

Fatty foods may aggravate symptoms like nausea, bloating, and diarrhea. If you have any of these symptoms, you should limit the amount of greasy food you consume.

Artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are chemicals added to beverages and foods, so they taste sweet. Though they're touted as sugar-free, these substances affect your gut's microbial balance, leading to symptoms like diarrhea and gas. A gut-healing diet will almost undoubtedly require that you stay away from these substances.

What you should include in your diet

If you didn’t like the idea of abandoning your favorite foods and snacks, do not despair. You don’t need to, at least not entirely. You can trade them in for healthier versions.

Here’s what you should eat:

Vegetables and high-fiber fruit

Leeks, cabbage, bananas, watermelon - all these foods are filled with healthy nutrients and fiber which help the good gut bacteria flourish.

Healthy fat

An effective gut healing regimen will likely include polyunsaturated fats like omega 6 and omega 3, which promote digestive health.  You get polyunsaturated fats by consuming fatty fish, nuts, and eggs. Nuts should be consumed without salt, as the sodium could hinder consumption.

Whole grains

You may replace your refined carbohydrates with whole grains. Take a look at your pantry; exchange the refined products (white bread, bagels, white rice, and so on) for whole-grain alternatives (whole-grain bagel bread, oatmeal, quinoa pasta, and others).

Fermented food

Fermented food has many probiotics (live bacteria that support a healthy microbial balance within your digestive system). Probiotics can alleviate symptoms like gas, diarrhea, bloating, and constipation. If you've never tried fermented foods before, you could try miso soup and sauerkraut.

Does the Paleo diet work for gut healing?

The Paleolithic diet is a dietary regimen composed of foods similar to what mankind ate during the Paleolithic age (between 2.5 - 10,000 years ago). Paleo diets typically comprise lean meat, fruits, fish, nuts, seeds, and vegetables.

Since Paleo eliminates most of the foods likely to irritate your gut, like processed foods, grains, and sugars (including artificial sweeteners), it will likely have therapeutic effects. However, it’s important to remember that every individual is different. It may have to be customized to your unique needs for the best results.

Does the Vegan Diet work for gut healing?

A vegan diet, even one that includes a little meat, will do wonders for your gut. Vegan diets that incorporate a variety of whole grains, vegetables, and fruit will increase your gut bacteria's diversity, making them more resilient, and provide several antioxidants and phytonutrients essential to your general health.

What Tests Can Help You Find the Right Diet?

Tests can reveal unique aspects of your digestive system to help you identify the ideal gut healing diet for your needs. Here are two you should consider.

Stool test

Stool tests can help identify fat malabsorption and inflammation of the digestive tract. Both these conditions are closely linked to microbial imbalance. Although the stool test may not reveal their cause, it provides a useful starting point to help you identify the right diet.

Leaky gut test / Intestinal permeability tests

The intestinal permeability test, also known as the "leaky gut" test, is a highly accurate, non-invasive examination for evaluating gastrointestinal mucosal integrity. It is usually recommended for people struggling with food allergies, food sensitivities, and skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema. Like the stool test, this test may not specifically tell you which foods you should eat, but it will reveal if your eating is hurting your digestive system.

What are the benefits of a healthy gut?

A robust immune system

When your digestive system is in good condition, it will quickly and efficiently eliminate toxins within your body. This will limit the chances that you'll catch illnesses. Also, 80% of your immune system is in your gut. It just doesn't protect you from harmful pathogens you might ingest with your food; it also eliminates germs that enter your body through other means, like your respertory system.

Mental clarity

There is a strong connection between your brain and digestive system (the two organs are connected by the vagus nerve, one of the longest and most important nerves in the body). Your gut also produces nearly all your body's supply of serotonin - keeping it healthy keeps you happy.

What are the disadvantages of an unhealthy gut?

Unintended weight gain or loss

An unhealthy digestive system may lead to unintended weight gain or loss. An imbalanced microbiome can affect your body's ability to absorb nutrients from food, store fat, and regulate blood sugar. These circumstances may lead to insulin resistance or sugar cravings resulting from decreased nutrient absorption, resulting in weight gain. Conversely, small intestine bacterial overgrowth, also caused by microbiome imbalance, can lead to weight loss.

Chronic fatigue and sleep disturbances.

An unhealthy gut may disturb your sleep, causing problems like persistent fatigue and insomnia.  Your gut produces most of your body's supply of serotonin. Besides mood regulation, it also induces sleep; if your body doesn’t have enough of it, you won’t sleep well.

Skin irritation

Digestive problems can cause skin conditions like eczema. Inflammation of the digestive tract resulting from poor diet, food allergies, and other diseases may allow harmful proteins into the bloodstream (a condition known as leaky gut syndrome). These proteins irritate the skin, causing conditions like eczema and acne.

Autoimmune conditions

Your body's immunity is closely tied to its digestive health. Unfortunately, when it's in bad shape, it doesn't just leave you vulnerable to disease but also increases your risk for autoimmune disease (where the body turns on itself instead of foreign pathogens).


Starting a gut-healing diet is one of the best ways to improve your digestive health. Besides alleviating unpleasant symptoms, it will significantly improve your quality of life. However, you may need a unique regimen for best results, so you should seek professional help.

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