Gut health is quickly rising to the top of the list of natural health buzzwords—but what does it mean? A healthy gut is a digestive tract that has a beneficial balance of good bacteria that help with digestion and absorption of nutrients. This means when your gut is healthy, the vitamins in minerals in the meals you eat are better able to help your body thrive, think, and even lose weight.
More and more studies are showing the link between health digestive bacteria and overall health—because the digestive track plays a major role in our immune system—and are even finding links between intestinal flora and behavioral, metabolic, and emotional issues. Unfortunately, our modern food system and overuse of antibiotics* has led to an explosion of digestion-related conditions that can limit our full potential. If you’re interested in rejuvenating your own healthy gut, read on for some easy tips.
- Serve the perfect parfait: Yogurt is a great source of that many of us love to snack on. The problem? Many commercially available yogurts are pasteurized (which kills the beneficial microbes in natural yogurt) and are loaded with sweeteners and fillers. Skip the ‘fruit on the bottom’ cups or dessert-flavored varieties and add your own flavorings to natural plain yogurt to get the best of both worlds! Try mixing in honey or vanilla and layering yogurt in a glass with chunks of fruit and homemade paleo granola for a sweet treat that will boost good bacteria in your system.
- Explore the wide variety of fermented foods on the market today: From kombucha and sauerkraut to kimchi and kefir, Portland is a paradise of gut-friendly products. New to kombucha? Try mixing it half-and-half with sparkling water to add flavor and health-boosting probiotics until you become accustomed to the taste—you’ll probably get hooked and want to make your own!
- Bump up the fruits and veggies on the table: The natural fiber in fruits and vegetables feed the good bacteria in our guts, so consider a happy tummy another reason to eat a few more servings of the good stuff every day.
- Find a good probiotic supplement: Ask your doctor to recommend a brand and dosage that’s right for you, because different bodies need different things and probiotics come in a wide variety of tablets, powders, and products with different strains of beneficial bacteria.
*When it comes to our health, antibiotics are sometimes necessary, but because they wipe out good bacteria along with the bad, they can also do a number on your digestive system. If your doctor recommends following an antibiotic treatment with a probiotic, the above tips will help you get on your feet faster.
Interested in reading more? Start with legendary food opinionist Michael Pollan’s groundbreaking feature in the New York Times magazine. It could change your gut—and your life.