There are many lifestyle and dietary factors impacting digestive challenges including stress, food allergies and sensitivities, and medication usage. Each individual is different and there is no one size fits all approach to a healthy body and healthy gut. We do know that the food choices we make can have a significant impact, of course, on these symptoms. And there are foods that are particularly healing for the gut.
Foods to heal your gut
Research is growing in the area of the gut microbiome - the trillions of microrganisms living in your GI tract. These bugs are important for digestive health as well as the health of your immune system. There are specific foods you can eat that are packed with probiotics - the good bugs found in your gut. Fueling your gut with these probiotics will increase the numbers of good bugs, keeping your gut healthy and preventing symptoms.
Fermented foods include but are not limited to:
Look for those foods that are least processed. For example, choose yogurts without artificial sweeteners and limited amounts of added sugars. Sauerkraut should be made simply from cabbage and salt. Kimchi is also fermented cabbage but will include seasoning to give it a spicy flavor. Kombucha is a fermented tea that may contain other herbs or fruit. Consider adding these foods into your diet to give your gut a boost of healthy bacteria.
Fermented foods will add good bugs to the gut and foods high in fiber will help to feed the good bugs helping them to proliferate and keep the gut healthy. With limited fiber in your diet, the environment in the gut will lean towards unhealthy microbes. That doesn't mean, however, that adding highly processed foods with added fibers is the solution. The solution comes from whole food plant sources. Add foods to your diet including:
root vegetables - sweet potatoes, yams, carrots, turnips, rutabaga or parsnips
fruits with an edible peel - apples or pears
berries - strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries
seeds - sesame, chia, pumpkin, flax, sunflower
nuts - almonds, pistachios, walnuts, peanuts
Add yogurt or kefir to breakfast or a snack, top meat with sauerkraut or kimchee for a burst of flavor, substitute soda or juice for kombucha. Roast root vegetables as a side for dinner, snack on fruits, seeds and nuts. Top a mixed dish or coat fish or chicken with nuts or seeds for a bit of crunch. Experiment with simple ways to add these foods to your diet. Also, expand your tastes and give something new a try. Try making carrot slaw for healthy fiber and probiotics.
Carrot Slaw (Adapted from original recipe by Tara Duggan)
¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
3 TB lemon juice
2 TB extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. maple syrup
½ tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. ground coriander
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
5 cups coarsely grated carrots
1/3 cup finely chopped carrot tops
¼ cup golden raisins
¼ cup toasted slivered almonds
Combine dressing ingredients in a large bowl and whisk until combined. Add slaw ingredients and toss. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Chill or serve immediately. Add almonds just before serving.