Over 2000 years ago, Hippocrates declared that “all disease begins in the gut.” Yet it is only recently that modern medicine has begun to document the crucial role of the microbiome – the billions of microbes that live within us. Comprising over 70% of the immune system, recent research reveals the myriad ways in which intestinal health is aligned with overall health.
The gut is important for a multitude of reasons – nutrient absorption, symptom-free digestion, immune system support, skin conditions and even obesity and diabetes. Furthermore, preventing “leaky gut” guards against food sensitivities and allergies and potentially protects against autoimmune diseases.
Probiotics are now well known to most people as they help to re-balance gut flora and are an obvious supplement to add to your daily regimen.
Here are five more steps you can take to support your gut health.
1. Increase fermented foods: Foods like kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi and traditionally fermented vegetables (they are hard to find in stores) are high in probiotics and help to maintain the healthy bacteria in your gut. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that help to keep your gut healthy.
2. Avoid inflammatory foods: Inflammatory foods like sugar, alcohol, and processed foods kill the good bacteria and encourage growth of the bad bacteria in the gut. Avoid these foods and incorporate more anti-inflammatory foods such as: vegetables, fruits, spices (curcumin, turmeric) etc into your diet.
3. Increase prebiotic foods: Prebiotics are the “food” for probiotics. They help probiotics grow and remain in your digestive system. Prebiotic foods include vegetables, fruits, and nuts, which provide fermentable fiber for probiotics to eat.
4. Drink LOTS of water: Good hydration helps maintain the structure of the intestinal wall. Not to mention, adequate hydration is important for many other health related functions of the body.
5. Decrease exposure to antibiotics: Antibiotics may be necessary to treat certain bacterial infections. It’s important to only use them if necessary and to try to avoid animal products that are over treated with antibiotics. You can minimize your exposure by cutting down on the amount of meat that you eat or by sticking to organic meat raised without the use of unnecessary antibiotics. It’s important to read the labels on your meat and ask the right questions. If it says “Antibiotic-free, no hormones, natural or kosher” it doesn’t necessarily guarantee the meat is lower in antibiotics. The most reliable food labels (as per the EWG) to look for are: