Eating ‘healthy’ has many different looks. A ‘well-balanced’ diet based on official government US MyPlate or UK Eatwell guidelines can be fine for one person but cause extreme distress in another.
Here at Gut Geek we’re not big fans of the Standard American Diet, with its perfect acronym: SAD.
What these official dietary recommendations completely ignore is that if we’re looking to fix our gut – and keep it healthy in the long run – we MUST restore our balance of friendly gut bacteria while simultaneously healing our gut lining.
These foods will particularly help this process. Start eating more of them regularly and not only will your gut thank you, but your whole health and wellbeing will get a boost!
Fermented foods are absolutely vital for good gut health, both when you’re in the repair phase and when you’re in long-term maintenance phase.
They are foods have been partially broken down by friendly bacteria cultures. This fermentation process is perfectly safe, it releases nutrients from the food and gives you a much-needed boost of friendly gut bugs.
When you eat fermented foods every day, it promotes the growth of friendly bacteria colonies deep down in your gut, helping to offset the damaging effects of gut-destroyers such as:
Examples of popular fermented foods are sauerkraut, made with fermented cabbage, kefir made with fermented dairy or non-diary milk, kimchi a Korean pickled cabbage, and miso, a Japanese paste made of fermented soybeans.
They can be made at home without any special equipment for an added bonus! This saves money and also provides the highest dose of friendly bacteria.
You can also buy very good fermented foods in health stores. Just make sure the label on each product says they are raw, fermented and unpasteurised, otherwise the beneficial bacteria cultures are all lost.
When you introduce a new fermented food to your diet, start with small amount as they can cause digestive upset at first. However most people get used to them quite quickly. Increase the amount gradually and then have a little with every meal to keep your friendly gut bugs topped up.
We dive more into the topic of fermented foods here.
Natural yogurt is a fermented food that gets a special mention. It’s super-easy to make at home and provides billions of friendly gut-healing bacteria.
Be warned, yogurt that has had flavourings added by manufacturers contains far less probiotics than natural, or none at all.
The very best kind of yogurt for your gut is homemade. Check out this method for making super-strength ’24-hour’ yogurt at home. Because it ferments for longer than normal, it contains outrageous levels of probiotics!
Just one serving can contain 50 times more friendly bacteria than a typical probiotic capsule AND at a fraction of the price of capsules.
Even if you’re intolerant to dairy, you may be able to tolerate natural yogurt as the fermentation process breaks down much of the problematic lactose. There are also dairy-free versions of yogurt too, which can be just as beneficial.
Bone broth is very effective for improving gut health. The gelatin and amino acids from the bones helps to heal and seal the gut lining.
This is super important as all of us with chronic gut problems have leaky gut. It goes with the territory.
The bones also contain minerals such as magnesium, phosphorous, calcium, and glucosamine that improve gut health.
If you ask your butcher for bones, they will often give them to you for free, so this is super cost-effective. You just need to boil the bones on a very low heat for 6 hours or more (the longer the better!) to release their goodness.
Both broth is your secret weapon against all gut ailments and auto-immune conditions. It’s a tried and tested remedy over thousands of generations. It also creates a delicious base for your homemade soups and sauces.
Home-cooked food made with whole, fresh, clean ingredients is the best antidote to gut problems.
Why? Because nutrients are preserved and you avoid all the chemicals that manufacturers add to processed food that are so harmful to your gut.
Processed food from the supermarket or fast food restaurant will damage your microbiome and your entire health will suffer as a result, including your ability to lose weight.
Meat and fish
Meat and fish have the highest concentrations of nutrients, including vitamins, healthy fats, amino acids and minerals.
Meat from free-range and grass-fed animals is best, because it is free from growth hormones and antibiotics given to intensively farmed animals. When we look after our animals better, we look after ourselves better too!
Fish, such as wild Alaskan salmon, is a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids that help to improve digestive health.
Many people think meat is hard to digest but in fact meat and fish provide nutrients in a form much more easily digestible for us than in, say, grains or legumes.
Fresh fruits and vegetables
As well as providing vital nutrients, fresh fruits and veggies are wonderful sources of fibre.
Fibre is food for our friendly gut bugs and is one of the most important pillars of long-term gut health.
However, if your gut is very out of balance, eating more fiber can actually make matters worse. To process the fibre your gut needs healthy bacteria cultures, and if your gut flora is in a very poor state, the fiber will just cause more irritation.
Aim to eat fruits that are grown locally, rather than flown across the globe before reaching your shopping cart, as they are much higher in nutrients (and flavour).
Organic veggies and fruit are best because they are free from gut-bothering pesticides and herbicides!
Coconut oil is an excellent source of healthy fat.
Still concerned that you should be eating low-fat? The alleged benefits of low-fat food are a total myth and in fact healthy fats are vital for your gut and overall health.
Coconut oil can be used as a replacement for highly processed vegetable oils (which are bad news for our gut), for example to cook eggs, roast vegetables, and in baking.
Coconut oil also has antimicrobial properties and contains fatty acids that improve immunity while boosting your metabolism and brain function.
The best coconut oil for good health is cold-pressed, unrefined and organic.
Chia seeds are another food beneficial to gut health as they contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, minerals, and antioxidants.
They are also an excellent source of fibre, which helps to reduce inflammation.
Ginger is excellent for boosting gut health. It has a soothing, healing effect and also works against bad bacteria.
Ginger tea is a delicious way to take advantage of these benefits. Another way is to slice it finely and add it to your dishes while they cook.
Peppermint is a herb that aids gut health and soothes the symptoms of an unhappy gut, such as heartburn, bloating, constipation and diarrhea.
Peppermint tea is a tasty way to take advantage of these benefits, especially when made with fresh peppermint leaves.