Wholefoods and Gut Health
Wholefoods in general are the most important and healthiest fuel for your microbiome. Ensuring you are eating enough fibre is an essential part of managing a lot of gut issues. It will also help you to promote a healthy gut long term. The recommendation is to eat at least 30 g of fibre daily. However, too often we are not even getting close to this amount due to our Western style diets and highly processed food consumption.
In this blog, I wanted to outline some other foods and dietary suggestions that could help you to improve your gut health. I would also like to highlight when some foods should be considered with caution.
Bitter foods stimulate the secretion of digestive acids to improve digestion of foods and proper absorption of their nutrients. In particular, people suffering from acid reflux may benefit from eating some bitters before a meal to support adequate stomach acid for better digestion. Bitters improve digestion and regularity as they help to increase fibre consumption and therefore improve gut flora health. Bitters stimulate mucus secretion in the stomach that can reduce inflammation and be protective from ulcers, thus also helping in the healing of ulcers. Bitter foods also have an action on the liver, promoting healthy liver detoxification.
Many bitter vegetables can be eaten raw, cooked or juiced. Here is a short list of some bitters: chicory, dandelion greens, kale, spinach, radicchio, rocket, cumin, Swiss chard, watercress, artichoke, broccoli and ginger.
Bitter herbs: Burdock leaf, chicory root, dandelion root, dill, gentian root and milk thistle. These are some of my favourite herbs I use from our large herbal dispensary at the clinic.
There is a reason why you should add fresh pineapple to your morning smoothie, and it’s not necessarily because of its delicious taste! Pineapple is high in bromelain, an enzyme that helps break down proteins and aid in digestion. Bromelain is also found in high amounts in the stem/core which is the part people often cut off and throw away. Make sure you are using this part for higher bromelain goodness!
Vegetables and foods with skin
These wholefoods are high in fibre and therefore have a greater ability to promote the growth and function of many different strains of beneficial bacteria that currently exist in your gut. Examples include potato, sweet potato, beans and legumes.
Fluid consumption while eating
A common suggestion I give in clinic is to avoid drinking while eating. In your stomach, digestive enzymes and HCL are found and these are essential for breaking down your food. If you have a large drink before or during your meal, it is likely you will be diluting the amount of these in your gut and you are therefore more likely to experience gut symptoms. It also might mean your food is entering the next stage of the digestive tract not having been broken down. As such, less nutrients will be absorbed due to these parts of the digestive tract not being the location for breaking down your food, rather the location for absorption. Try avoiding drinking fluids 10 minutes before, during and 10 minutes after eating to ease digestive symptoms and better your long-term gut health.
FODMAP foods, sauerkraut, kombucha and other fermented foods
Now, this is a classic example of ‘there is no one size fits all approach’ when it comes to gut health. For some people, these foods will be beneficial; for others, they may be foods that could be contributing to some of your digestive issues. While these foods are healthy, gut-health promoting and often suggested, please consume with caution if you do have gut health issues. Seek further professional help if you suspect these foods are triggering some of your symptoms.
If you want to know more about the FODMAP diet, you can read about it here and learn why it isn’t a long-term solution!
I really want to emphasise the need for an individual approach to your gut health. Recently I was reminded of this due to a personal health journey. Following a flare up in my digestive symptoms, I reviewed my past gut health results and found there was a high amount of a particular species of bacteria (a bad one) in my gut. After looking into this further, I discovered that this bacterium thrives with certain fibres and also doesn’t cope very well when eating saturated fats. The month prior I had been eating more bliss balls and snack foods due to breastfeeding and these contained butter, ghee, coconut oil and other coconut-based products (hello healthy saturated fats!). Even though these are healthy foods, they were not healthy for ME at that time. Since reducing these from my diet, I have noticed a difference.
So, always think twice when reading about a food or product that is good for gut health and just following the advice. This happens a lot and it just might be that the product is not the right thing for you, right now.
I hope this is helpful information. Keep loving your guts!
Want to do my quiz to assess your gut health? Click here now!
Written by Karly Raven BHSc