Foods that Heal the Gut

“All disease begins in the gut.”  Hippocrates

If you suffer from food intolerances, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, yeast infections, allergies, or asthma, all of these conditions are directly related to the health of your gut.  Healthy individuals have approximately 3½ pounds of beneficial bacteria in their digestive tract that work to assist the body in breaking down proteins, fats, and carbohydrates from the food you eat, as well as to synthesize vitamins, for assisting with the absorption of the nutrients, and for eliminating waste effectively.  The beneficial bacteria are continually competing with the undesirable micro-organisms that also take up residence in your gut. You can support this process by “feeding” the good bacteria.  Ways to do this include adding fermented foods such as milk kefir, water kefir, kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, and naturally cultured yogurts into your diet, and by taking a quality probiotic supplement.

Adding fermented foods to your diet

  1. Water Kefir– is made with kefir grains that are allowed to ferment which leaves behind an enzyme-rich probiotic beverage.
  2. Milk Kefir – is produced by adding kefir grains to cow, goat or sheep’s milk and letting the mixture ferment for a day. The fermentation breaks down the lactose in the milk and is makes it suitable for those who are otherwise lactose intolerant
  3. Kombucha Tea – is a fermented tea beverage that is rich in enzymes and the bacteria that your digestive system uses to detoxify your system.
  4. Naturally cultured Yogurt– is made from organic milk that has been inoculated with live active cultures such as Lactobacillus bulgaricus (L. bulgaricus) and Streptococcus thermophilus (S. thermophilus).  The active cultures break down the sugars in the milk to produce lactic acid. It is considered to be a “pre-digested” food, or one that is very easy on the digestive system. Look for organic or grass fed.
  5. Kim Chi- is made by mixing a main ingredient (such as cabbage) with a host of other seasonings and vegetables such as hot peppers, radishes, carrots, garlic, ginger, onion, and salt. The mixture is left to ferment from a few days to a couple of weeks.  Kimchi contains the bacterium called lactobacillus kimchii as well as other lactic acid bacteria that are beneficial to our gastrointestinal as well as immune systems. Kimchi is also high in vitamin A, C, B1, B2, beta-carotene, calcium and iron.  See the recipe link below for ideas.
  6. Fermented Sauerkraut-is made with shredded cabbage, carrots, and salt as the main ingredients. It is produced by allowing the salted cabbage to ferment at room temperature two weeks or more.  Like kimchi, sauerkraut is high in vitamin C and digestive enzymes. It’s also a good source of natural lactic acid bacteria such as lactobacillus and pediococcus. Sauerkraut juice can also be used as a remedy for gastrointestinal conditions like diarrhea and constipation. You can read more about fermenting vegetables here.
  7. Miso Paste– is produced by fermenting soybean, barley, brown rice, or other grains with a type of fungus known as koji (aspergillus oryzae) in Japan. The fermentation process can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of years to complete and the end result is a red, white or dark brown colored paste with a buttery texture. Typically, the darker the color of the miso, the saltier and stronger the flavor. Besides containing a good amount of readily absorbable protein, miso is also high in vitamin B12, has trace levels of  zinc, copper and manganese. Can be added to soups or stews or as a flavoring at the end of cooking.  It can be found in Asian section of supermarkets or health food stores (always look for organic or GMO free).
  8. Sprouted almonds- soak and sprout raw almonds for 12 hours to maximize their nutritional value. These can be eaten whole or ground up and used as a topping for salads, etc. Read more with this link.

More ways to promote good digestive health

Bone broth- is an exceptional way to provide nutrients to those who are ill or failing to thrive. It is typically made by gently simmering meat bones for a long period of time (about 24-48 hours), in order to draw the minerals from the bones and the gelatin from the collagen-rich joints.   The finished broth is rich in nutrients including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulfur, and many other trace minerals which are easily absorbed by the body.  The gelatin is helpful for addressing gastro-intestinal distress, immune system breakdown, joint problems, arthritis, and for the rejuvenation of the skin, fingernails and hair.  Studies reveal that the amino acids proline and glycine are found abundantly in this broth and both of these amino acids can help to restore gut health.  Glycine also aids the body with blood sugar issues, lessens anxiety and helps to reduce stress.  Proline and glycine shortages are commonly found in people who are eating low-protein diets or in those who cannot digest protein properly.  Read more about bone broths

Intermittent fasting-  allows the digestive system to rest and repair itself. This is done by not eating any solid foods between 6:00 pm – 8:00 am. Break that fast with fresh fruits. Raw fruits are cleansing to the system.  Some powerful fruits to include are: blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, cranberries, cherries, grapes, pomegranates, cantaloupe, watermelon, lemons, limes, and oranges.  Fruits are very easily digested and should be eaten away from your main mealtimes or they can be blended into smoothies.  They can be eaten 1/2 hour before your regular meal to keep them separate.

Liquid fasting-  you can go one step further and do a regular weekend fast that eliminates all solid foods but can include lots of pure water, herbal teas, fresh juices, and bone broths. These are all gentle on the digestive system, allowing it to repair and reset itself. This can be done every other week or once a month, depending on your situation.

Herbs that support the digestive system-  licorice root (DGL form), peppermint, ginger root, slippery elm, marshmallow root, lemon balm, calendula, and turmeric.

Supplement with a quality probiotic

Illness can oftentimes be the result of your previous exposure to antibiotics.  This is because the antibiotic killed off the “good guys” along with the “bad” and this leaves the body more susceptible to future infections, candida overgrowth, food intolerance’s, allergies and asthma.  If you have taken antibiotics in the past you may still have a disproportionate ratio of good vs bad bacteria.  Taking a quality probiotic may be helpful to get the micro-flora in your gut back to where it should be to assist your body in recovering good health.

Many commercially available probiotics are often lacking in the essentials,  so look for products which contain at least 10 billion CFU, which include bifidobacterium and lactobacilus.  Since probiotic microbes do not cause disease, there’s no such thing as having too many of them.  Read an article about healing a leaky gut

How to make water kefir

How to ferment vegetables.

Additional Resources:

Recipes and instructions for fermenting various foods

Naturally fermented foods are high in probiotics

Read an article about juicing

Read more about bone broths

How to make a nutritious smoothie

Read an article about leaky gut syndrome

Renew Life Adult Probiotic – Ultimate Flora Probiotic Extra Care, Shelf Stable Probiotic Supplement – 50 billion – 90 Vegetable Capsules

Digestive Wellness: Strengthen the Immune System and Prevent Disease Through Healthy Digestion, Fourth Edition

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