Gut Health for Beginners
"All diseases begin in the gut."
But was Hippocrates right? Today’s science has shown that he wasn’t far off.
Your gut is the foundation of your entire health. Every system of the body is somehow connected with the trillions of microbes that live there. We now know that changes in the composition of our microbiome correlate with many diseases. From diabetes to hormone imbalances, autoimmune conditions to weight gain, and anxiety to depression. This is not new! But, sometimes an excess of information can definitely be a double-edged sword.
What can you do to support your microbiome?
Here, we share three basics to start. Far from complicated, they can be translated into actions today!
1. Diversity, diversity, and more diversity
Your microbes enjoy eating every day and, just like you and me, they need a diversity of nutrients to flourish. They cannot grow and develop optimally from the same cucumber you snack from Monday to Friday.
Far from restrictive diets, your microbes love colorful, rich, and diverse meals. Here, Inclusion is the key! Invite every food group onto your plate, try new varieties, mix up the ingredients, and create new combinations. Simply going to a different supermarket can make a huge difference!
You already know the taste of rice or pasta, so give new foods a chance to keep your bugs well fed!
2. When possible go for natural
Regardless of the type of diet, you prefer, stay away from ultra-processed foods! The basis for good nutrition doesn’t come in pre-made packaged meals.
Highly processed foods, usually insanely addictive and aggressively marketed, are very detrimental to your gut and overall health. Mostly made from industrial ingredients and additives, contain excessive amounts of salt, fat, and sugar, and are extremely low in dietary fiber, micronutrients, and phytochemicals. The good stuff that your beneficial microbes need to thrive!
Keep this in mind for your daily choices! Prioritize homemade meals whenever possible and base your diet on natural or minimally processed foods.
3. Fiber: The forgotten hero!
With all the attributes to be considered, the “superfood” fiber rarely gets the glamour of other trendy foods. True story. There’s nothing sexy or exciting about fiber. However, when it comes to gut health it is actually the principal nutrient we should look at!
Generally speaking, fiber is a large and broad family of compounds that provides amazing health benefits! Beyond keeping our bowels moving, fiber intake is associated with body weight management, insulin sensitivity, chronic inflammation, and overall metabolic health.
And, because fiber is a type of carb that our bodies cannot completely break down, it travels all the way down to the large intestine feeding our beneficial bacteria! Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds contain the highest amounts. So make sure to incorporate them daily to enjoy the benefits of fiber!
- The number one action for gut health is diversifying your diet! Eating a variety of foods is a simple and effective way to avoid the loss of microbial diversity. Science believes that the richer your gut microbiota is, the more resilient it will be.
- Base your diet on natural products and avoid the consumption of ultra-processed foods. These food items are detrimental to your health and lack the nutrients you and your microbes need to thrive.
- Dietary fiber intake is associated with many health benefits and plays a crucial role in optimizing your gut health.
Author: Cecilia Clausen (Clinical Dietitian)