Every day I receive emails from people struggling with their health. Most of them are spending thousands of dollars to try to relieve their symptoms of heartburn, reflux, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gas and more. What many of these folks don’t realize is that your digestive issues are causing issues in your body and manifesting in things such as acne, eczema, rashes, arthritis, allergies and autoimmune disease. I’ve been there. I’ve had my gut ripped apart by Candida, C-diff Colitis, SIBO and more. And so in honor of National Nutrition Month, I wanted to talk a bit about gut health and how I’ve been able to restore my gut and my overall health.
Today, we’re going to talk about nine foods you can eat to support your gut health. Having a healthy gut means more than just not getting bloated. It’s about supporting the health of your entire body because almost 80% of your immune system is located in your gut*. This is why so many people start to see their other unwanted symptoms throughout their body relieved when they start to focus on their gut health. Your gut is connected to everything in your body so it’s important to understand how to start to heal your gut for overall health.
We have a ton of bacteria in our gut that helps us regulate hormones, produce vitamins, digest our food, remove toxins and more. If we have too many of the bad bacteria such as yeast/Candida and parasites or not enough of the good bacteria that you see in probiotics, then your health will suffer and you’ll start to see symptoms creep up in the form of arthritis or acne or some of the others that I mentioned above. Now, many of my clients say to me (and I’m sure you are saying this to yourself as you are reading this) that they don’t understand how the gut can be related to arthritis or another issue that has manifested outside of the body. But it’s true and I’m living proof along with all the other Functional/Integrative M.D.’s who heal guts every day and see incredible benefits by supporting gut health in their patients overall health.
Your gut has a big job to do everyday. And the amount of toxins you are bombarded with on a daily basis is much higher than any other generation (think tap water, conventional food, air pollution, plastics, etc.) so it’s important for us to support our gut health so that we can naturally help our body detox on a daily basis, keeping our overall immune system healthy and happy.
So, before we get into the foods you can start to add into your lifestyle for gut health, let’s talk about what we can focus on removing, shall we?
- Foods that are processed, high in sugar, low in fiber and void of nutrients, which pretty much sums up every processed food you can find in a box! These foods feed the bad bacteria and yeasts in our gut. I’m living proof- I couldn’t touch anything from a box for almost 10 years because my Candida would flare up within 2 hours. That’s how sensitive my body is. We all know that the foods we eat can strongly effect the balance of good bacteria in our guts!
- Heavy metals. Start cutting out seafood and foods from a can that are full of heavy metals, especially mercury.
- Focus on adding in digestive enzymes to help you absorb and assimilate the nutrients you eat on a daily basis.
- Work with a Functional M.D. to find bad bacteria, parasites, SIBO, Candida and other infections through a very detailed stool test (this test is mentioned in my new book, Eating Clean: The 21-Day Plan to Detox, Fight Inflammation, and Reset Your Body. For years my stool tests came up negative until I worked with Functional M.D.’s to get the answers and address the bad bacteria with the right probiotics!
- Stress. Find time daily to meditate, breathe from your belly to signal your parasympathetic nervous system to get your body into relaxation mode and out of fight/flight mode, which we are in on a daily basis because of our daily stressors of everyday life. Just like how the foods we eat effect the balance of good bacteria in our guts, stress is a huge part of the puzzle when it comes to figuring out what’s ailing you, which is why it’s so important to practice mind-body and wellness practices on a daily basis to keep our immune systems healthy and our body in tip top shape.
- Fermented Foods (ONLY if you do not have Candida). Fermented foods such as miso, sauerkraut and kimchi are wonderful for gut health and building good bacteria in your gut, however if you have Candida, it’s important to remove all fermented foods because they will feed the bad bacteria–this is why probiotics are SO important. (more on probiotics below).
- Leafy Green Vegetables. My favorite!!! I love adding in kale, collard greens, Swiss chard and spinach with coconut oil or olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground pepper for the perfect side dish. Add in leafy green veggies at least 2x a day to your meals and snacks. Try tossing them into a smoothie and a soup and you’re good to go!
- Coconut Oil. This has been a life changer for me! I wasn’t able to eat oils for so many years and now I’m using coconut oil daily in my meals- I love heating it in a cast iron skillet and using it to saute my veggies and raw nuts and seeds for a fun snack. Coconut oil has many properties in it that are super helpful for gut healing.
- Glutamine. I took glutamine for years for my gut health and you can work with your doctor to see if it’s right for you. You can also reap the benefits of glutamine from food. Beans, legumes, cabbage, beets, kale, spinach, parsley and raw veggies are all high in glutamine. I’m always sure to eat some raw veggies and parsley everyday for the benefits of glutamine.
- Vitamin A. This vitamin is so important for gut health; you can enjoy sweet potatoes and carrots as well as other foods that are high in vitamin A to reap the benefits on a daily basis. Try pureeing a tender roasted sweet potato into your smoothie or roast carrots with olive oil and fresh rosemary for a dose of Vitamin A that you can serve for a meal or snack.
- Zinc. Sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and lentils are all high in zinc. This is one of the major minerals that my doctors had me take to strengthen my gut health and I was sure to eat zinc-rich foods on a daily basis to support my immune system. This nutrient is KEY for helping to support your gut and your immune system.
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids. These can be found in raw walnuts and ground flaxseeds. Try adding these foods into your meals and snacks for an anti-inflammatory boost that will help put out the inflammation in your body.
- Turmeric. This lovely orange-colored spice is very powerful and medicinal. I add this to my tea, to my roasted veggies and to my trail-mix when I’m roasting the nuts and seeds. It’s a great spice to add to your meals and beverages for an anti-inflammatory boost.
- Quercetin. Buckwheat, Capers and Unsweetened cocoa powder are high in quercetin, along with many other foods. Quercetin is a great anti-inflammatory to help heal your gut and overall inflammation.
- Probiotics. And I’m going to add in one more here because it’s SO important to work with your Functional M.D. on taking a quality probiotic. Travel and day-to-day stress along with the foods we are eating and internal inflammation can all wreak havoc on our guts and taking a daily probiotic can help balance the good bacteria in your gut. I’ve been using Align probiotics and I’ve seen benefits in my everyday life. It’s a probitiotic that’s widely available so many of my clients can easily find it and can start it asap. I cannot stress enough how important it is to add a probiotic into your daily routine. Start taking control of your health now before an unwanted outward symptom manifests, such as arthritis, leaving you with even more repair with your gut health. For best results, you can take Align on a daily basis. It’s a gluten-free (easy to swallow) probiotic that can help balance the good and bad bacteria in your gut.
*according to Mark Hyman, MD.