Did you know that gut bacteria can synthesize certain vitamins? Or that C-sections and vaginal deliveries transfer different bacteria from mother to baby and may influence the diversity of bacteria depending on the method of birth? How about that gut bacteria produce signals that influence mood and stress via communication with the brain through the longest nerve running through our body? Gut health and the microbiome has emerged as a hot topic over the past few decades, even though it has been a part of ancient medicine before we really understood the role it plays in human biology. This topic has been at the top of my list of intrigue and while I won’t bore you with the specifics, I wanted to express the importance of the gut and highlight a few foods to consider adding to your diet to improve your gut microbiome!
5 Gut Facts
Research suggests that the gut is what’s known as the “third arm” of the autonomic nervous system. The gut microbes produce 90% of the body’s serotonin (5-HTP). This may reduce anxiety, depression and improve memory and mood. If we have dysbiosis in our gut, or an unhealthy gut, we may lose the ability to effectively produce 5-HTP.
Our gut can stop inflammation created by foreign pathogens, as well as protect us from further pathogen contamination in our bodies. A diversified (many different types of bacteria) gut can also enhance our overall immunity and reduce the prevalence of infections.
If working properly, a healthy microbiome can enhance nutrient absorption and use by our bodies during the process of digestion.
Targeted “alteration” of the gut microbiome by eating foods that nourish our gut may benefit those with high blood pressure and heart disease.
An unhealthy gut may trigger gene expression that is directly related to fat and carbohydrate “hoarding” in our bodies, thereby contributing to the obesity epidemic.
Ok, so hopefully by now you’re just as interested as I am about tending to your gut. A diversified gut microbiome is like filling your home library with books of various subject matter and genre. The more variety you have, the more well-rounded and knowledgeable you become. My aim with this analogy is to emphasize that eating a variety of foods, including Prebiotics and Probiotics, will make your body smarter and more resilient to evil invaders such as illness, stress, depression, obesity, heart disease, and other conditions that try to break us down!
In laymen’s terms, Prebiotics are substances that feed the “good” bacteria in your gut and Probiotics are the “good” bacteria (such as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria) in your gut. Studies suggest that prebiotics may also boost absorption of calcium in the bones. Bone AND gut health anyone? The inclusion of both types of foods in the diet is due to the premise that the symbiotic relationship between these substances is the best “bang for your buck” when it comes to a healthy microbiome.
Jerusalem Artichoke: Coat in EVOO, honey, S&P, bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes.
Leeks: Sautee Leeks with Onion in Butter until translucent. Add potatoes and cook till potatoes are tender. Add spices and heavy cream, puree, and serve hot!
Bananas: Make the probiotic parfait below ↓↓↓ or add into oatmeal, top nut butter toast with banana slivers, or make bread…the options are endless!
Others Prebiotics: Onions, garlic, Mushrooms, Sweet Potato, Berries, Oranges, Apples, Asparagus, Legumes, Spinach, Oats
Kefir: With beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria, Kefir is great as a base for parfait, as a post-dinner drink, or in Russian-style pancakes.
Miso Soup: Beyond providing beneficial bacteria, Miso soup also alkalizes the body and contains many vitamins and minerals. Make by mixing Miso paste with hot water and add scallions and other herbs to boost the nutrition.
The addition of brine to vegetables infuses them with beneficial gut-loving bacteria! Add as a side to tacos, rice, and other starchy, blander foods.
Other Probiotics: Kombucha, Tempeh, Yogurt, Goat Milk, Sour Dough, Soy Sauce
Combine 1/2 banana + handful of blueberries + 1 cup kefir + 3/4 cup Annie’s oatflakes + top with goji berries + chia seeds!