As an organization, The Food Group has committed itself to focusing more on wellness in all of its many forms – from diet and exercise to sleep hygiene and financial health. We know that when you are healthy – in both mind and body – you will be more equipped to do great work every day.
As part of this Wellness Initiative Series, Karena Gacek – The Food Group’s in-house registered dietitian – recently presented on foods to eat for a healthy gut. Keep reading for an excerpt of her talk, and click here for the full presentation!
Have you ever had that “gut wrenching feeling” or “butterflies in your stomach”? This is your gut and brain communicating with one another. The trillions of bacteria that reside in your gut (known as the microbiome) play a key role in your mental and physical health. What we want is a diverse microbiome, colonized with several varieties of good bacteria, much like the rainforest is home to several botanical and animal species. Each species serves a purpose.
When we achieve diversity in our gut bacteria, we see wonderful benefits including a strong immune system, improved mood, energy, and mental health, and better weight control. On the other hand, a less diverse microbiome may result in health problems such as anxiety, depression, obesity, diabetes, and inflammatory bowel diseases.
Building a Healthy and Diverse Gut Microbiome
So how can we build a more diverse microbiome in our bodies?
1) Eat more probiotic (or fermented) foods. Probiotics are good live bacteria found in fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and lacto-fermented vegetables. These foods improve nutrient absorption, aid digestion, support immunity, and reduce inflammation. Look for true lacto-fermented foods in the refrigerated section of your coop or grocery store, which still have the live bacteria intact. Canned sauerkraut or pickles in the dry goods aisle have been brought to high heat temperatures, washed in chlorine, or brined in vinegar; all of these methods kill any good bacteria present. To make these foods more economical and gain health benefits, make your own sauerkraut or other fermented foods.
2) Eat more prebiotic foods. Prebiotics are “food” for good bacteria in your gut. Prebiotics are found in the fibers in fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based sources such as quinoa, wild rice, pumpkin seeds, and legumes. By eating more fermented and plant-based foods every day, our gut, brain, and body will benefit.
3) Take a probiotic supplement. A probiotic supplement is definitely second tier to eating fermented foods. Yet, it can be beneficial to supplement during and after an antibiotics course. Antibiotics kill all of the bacteria in your gut, good and bad. Therefore, supplementing can help jumpstart the process of colonizing your gut with good bacteria.
4) Clean up your diet. When your gut is full of healthy bacteria, you will naturally crave healthy foods. But we do need to train our guts to do this. Eat less refined sugar and keep fueling that good bacteria with fruits, vegetables and other plant-based foods. Secondly, choose organic foods, when possible, because pesticides can kill the good gut bacteria. If you need to prioritize, focus on buying organic for the dirty dozen.
5) Reduce stress. Stress wreaks havoc on our gut and can lower the diversity of bacteria in our gut. Hence, why it is so important to exercise self-care. Find time to exercise, read, or activities that invigorate you.
Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, said “All disease begins in the gut”. Investing in creating a healthier gut will help you stay healthy long into the future!
This post was written by Karena Gacek, MS, RD, LD – The Food Group Nutrition Outreach Specialist. Questions? Contact Karena!