How What You Eat Can Impact Your Gut Health

Your gut health is incredibly important for your overall wellbeing. The gut includes your gastrointestinal tract and all of the microorganisms that live there, known as your microbiome or gut flora. What you choose to eat on a daily basis can have a major influence on the state of your gut health.

Disrupting the Balance

Poor gut health is linked to many other problems, some of which might seem to be directly related on the surface. For example, some research suggest that the gut could play an important role in inflammation  and could even impact the way we make decisions. From autoimmune disorders, to mental wellbeing and even a proposed link between gut health and gambling behaviour, as research into the gut microbiome increases, the wider reaching impact of gut health is becoming clearer. 

An unhealthy diet high in processed foods and low in fibre can disrupt the natural balance of bacteria in your gut and lead to issues like inflammation, leaky gut syndrome, and other problems. 

If your gut is in a poor state, here are some simple ways to fix it.

Add More Fibre

One of the best things you can do for your gut health is make sure you are getting enough fibre in your diet from plant-based whole foods. Fibre acts as a prebiotic, meaning it feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut. Getting adequate fibre from sources like vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds supports the diversity of your microbiome. Aim for at least 25-30 grams of fibre per day from whole food sources. Soluble fibre found in oats, nuts, seeds and berries is particularly beneficial for your gut. Insoluble fibre from veggies, fruit and whole grains acts like a broom to help sweep out toxins and waste.

Eat a variety of high fibre foods like chickpeas, avocado, artichokes, figs, chia seeds and bran cereal. Getting enough fiber helps promote regular bowel movements and digestive health. It also helps feed the beneficial bifidobacteria and lactobacilli strains of probiotics. Fibre is a key nutrient for optimal gut function.

The Power of Fermented Foods

On the flip side, a diet high in processed foods, added sugar, fried foods and refined carbohydrates feeds harmful bacteria and can damage the lining of your gut. This allows toxins, microbes and undigested food particles to “leak” into your bloodstream, triggering inflammation and immune reactions. Limiting your intake of processed foods as much as possible is key for optimal gut health. Artificial sweeteners found in diet drinks and low-calorie foods have also been shown to disrupt gut flora balance.

Fermented foods are also fantastic for nourishing your gut flora. Things like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha all contain probiotics, which are the live, active cultures that help repopulate your gut with beneficial microbes. Try to incorporate a few servings of fermented foods into your diet each week. You can also consider taking a daily probiotic supplement, especially if you have been on a recent course of antibiotics which can wipe out both good and bad bacteria.

Include a variety of fermented foods like miso, pickles, tempeh and natto to get a diversity of probiotic strains. The microbes in these foods help strengthen your gut barrier, improve digestion and support immune function. Adds fermented foods to salads, grains and smoothies for a healthy gut boost.

Avoiding Gut Aggravators

Certain fats also help support the integrity of your gut lining to prevent leaky gut syndrome. Including healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, salmon and nuts in your diet can help reduce inflammation and permeability. Anti-inflammatory spices like turmeric, ginger and garlic can also calm inflammation in the gut when used regularly. Stay hydrated with plenty of water and herbal teas as well, since hydration supports digestion and gut motility.

When it comes to your gut health, you’ll want to avoid overdoing caffeine, alcohol and gluten. Too much caffeine can irritate the gut lining, while alcohol is known to disrupt the balance of gut bacteria, yeasts and microbiome diversity. Gluten can also be problematic for those with sensitivities or celiac disease. Listen to your body and eliminate aggravating foods as needed.

Try to cut back on irritants like coffee, carbonated drinks and gluten-containing grains if you experience bloating, pain or other digestive issues after eating them. Limit alcohol intake and opt for gluten-free grains if you have sensitivity. Removing gut-aggravating foods can help restore proper microbiome balance.

The Gut-Healing Diet

Taking care of your gut health requires an ongoing effort to follow a balanced, nourishing diet free from processed foods and rich in veggies, fruits, fibers, probiotics, healthy fats and anti-inflammatory compounds. Pay attention to how different foods make your GI tract feel and adjust your diet accordingly. Partnering your gut-friendly nutrition plan with stress management, restful sleep and physical activity will further support your microbiome balance and overall wellbeing. 

With some consistent care, you can create optimal gut health through the foods you choose to fuel your body. Follow a diet with plenty of fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds. Get your probiotic boost from fermented foods or supplements. Avoid gut irritants like processed foods, sugary drinks and excessive caffeine and alcohol. Support your gut lining with anti-inflammatory fats and spices. Making smart dietary choices, listening to your body, and leading an overall healthy lifestyle are the keys to maintaining a happy gut.