know your dna logo
search iconmenu Icon

The gut-healing diet: All you need to know

Updated on October 13, 2021
Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Dhingra
Written by
Joel
KnowYourDNA is reader-supported. This means we may receive a commission when you buy something from one of the links on this page.

A happy gut is crucial for a healthy life. It supplies the body with essential nutrients. It also facilitates cognitive function and immune response. 

Not everything you eat is suitable for your gut. Sometimes the food you consume will upset the delicate balance within it. It can cause acne, sleep problems, weight loss, or constipation. 

Thankfully, there’s a way to fix gut imbalance. All you may need is a gut-healing diet.

The gut-healing diet: All you need to know 2

What is a Gut-Healing Diet?

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

Unlike other diets (think keto diet), gut-healing regimens don't restrict food consumption. They don't place limits on nutrient intake and eating patterns, too. The goal is to create an environment that helps your digestive system. 

A gut-healing diet is done by eating food that promotes beneficial bacteria growth while staying away from food that triggers undesirable digestive symptoms. The goal is to reduce inflammation by staying away from inflammatory foods. 

This diet varies from person to person. Since everyone's digestive system is unique, we all have different needs. This means that our diets can’t be the same.

Who Should Follow a Gut-Healing Diet?

The gut is home to trillions of bacteria. Good and bad bacteria live together inside the gut microbiota. When the peaceful balance between good and bad bacteria is disrupted, dysbiosis occurs. 

Gut dysbiosis, or gut imbalance, can occur because of several factors. This includes:

  • Stress
  • Poor diet
  • Antibiotic use

When this happens, a person may feel gassy, bloated, or constipated. People experiencing these symptoms will benefit from a gut-healing diet.

Additionally, a gut-healing diet can help reduce the symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders. These include: 

  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Stomach cramps
  • Vomiting

There are people considered as good candidates for a gut-healing diet. They are those diagnosed with the following digestive disorders:

KNOW YOUR DNA

Best Gut Health Test

We took and reviewed the 6 best microbiome testing kits. Read our review to see what we liked and disliked about each.

  • Acid reflux
  • Celiac disease
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn's Disease, Ulcerative Colitis)
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome

A gut-healing diet is good for:

  • People experiencing leaky gut symptoms
  • Those with food allergies
  • People with food sensitivity
  • Those with food intolerance

Gastrointestinal-related problems causing uncomfortable symptoms will benefit from a gut-healing diet. It will do wonders and help restore gut health.

What Foods are Included in a Gut-Healing Diet?

To heal your gut and restore healthy gut bacteria, you need to eat more gut-healing foods. You don’t need to completely stop eating your favorite foods. You can trade them in for healthy foods.

To improve gut health, here’s what you should eat:

Vegetables and high-fiber fruit

These foods are filled with healthy nutrients and fiber. They help good gut bacteria flourish.

Examples are:

  • Leeks
  • Cabbage
  • Bananas
  • Watermelon

Healthy fats

An effective gut healing regimen will include polyunsaturated fats. These include omega 6 and omega 3, which promote digestive health. You get polyunsaturated fats by consuming:

  • Fatty fish
  • Nuts
  • Eggs

Nuts should be consumed without salt, as sodium could hinder consumption.

Whole grains

A low-carb diet is highly recommended. You may replace refined carbohydrates with whole grains. Refined products include:

  • White bread
  • Bagels
  • White rice

Recommended whole-grain alternatives are: 

  • Whole-grain bagel bread
  • Oatmeal
  • Quinoa pasta 

Fermented food

Fermented food has many probiotics. These are 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 the following:

  • Miso soup
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Kefir 
  • Green olives

What Foods Should You Avoid in a 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. This upsets your digestive system's microbial balance. 

Also, processed carbs are more challenging for your gut to process. 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. 

Studies suggest processed food promotes 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. However, consuming excessive amounts will train your gut and affect microbial diversity. Fatty foods are those rich in saturated fats (sausages and bacon) and trans fats (fries, donuts, and 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, they affect your gut's microbial balance. They cause symptoms like diarrhea and gas. 

A gut-healing diet will undoubtedly require that you stay away from these substances.

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
  • Vegetables

Paleo eliminates most of the foods likely to irritate your gut. These include processed foods, grains, and sugars (including artificial sweeteners). It will likely have therapeutic effects. 

KNOW YOUR DNA RECOMMENDS

ONNIT - TOTAL GUT HEALTH

This supplement comes packed with digestive enzymes, prebiotics, probiotics, and betaine HCL to support your gut.

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 with a variety of whole grains, vegetables, and fruit will increase your gut bacteria's diversity. It will make your gut more resilient and provide antioxidants and phytonutrients necessary for general health.

What Tests Can Help You Find the Right Diet?

Tests can reveal unique aspects of your digestive system. They 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. 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

A "leaky gut" test is an intestinal permeability test. It is a highly accurate, non-invasive examination for evaluating gastrointestinal mucosal integrity. 

This test is recommended for people with food allergies, food sensitivities, and skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema. 

Verisana’s Leaky Gut Complete Test allows you to know how healthy your gut is from the comfort of home. It is a stool test kit that examines your intestines for: 

  • Candida
  • Mold
  • Bacterial imbalance
  • Secretory IgA
  • Zonulin value

There are also other at-home microbiome tests that are not exclusive to leaky gut. These include Thryve Gut Health Program, Viome Gut Intelligence Test, and many more.

Why is a Healthy Gut Important?

A healthy gut is important because it plays a huge part in your overall health and well-being. It provides:

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 protects you from harmful pathogens you might ingest with your food. It also eliminates germs that enter your body through other means, like your respiratory system.

Mental clarity

There is a strong connection between your brain and digestive system. The two organs are connected by the vagus nerve. It is one of the longest and most important nerves in the body. 

Your gut also produces nearly all your body's supply of serotonin. Keeping your gut healthy keeps you happy.

What are the Symptoms of an Unhealthy gut?

If you're experiencing uncomfortable symptoms, your body might be telling you something. Watch out for the following symptoms 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
  • Regulate blood sugar

These 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

Your gut produces most of your body's supply of serotonin. Besides mood regulation, serotonin also induces sleep. If your body doesn’t have enough of it, you won’t sleep well.

An unhealthy gut may disturb your sleep. It can cause problems like persistent fatigue and insomnia. 

Skin irritation

Digestive problems can cause skin conditions like eczema. Inflammation of the digestive tract may allow harmful proteins into the bloodstream. This is 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. It also increases your risk for autoimmune disease (where the body turns on itself instead of foreign pathogens).

Conclusion

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.

KNOW YOUR DNA

Best Gut Health Test

We took and reviewed the 6 best microbiome testing kits. Read our review to see what we liked and disliked about each.

Dr. Dhingra
Dr. Harshi Dhingra
Medical Reviewer
Dr Harshi Dhingra is a licensed medical doctor with a specialization in Pathology. Dr. Dhingra has of over a decade in diagnostic, clinical, research and teaching work, including managing all sections of Pathology laboratory including histopathology, cytology, hematology and clinical Pathology.
Joel
Content Contributor
Joel is a writer with a passion for the science of DNA and the power of its manipulation.
back to top