How would you rate your gut health?
Hint: if you’ve ever been super stressed, taken a round of antibiotics OR spent time on a standard western diet (Standard American Diet), chances are your gut health is not at its best!
As it turns out, western medicine is only just rediscovering that health (and disease) really does begin in the gut. So if you feel there’s something “off” in this area, don’t ignore it.
Signs of an unhealthy gut span from the obvious (e.g. bloating, gas and indigestion) to the not-so-obvious (e.g. eczema, asthma and even anxiety). If any of these ring a bell for you, you may want to give your gut some love!
The good news is, the future of your gut health is in your hands. And it starts with food. With a few simple diet changes you can turn around troublesome symptoms and start experiencing life with a healthy gut. As they say, food is medicine!
Today we’re sharing our top 5 gut healing foods. These foods all play a part in soothing, nourishing and rebuilding a damaged gut. All are inexpensive, widely available…and some you can make at home!
And for those who are serious about healing their gut and upleveling their health, we’ve also compiled a free guide listing our top gut healing supplements.
The Top 5 Gut Healing Foods
#1 – Bone Broth
Move over smoothies and cold-pressed juice…if you’re looking for a drink that will transform your health, bone broth is it!
Bone broth is made by slowly simmering bones in water (with a touch of vinegar) over a period of up to 36 hours. This slow cooking process releases key minerals (including magnesium, calcium and phosphorus), proteins and amino acids from the bones into the liquid, making for a potent and healthful drink or soup base.
Now if you’re serious about healing your gut, here are two key reasons why you should consider taking bone broth on-the-regular:
- Think of your poor gut. Despite being a bit damaged and inflamed, it’s still constantly at work…breaking down your food and absorbing what nutrients it can to keep you going! But if your damaged gut could talk to you, it’d say it is hard work extracting the nutrition from your foods (even if you’re eating an abundant, whole foods diet). Your gut is doing its best, but where absorption is impaired you could be at risk of developing nutrient deficiencies – which most certainly doesn’t help in the healing process!
This is where bone broth comes in. Bone broth is a rich source of easily absorbed or “bioavailable” nutrients. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find an equally rich source of bioavailable nutrition. In other words, bone broth is the soothing, restorative vacation your gut has been looking for! Consuming bone broth regularly will give your gut a well-earned rest, and provide your body with the extra nutrition it needs to both thrive and heal.
- Gut healing proteins and amino acids. In addition to providing bioavailable nutrition, bone broth has star powers when it comes to healing and sealing an irritated or leaky gut. This is largely thanks to its unique combination of healing proteins and amino acids. To name a few + some of their benefits:
- Collagen – soothes the gut lining
- Proline – reduces inflammation and helps to repair the gut lining
- Glycine – helps with maintaining muscle mass, aids detoxification and builds the gut lining
- Glutamine – another vital building block to repair a damaged gut, glutamine is always high on any list of key gut healing supplements.
When making bone broth, we recommend sourcing free range, grass fed marrow or joint bones (chicken, beef and lamb are all good choices). This will ensure that your broth is packed with healthy minerals, proteins and amino acids, and will likely turn to jelly at fridge temperature!
#2 – Fermented Vegetables
Throughout history, cultures around the world have consumed fermented veggies as a way to maintain good digestive health. Somewhere along the line, these foods were forgotten in the mainstream western diet. However due to their great taste and gut healing probiotics, fermented vegetables are making a comeback!
If you’re wondering what fermented vegetables are, they are veggies that have been through a process of lactofermentation, where they have been effectively “pre-digested” by natural bacteria. Vegetables rich in insoluble-fiber, such as cabbage, are often used. Folks with damaged guts may often run into trouble eating too much scratchy, insoluble fiber. But in the fermented state, these vegetables are much easier to digest.
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Some popular (and delicious) fermented vegetables that you can incorporate in your diet include raw kim-chi and sauerkraut. Raw (and preferably wild) ferments such as these are literally packed with thriving, healthy bacteria which benefit your gut by:
- controlling populations of bad bacteria
- providing beneficial enzymes, B vitamins + more
- soothing inflammation, and
- modulating the immune system.
