Food Freedom Friday Edition 89 - Gut Health Hacks

Some Simple Steps To Gut Health

You take the time to clean your house but do you give the same love and care to your gut? It may be time for a cleaning. Now, I am not saying you should follow the latest 'detox' fad or buy into the hottest new  juice cleanse or cayenne pepper/maple syrup diet. What I do want to show you is how to give your belly a little extra TLC the safe and easy way. The way the works, long term. Your gut is your body's second brain after all! 

Eat Fermented Foods  

From sauerkraut to pickles to kimchi to kefir to condiments, fermented foods have been a consistent part of the human diet for many thousands of years. Upping your intake of properly, naturally fermented foods infuses your gut with a plentiful and bioavailable amount of probiotics. These are a form of good bacteria (live microorganisms) that help your gastrointestinal tract thrive. Fermented foods are not a once off protocol or a one-time deal. You have to maintain an ongoing relationship with them in order to enjoy the full gut health benefits. Find a few that you like and consume regularly.  

Note that supplementing with a high quality probiotic capsule is beneficial too, but nothing beats the wonderful little critters and the array of benefits that probiotics from real food sources provide. 

Eat Resistant Starch  

I realize that the word 'starch' may sound some alarms for you. After all, i have written at length about the association of starch with increased weight gain and spiked blood sugar levels. Resistant starches such as potato starch, however, are in a league of their own, and are a powerful force for gut health.  
Resistant starch is a unique type of prebiotic that acts as food for probiotics. To clarify: prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates that probiotics, those healthful living organisms in your gut that you are supplementing with your fermented foods, eat up for sustenance. Resistant starch is not able to be digested by enzymes, and thus cannot be absorbed as glucose. It therefore will not cause a spike in blood sugar and has even been shown to lower the blood glucose response to food. 

The best food sources of resistant starch include: 

  • Raw potatoes 

  • Green bananas 

  • Plantains 

  • Cooked-and-cooled potatoes 

  • Cooked and cooled legumes 

Avoid Antibiotics  

Of course you are well aware of the effects antibiotics have on your gut flora! Their stated purpose is to (negatively) affect microbial life. Use them if it truly is medically necessary, but be advised that most antibiotics are indiscriminate killers of bacteria, good and bad. These changes may be lasting without serious and sustained prebiotic and probiotic interventions. Supplementing with a probiotic is an absolute necessity if you have sustained a curse of antibiotics. 

Protect Gut Health with Probiotics  

probiotic supplements should be thought of as old, good friends. The type of friends you have over for dinner every week. Treat probiotics like friends whose company you genuinely enjoy and who come in capsules. Take probiotics with food or 30 minutes before meals, as your body is designed to consume probiotics with food (as in the fermented types of food); they seem to survive the transit through your gut when taken this way (as opposed to after a meal). type and source matters. Choose a high quality probiotic supplement that optimizes gut health with a minimum of  8 probiotic strains that help to restore the gut flora that is lost in the flurry of modern living.  

Get Out and Exercise  

A recent study showed that professional rugby players participating in an intense training camp had a more diverse (and healthier) gut microbiome (bacterial colonies living in your digestive tract) than age and BMI-matched controls, despite experiencing a ton of acute stress (all the exercise). While the rugby players also ate more gut-modulating foods like fruits, vegetables, and protein, and snacked less than the control groups (these variables may have played a role in the factors that improved their gut diversity), this study is the first to show that lots of exercise is compatible with and even supportive of healthy gut flora. The flipside is that lots of exercise without adequate support (recovery, rest, good food, sleep) will probably be enough of a stressor to negatively impact your gut bacteria. The secret is finding your middle ground between over-training and under-training. 

Taking the time to look after your gut health is essential when considering a well-functioning body. Using a few simple steps, implementing some easy protocols and enjoying some new foods will support your second brain in supporting you and your optimal wellness.

Michal Ofer