There is so much noise around choosing the perfect diet, what to eat to lose weight, why carbs are bad, how to lose weight fast, and magic pills to finally get rid of that stubborn belly fat… the list goes on. Marketing in diet culture is influential, but having the right knowledge is a superpower.
As Americans, we’re so entrenched in diet culture that we forget food can be medicine and fuel; it can be the make or break for our mental health, the make or break for how we react to viruses and bacteria, the make or break in how we perform at work. Your gut health is so much more important than a number on a scale or your pant size.
This is why we have to eat for our gut health like our lives depend on it.
Why your gut is so important
Do you know what a microbiome is? If you don’t, it’s a collective of bacteria, fungi, microscopic living things, and viruses that live in/on our bodies. You might read the word bacteria and immediately reach for the hand sanitizer, but these are the good guys, and you definitely don’t want to kill them.
Your gut microbiome is almost like a whole other organ and should be taken care of as such. Especially when considering the positive impact on our mental health, immunity, weight control, cancer risk, and so much more.
For example, good bacteria help our brains produce dopamine and serotonin – the feel-good chemicals that combat anxiety and depression. This leads to a decreased risk of the comorbidities associated with anxiety and depression, like heart-related issues and weight gain.
Health can be thought of as a tree; everything is connected, from the roots to the leaves. Your gut microbiome is like your body’s root system. If it’s damaged or not being taken care of properly, you’ll see that reflected in some surprising ways.
How to take care of your gut microbiome
Bacteria are little living creatures, and like all living things, they need to eat. We should always aim to feed the good bacteria so that they’re strong enough to fight the harmful bacteria.
Certain foods feed good bacteria, while others feed bad bacteria. We are aiming to strengthen the good guys so that they can keep our bodies balanced and healthy. The keys to keeping your gut microbiome happy are probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics.
We see this one a lot on grocery store shelves, supplements, and on social media, but do you know what they do and why they’re good for you?
Probiotics are positive live bacteria. They are the reinforcements your current good guys need regularly, but especially after a not-so-healthy week. Think of probiotics as the backup your gut calls when the bad bacteria are wreaking havoc on your system.
Probiotics are great for digestive health, women’s health, immune health, and more.
Pickles (vinegar free)
If you’re on the hunt for probiotic foods, check the labels and look for ‘Live Cultures’ or Lactobacilli.
While the names sound the same, prebiotics and probiotics are two completely different things. While probiotics are the actual live cultures, prebiotics are the foods that those live cultures need to thrive.
WebMD describes prebiotics as special plant fibers that help healthy bacteria grow in your gut. They are a form of dietary fiber that goes directly to your lower digestive tract, feeding the good bacteria and helping them thrive.
What do you get when you combine probiotic foods and prebiotics all together in one meal? You get synbiotics! According to Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Synbiotics, “A synbiotic product beneficially affects the host by improving the survival and implantation of live microbial dietary supplements in the gastrointestinal tract by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activating the metabolism of one or a limited number of health-promoting bacteria.” (Pandey et al.1)
Synbiotic food examples are yogurt with apples or bananas, smoothies with spirulina and bananas, lentil soup topped with kimchi, garlic sourdough bread, and more.
The combinations that you can come up with are virtually endless. Another thing that you can do is take your probiotic supplement at breakfast while eating oats topped with bananas.
Want to go the extra mile?
Now that you’ve been familiarized with your gut health and how to take care of the good bacteria, why not take it a step further and identify the foods that your body just doesn’t like?
Taking a food sensitivity test can help you identify what is causing that gut pain you feel after eating eggs for breakfast or if your chocolate milk habit is causing you to break out. To learn more about what a food sensitivity test can do for your system, check out our Bloodprint panels.