Your gut does more than just digest food. Scientists have, in fact, now started calling the gut ‘the second brain’ – and for good reasons!
The human gut compromises trillions of tiny microbes that significantly affect how your brain, hormones, and the overall physiology functions.
These microbes also determine how your body will store fat and balance glucose levels in the blood.
Poor gut health
An unhealthy gut that has an imbalance or wrong mix of gut bacteria can cause a bunch of health issues in later stages of life. Poor gut health can also lead to obesity and a whole lot of health issues.
Gut microbes regulate your mood by controlling the production of serotonin (the happiness hormone). Gut bacteria also produce neurotransmitters like GABA that regulate all kinds of neurochemicals and their functioning.
And, because it’s the ‘second brain of the body,’ it also governs your mental health.
In other words, your entire health, including brain health, largely depends on your gut microbes and the bacteria that carry out the digestion process.
All of this should tell you why gut health is so paramount.
Foods that promote a healthy gut:
Experts suggest that a combination of probiotics, prebiotic, and fibrous foods can promote healthy gut flora.
Plant-based foods rich in fibre can speed up the food movement through the gut. Fibre-rich foods make you stay regular by promoting a healthy stool and ideal food movement.
The recommended fibre serving is 25 grams for men and 38 grams for women. But, make sure to also consume more water when upping your fibre intake because fibre works well with water. Otherwise, you may feel bloated and gassy.
- Legumes – Lentils, navy beans, chickpeas, white beans, split peas, etc. are all legumes. Some people feel gassy after consuming legumes. If that’s the case with you, try soaking them for some time in water. Soaking will rid the legumes of sugars and proteins.
- Raspberries and blackberries: Yet another rich and tasty source of fibre. You can turn them into smoothies or turn them into salads.
- Barley, oats, and bran – Almost all whole grains are excellent sources of fibre. One cup of barley or bran should give you about 6+ grams of fibre.
Probiotic foods are rich in beneficial microorganisms. These foods go through the fermentation process wherein they develop ‘the good bacteria.’ These bacteria help fight infection-causing microbes, which we accidentally consume with some foods that we eat regularly, making us more prone to sickness.
Probiotics are the living strains of bacteria that increase the overall microbial population in the stomach. They don’t carry any nutritional value to them. They just create a helpful environment for smoother digestion. Invariably, probiotics help promote a healthy gut, which is what we’re aiming for.
These are some of the probiotics that you can include in your diet if you suffer from poor digestion :
- Yogurt and kefir: Both of these are fermented dairy foods. They contain beneficial bacteria essential for breaking down some sugars like lactose, thus making them easy on the stomach and more comfortable to digest.
Many lactose-intolerant people who can’t process dairy can also consume yogurt rich in Lactobacillus acidophilus. The only thing to remember is to consume it as quickly as possible because dairy products start losing bacterial content if they sit for a long time.
- Kimchi and Sauerkraut: These are good options for people who are not particularly huge fans of dairy products. Both kimchi and sauerkraut are made from fermenting the vegetables. Kimchi is a famous Korean side dish. It’s an excellent source of dietary fiber too. Kimchi and sauerkraut are also rich in Vitamins C and A.
- Miso- Miso is a dark looking paste which is made from fermented soybeans. It’s high in fibre and protein. You can add miso to soups and lentils and other cooked preparations. You need to cook or heat it instead of just consuming it raw.
Not many people know that there’s a slight difference between prebiotics and probiotics. The latter is a series of living bacteria that increase the overall gut flora, and the former acts as the food for the existing gut bacteria. It nourishes them so they can function better.
Some of the best prebiotics are asparagus, bananas, artichokes, garlic, leeks, soybeans, and onions.
Foods to avoid
Alcohol and caffeine: Alcohol can damage your liver while caffeine can overstimulate your intestines and cause diarrhoea.
Sweetened fruit drinks: High-fructose corn syrup present in these foods can make you gassy. It can also increase your blood sugar levels.
Red meats and fried foods: Both of these take very long to digest, so they sit longer in the stomach. They can also lead to heartburn by weakening the stomach muscles and increasing acid production.
Sweets: The artificial sweeteners present in sugar-free candies and gums can cause abdominal gas, diarrhea, and general sensation of discomfort.
Sodas: Carbonated beverages can fill your stomach with gas. Avoid these foods.
If experimenting with these foods still doesn’t improve your gut health, it’s best to talk to a nutritionist or a doctor.
They may prescribe you medication in case the problem has become chronic. For example, if you suffer from Crohn’s disease or IBS (Irregular Bowel Movement) or some other digestive issue, it’s best to talk to a physician.