Your gut microbiome is made up of trillions of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, and other microbes. Although some species of bacteria are harmful, others are needed to protect us against bad bacteria and restore the balance of good bacteria in your gut.
Studies suggest that your gut health plays a vital role in mental health, obesity, diabetes, liver health, inflammation, and much more.
In addition to genetics, environment, and medication use, the foods you eat affect the types of bacteria present in your microbiome. This article will discuss the best and worst foods for gut health. It will also discuss steps you can take to strengthen your microbiome.
- The best foods for gut health are grass-fed proteins, anti-inflammatory foods, prebiotic foods, and probiotic foods.
- The worst foods for gut health include processed foods, added sugar, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, and factory-farmed proteins.
- Prebiotics and probiotics can be taken together to enhance their beneficial effects and restore your gut health.
THE WORST FOODS FOR GUT HEALTH
- Highly Processed Foods
- Artificial Sweeteners
- Fried Foods
- Factory Farmed Protein
HIGHLY PROCESSED FOODS
Frequently eating processed foods is one of the main contributors to poor gut health. Not only do refined sugars and processed foods, such as frozen dinners, pastries, and refined carbohydrates lack nutrients, but they can also eliminate healthy gut bacteria and cause inflammation.
For example, one recent study published in the British Medical Journal found that individuals who consume a diet high in processed foods have higher amounts of destructive bacteria that can harm the gut microbiota.
HEALTHY SWAPS AND TIPS:
To cut back on highly processed foods, consider the following:
- Choose whole grains over processed grains
- Swap sugary beverages for water or sparkling water
- Plan and prepare your meals ahead of time
- Build your meals around protein, whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables
- Batch cook healthier versions of frozen dinners
- Make your own salad dressing
Excessive alcohol consumption can disrupt the gut microbiome and help bad bacteria grow. One study published in the Journal of Neuroinflammation found that alcohol can alter intestinal permeability, releasing potentially harmful bacteria and other toxins into the bloodstream.
A single night of binge drinking can cause bacteria to leak from the gut and cause an increase in bacterial toxins in the bloodstream, according to another recent study.
HEALTHY SWAPS AND TIPS:
Ways to reduce the amount of alcohol in your diet include:
- Set a drink limit for yourself when you drink alcohol
- Limit the amount of alcohol you have in your house
- Try mocktails or alcoholic beverages with low amounts of alcohol and sugar
- Stay active
One 2014 study published in the journal Nature found that artificial sweeteners, including aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin, may cause elevated blood glucose by altering your gut flora.
Another recent 2021 study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences found that artificial sweeteners may promote pathogenic changes in certain bacteria found in the gut.
Instead of using controversial artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, sucralose, and saccharine, opt for natural sweeteners, such as stevia or monk fruit extract. You can also swap artificially sweetened soft drinks for fruit infused water or sparkling water.
Fried foods are high in fat yet low in fiber, which often makes them difficult to digest. Eating fried foods can also lead to stomach pain, diarrhea, and heartburn. What’s more, these foods are usually fried in oils that are high in saturated and trans fats, which can upset your gut microbes even more.
One recent 2021 study published in Diabetes Care found that participants who consumed fried meat four times per week had a less diverse gut microbiome and increased systemic inflammation compared to those restricted from fried meat consumption.
According to research, lower microbiome diversity is linked to health conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and inflammatory bowel disease.
HEALTHY SWAPS AND HACKS:
To reduce your intake of fried foods, consider the following:
- Swap out soybean and corn oil for healthier options, such as olive or avocado oil
- Use grass fed butter or tallow when frying
- Stir fry, sautee’, or grill foods instead of frying them
- Use an air fryer to help you prepare foods with less oil
FACTORY MEATS AND PROTEINS
There are several reasons why choosing organic meat is better for your gut health.
First, mass-produced meat comes from animals that were likely fed cheap grains to keep costs low. Industrial meat producers also frequently inject animals with antibiotics to prevent, treat, and control infections. Additionally, growth hormones are commonly used to increase the amount of meat the factory can get from the cow.
Exposing cattle and humans to antibiotics when they are not sick can cause antibiotic resistance. Basically, the bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, making it very difficult to treat an infection.
Some researchers suggest that the overuse of antibiotics in livestock may also increase the risk of transmitting drug-resistant bacteria to humans, which can disrupt the microbiome.