Interestingly, fermented veggies are more potent sources of healthy bacteria than probiotic pills. This is because the bacteria found in fermented veggies are actively thriving on their food source, whereas probiotic pills contain freeze-dried probiotic colonies that are in a more dormant state.
Note: When starting with fermented veggies, remember there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing”. While a single forkful of kraut may seem harmless, literally thousands of good bacteria are storming your gut. It can cause quite a stir! So be aware that consuming too much, too fast may lead to some unpleasant symptoms!
So if you’re working with a severely damaged gut or distressing symptoms, think low and slow. You can start by introducing as little as a few strands of kraut with a meal, and build up from there.
#3 – Kefir
Kefir is another potent (and utterly delicious!) natural source of probiotics that supports healthy gut function. Originating out of Eastern Europe and Asia, kefir is made by adding “kefir grains” to liquids containing sugar such as coconut water, cows milk or goats milk.
Kefir ‘grains’ are not actually grains in the conventional sense, but are cultures of over 30 strains of microorganisms including beneficial lactic acid forming bacteria and yeasts. These microorganisms eat up the sugar present in the liquid, to produce a tart, probiotic-infused beverage.
Milk based kefirs have a consistency similar to yogurt and a sour taste, while coconut or sugar water based kefir makes for a delicious, bubbly drink.
The high number (and therefore diversity) of microorganisms present in kefir make it a powerful gut healing food, and far more potent than other fermented dairy products like yogurt.
As with other fermented foods, you can buy kefir in the fridge section of your health food store. Alternatively, you can purchase your own kefir grain and start making it at home!
#4 – Prebiotic fiber
It’s one thing to invite loads of beneficial bacteria into your gut, but if you want them to stick around…they need something to eat!
Not to be confused with probiotics, prebiotic fiber is another crucial piece in the gut-healing puzzle. Put simply, prebiotic fiber is food for the good bacteria in your gut.
Some excellent food-based sources of prebiotic fiber include:
- jerusalem artichoke
- sweet potato
Note: Depending on the nature and severity of gut dysfunction that you’re working to heal, you may not yet be ready to tolerate much prebiotic fiber in your diet. For example, if you have been diagnosed with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth or “SIBO” some of these foods are may produce unpleasant symptoms. Be mindful and see what feels good for your body!
#5 – Soups and Stews
Consuming soups and stews is another excellent way to give a damaged gut a helping hand.
It’s well known in traditional Chinese medicine that ‘warming’ or cooked foods support the body to heal and rebuild. As with broths, the slow cooking process helps to break down complex proteins into easily accessible amino acids, requiring less energy on our part to digest.
For a deeply nourishing meal, try slow cooking cuts of meat like osso buco or beef cheek with vegetables. If you suffer from a troubled tummy, we would suggest sticking with root vegetables that are high in soothing, soluble fibre (e.g. carrot, beetroot and pumpkin). Though we love our non-starchy vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, their high insoluble fibre content may irritate an already damaged gut lining!
Tip: To boost the gut-healing benefits of your soups and stews, be sure to add 1 – 2 cups of bone broth!
Best of luck on your gut healing journey! To download the Gut Healing Supplements Guide, click here.
*This post was written by Bec and Amy of Cultivate Beauty for HealthfullyHannah.com. Bec and Amy are sisters who share a passion for holistic health and beauty, based in Queensland, Australia. Through their own personal health journeys, they discovered the power of real food and cultivating positive daily habits. Bec and Amy help other women to do the same through their website, Cultivate Beauty, and their YouTube channel. You can also find them on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest!
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Hannah is the founder and health educator at Healthfully Hannah, empowering women to live healthfully through science-based, step-by-step guidance. Read Hannah’s personal health journey that led her to discover the power of Functional Medicine and Nutrition. Feel free to send Hannah a message here.
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