What foods improve gut health? Doctor reveals the biggest mistake you can make

It is impossible to talk about the intestine without becoming a little scatological.

The human intestine goes from your stomach all the way down – at its most basic level, the intestine is made up of a series of stages that take the food you put in, process it, and then remove the waste. But the work of digestion is not done by your cells alone. Rather, it is the collective work of billions of microorganisms.

This mega colony, also known as the microbiome, that lives in your gut helps break down food by absorbing some of what you eat. And as Napoleon said, an army is walking on its stomach – you have to feed this garrison of bacterial soldiers well in order to avoid health problems – from the most mundane, like bloating, to the most serious, like intestinal diseases and immune system problems. .

The right foods can both introduce new bacteria and support existing microbes in your body so that they can do their job well and you don’t get stomach cramps from eating French fries. But gut health isn’t all about going to the bathroom, says practicing physician and chief Dr. Linda Shiue. Reverse.

“What we eat and how it changes can affect the population and the types of gut bacteria you have in a matter of days,” she says.

Thriving colonies of bacteria support our health and well-being in ways that scientists are just beginning to study now.

While the science is young, there are older, established truths when it comes to taking care of your gut, says Shiue. When it comes to eating for the gut, most people make a fundamental mistake when deciding what to include in their diet, she says – they forget to think about what they are. not to eat.

The interview below has been edited slightly for house style and clarity.

Reverse: How do you define a healthy gut?

Dr Shiue: A healthy gut means different things to different people. For me, when I think of a healthy gut, I’m actually talking about the microbiome. These are the colonies of bacteria that live in your gut that are really important not just for digestion, but for everything in the body. Chronic disease and inflammation are both affected by the bacteria we have in our gut. These colonies are very sensitive to our food. What we eat and how it changes can affect the population and types of gut bacteria you have in a matter of days.

Dr Linda Shiue is a physician and cookbook author. Courtesy of Linda Shiue

How does a healthy gut promote overall health and how do you feel?

What most people really experience is their digestion. Without being overly graphic, you don’t want to have abdominal pain or trouble digesting. Digestion can also be very personal. People with certain sensitivities, like IBS, may not be able to eat a lot of things that we would normally consider healthy.

Are there any misconceptions about gut health?

A lot of people think, “If I want to improve my gut health, I’m just going to take a probiotic supplement. It sounds easy – you take a pill and you don’t have to think too much about what you eat. Unfortunately, some of the supplements you get without a prescription really don’t work. There are some that can be prescribed by a doctor and there is more evidence that these support healthy bacteria, but many of the over-the-counter ones don’t work.

I prefer to talk about what you should and shouldn’t eat to naturally build healthy gut bacteria.

What should we eat for a healthy gut?

The most important thing is what not to eat. As with so many other things, highly processed foods with many additives are at the top of the list. Even if you are following a very healthy diet, eating a lot of highly processed foods that contain artificial sweeteners or emulsifiers can be harmful to your gut health.

Eliminating or cutting back on these foods can make a big difference, and not just in your digestion. Artificial sweeteners, for example, have been shown to be associated with higher blood sugar levels in some cases. The theory is that because they disrupt your microbiome, they lead to an inflammatory pathway, which is the root of many chronic diseases.

The things you can eat that promote a healthy gut fall into two categories: probiotics and prebiotics. Probiotics can be found in fermented foods that have living bacterial colonies. It would be things like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha. Of course, not all yogurts are like this. Much of the yogurt we have on sale these days looks more like pudding. It is high in sugar and may not have active cultures.

The other category is that of prebiotics. These are foods that gut bacteria need to thrive. Almost anything high in fiber is a good prebiotic. These foods lead to the generation of healthier intestinal colonies, as bacteria feed on them through different metabolic processes. Probiotics and prebiotics from food sources are the first things I recommend for people who want to improve their gut health.

“The most important thing is what not to eat. ”

What can people look for on ingredient lists to determine if a food is good or bad for the gut?

Look for yogurt with a mention that it contains active or live cultures. Check the ingredient lists for chemical names and things that say “added for texture”. Mono and diglycerides, glycol monostearate and glycol distearate have been shown to be harmful to gut bacteria, as well as to food coloring. The things you don’t recognize are probably not the best for you.

What advice would you give to someone with gut health issues?

Work with a dietitian, keep a food journal, and keep in mind that the elimination diet doesn’t last forever.

A dietitian may recommend trying a special diet, such as a low FODMAP diet. This is a diet that avoids products that contain a certain type of starch that some people cannot digest. It is a type of elimination diet that people with IBS are sometimes encouraged to follow under the supervision of a dietitian.

You really shouldn’t do it yourself. It is very difficult to determine which foods cause digestive problems because we eat so many different things. A registered dietitian will be very systematic in helping you determine which foods are causing problems.

More importantly, I have seen people who seem to think that once you go on an elimination diet, you can never eat these foods again, but part of the elimination diet is to reintroduce the foods one by one. both to see what’s going on. This helps you identify what is causing problems.

“People to guess in their kitchens before we got drugs or doctors.

When you want to do something nice for your gut, do you have take out meals?

Many things that can make your food taste great can also be good for gut health. This is where I like to bring some fermented foods and some spices. This is the whole basis of my book, Spice box kitchen. We use spices for taste, but it was also our first medicine. Certain spices are good for stomach problems. Ginger is one of them – it’s really good for nausea and can help relieve bloating.

Some people cannot tolerate beans, they consume a lot of gas. It has to do with the inability to digest certain starches. Several cultures have actually developed cooking techniques that make food easier to digest and give you a happier gut. In Latin American cultures, they use ep Nitrogen, an herb that looks a bit like basil but has a very special flavor. It’s a classic ingredient in many Latin American bean dishes, and it cuts down on the starches that make people gassy. In Japanese cultures, they often use kombu or kelp for cooking legumes, and in Indian cuisine you will see asafoetida. These ingredients reduce the gas producing properties of beans.

I always find it interesting that people figured it out in their kitchens before we had drugs or doctors. This is a great example of how we can use flavorings to improve digestion without even thinking about it. These recipes have become traditional cooking methods and they support your gut.

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