When grilling, cooking, or baking, choose grass-fed, organic meat when possible.
If you are plant-based, stay away from the factory made plant based "meat" options and swap them for:
- Black beans
THE BEST FOODS FOR GUT HEALTH
Certain foods, including grass-fed protein, anti-inflammatory foods, prebiotics, and probiotics promote gut health and the growth of helpful bacteria in your digestive tract.
Here, we will discuss the best foods for gut health and their benefits.
Not only is grass healthier for livestock than grains, but it’s also natural.
Grass-fed proteins generally are much higher in nutrients than grain-fed proteins.
For example, studies suggest grass-fed beef contains up to five times more omega-three fatty acids than grain-fed beef.
One recent study published in the journal Gut Microbes found that omega-three fatty acids can diversify the gut microbiome and reduce inflammation.
Researchers also believe omega-3s may have prebiotic effects.
When your gut is inflamed, you’re more likely to experience digestive issues, including fatigue, food sensitivities, brain fog, and skin problems.
Anti-inflammatory foods are rich in nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and omega-3s that can help lessen inflammation and improve your overall digestive health.
Foods that are known to fight inflammation include:
- Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines)
- Fruits, including berries, cherries, grapes, and apples
- Leafy green vegetables, including spinach and kale
- Olive oil
- Walnuts and flax seeds
- Tomatoes and peppers
Incorporating probiotic foods into your diet is a wonderful way to improve gut health and digestion.
Probiotics are living organisms (often called live cultures) that, when consumed, can boost the number of beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract. They are often found in fermented foods and dietary supplements.
One review of studies found that probiotics may also improve immunity, decrease cholesterol levels, aid in cancer prevention, and protect against allergies.
Examples of probiotic foods include:
- Raw apple cider vinegar
Prebiotics are dietary fiber and natural sugars that feed your beneficial gut bacteria. They are frequently consumed in conjunction with probiotics to restore good gut bacteria and encourage a healthy gut microbiome. When consumed, prebiotics are fermented in the intestines and broken down into short-chain fatty acids (lactic acid, butyric acid, and propionic acid).
Short-chain fatty acids offer many health benefits, including reducing digestive symptoms, reducing the risk of colon cancer, increasing your ability to absorb nutrients, and preventing the growth of harmful gut bacteria.
Examples of prebiotic foods include:
- Chicory root
- Onions and shallots
- Unripe bananas
- Jerusalem artichoke
- Nuts and seeds
A symbiotic is a food or meal that contains a mixture of prebiotics and probiotics that work together to balance your gut microbiome.
Examples of symbiotic foods include:
- Greek yogurt with rolled oats
- Kefir and an unripe banana
- Kombucha with chia seeds
- Green smoothies with bananas, oats, flax seeds, apple, kefir, and spinach
USING PREBIOTICS AND PROBIOTICS TO RESTORE YOUR GUT
Although it's always best to obtain your nutrients from food, supplements are also efficient carriers of prebiotics and probiotics.
Prebiotics and probiotics are frequently used in conjunction to support total-body wellness and improve the balance of bacteria in our gut.
The pairing of prebiotic and probiotic supplements together is known as microbiome therapy. In fact, taking the two together can increase the effectiveness of your probiotic. It s
It is believed that prebiotics can help the probiotics survive in your intestines.
WHEN TO TAKE PREBIOTICS AND PROBIOTICS
Prebiotics and probiotics work best when they are taken consistently. But what time of the day should you take them for maximum results?
PREBIOTICS: Prebiotics are food for the beneficial bacteria that we consume so some experts suggest taking them right before a meal. Ultimately, you can take them at whatever time works best for you. If you are new to prebiotics, it is best to start out with a small dose until your stomach gets used to them. This can help you avoid stomach upset and loose stools.
PROBIOTICS: Many experts recommend taking probiotics about 30 minutes before eating or with a meal. However, there is no solid research to support taking them at a specific time of the day for increased benefits. Instead, focus on consistently taking them every day.
Eating a well-balanced healthy diet rich in fiber, whole foods, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables while avoiding fried foods, processed foods, alcohol and artificial sweeteners is key to restoring your gut health.
Additionally, including prebiotic and probiotic foods and supplements is important to support gut health and improve your overall health and wellness.
Our 7 strain, spore forming Gut Health Probiotics provide 5.75 billion organisms to support healthy gut flora, improve nutrient absorption and digestion, and support your immune system.