Registered Dietitian Rachael DeVaux explains the importance of good gut health in your overall health, and eight tips to improve gut health.
The Link Between Our Gut and Our Overall Health
The average American diet consists of highly processed, trans fat-rich and sugar-laden foods. These foods not only make us fat, but they also create an imbalanced gut which can cause infections, diseases and overall poor health. Through advancements in science, we know that the gut plays an important role in digestion, mood and our mental and physical states. Additionally, several chronic and degenerative diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), irritable bowel disease (IBD) and rheumatoid arthritis have been linked to an under flourished gut.
Our body houses both good and bad bacteria that make up an internal community, otherwise known as the microbiome. The good bacteria in the gut has several functions, including playing a critical role in our immune system. In fact, nearly 70% of the immune system lies within the gut. An imbalance in the gut can cause an inflammatory response in the body, leading to food particles entering the bloodstream and causing food sensitivities in the gastrointestinal tract. And if the gut does not have the right balance of bacteria, our immune system can’t do it’s important job of protecting us against infection and illness.
So one of the best ways to maintain good health throughout your body is to make sure you have a healthy gut.
Watch out for Overuse of Antibiotics – It Destroys Your Gut!
While antibiotics can do wonders in attacking bacterial infections, these strong medicines also eliminate good bacteria at the same time. This creates an imbalance and can raise the risk for infections, allergies and diseases. Eventually, dangerous bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics, making certain infections harder to fight. This is why you should take probiotics during a course of antibiotics to help replenish the good bacteria that were lost.
The majority of antibiotic consumption isn’t through pharmaceuticals either. Today, antibiotics are routinely fed to livestock, poultry, and fish on industrial farms to promote faster growth and to compensate for the unsanitary conditions. According to the FDA, 80% of all antibiotics used in the United States are fed to farm animals. This means that if you’re consuming conventional meat, fish and dairy, you are more likely consuming antibiotics as well. To avoid consuming unnecessary and potentially harmful antibiotics, and to improve gut health, choose organic, wild-caught and pasture-raised foods.
8 Tips To Keep Your Gut Healthy
Everything from the foods we eat, the amount of sleep we get, stress in our lives, and the bacteria we come in contact with has a huge impact on our gut. In order to build up your gut with the beneficial bacteria it needs to thrive, and improve gut health, consider these eight tips:
1. Eat more probiotic-rich foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, kefir, or miso. Look for “active cultures” or “contains live cultures” on the product label.
2. Take probiotics while taking a course of antibiotics.
3. Try healthy gut healing smoothies.
4. Eat less processed food and more whole foods.
5. Choose wild-caught fish, pasture-raised eggs, grass-fed/pasture-raised meats.
6. Avoid artificial sugars at all costs as they are shown to disrupt intestinal flora and may contribute to obesity. Reduce added sugars as well—stick to natural sweeteners like cinnamon, honey, maple syrup and dates.
7. Eat more fiber! Aim to consume 25-30g fiber per day.
8. Incorporate more omega-3 fatty acids into your diet to balance out the widely consumed omega-6 fatty acids that can lead to inflammation. Try healthy fats like grass-fed butter, coconut oil, olive oil, avocado, wild caught seafood and flaxseed oil.
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Want to read more?
Foundation, G. C. Antibiotics. Retrieved December 23, 2016, from http://www.sustainabletable.org/257/antibiotics
Human Microbiome: How It Works + a Diet for Gut Health. (2016, January 7). Retrieved from https://draxe.com/microbiome/
Pérez-Cobas, A. E., Gosalbes, M. J., Friedrichs, A., Knecht, H., Artacho, A., Eismann, K., Moya, A. (2013). Gut microbiota disturbance during antibiotic therapy: a multi-omic approach. Gut, 62(11), 1591–1601. https://doi.org/10.1136/gutjnl-2012-303184