Probiotics have been gaining a lot of popularity in the last few years because we now know that 70-80% of our immune system is located in our gut. We also know that we are made up of more bacteria than we are cells, which is fascinating! Therefore, if we want a healthy immune system, we need a healthy gut system, and if our gut is made up of bacteria (aka the gut microbiome), we must make sure it has a healthy balance of beneficial and non-beneficial bacteria.
The reason we need to do this is because health issues and symptoms can pop up when the non-beneficial bacteria take over our beneficial bacteria. So, when our gut is healthy, it’s a good sign that there are more good bacteria than bad in our system. That’s what we want. We always want more beneficial bacteria in our bodies then non-beneficial bacteria. When it’s the other way around, we start to see symptoms creep in. If you're not sure if you have a healthy gut, read "27 Signs You May Have an Unhealthy Gut."
There are trillions of bacteria in our gut and it’s our job to keep the beneficial bacteria in check to outweigh the non-beneficial bacteria. Our gut digests our food, regulates our hormones, excretes toxins, produces vitamins and keeps our entire body healthy. Optimal gut health starts with the food you eat, which should be rich in fiber (read more about why fiber is so important to gut health), proteins, and healthy fats. In addition to unhealthy food, chronic stress and lack of sleep can contribute to gut imbalance. When our gut is imbalanced, we’re in need of a healthy reset, like my 30 Day Reset.
For most people, a healthy and balanced diet with naturally probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, etc, can contribute to a healthy gut.
You can also get your probiotics in supplement form and there are many strains of probiotics on the market today. But if you prefer the fermented foods, I suggest you eat these foods a few times a week, especially when it’s flu-season or when people in your home and office are under the weather. You’ll want to do this because these foods are full of probiotics, which may in turn help boost your immune system. Everything works together in the body and everything is connected. That’s important to understand when it comes to healing the body and keeping yourself in tip-top shape.
Now, these probiotics need to eat just like we do! So, how do we feed them? With prebiotics. Prebiotics are the food for the probiotics.
Prebiotics differ from probiotics because prebiotics feed your beneficial bacteria (probiotics). Think of these prebiotics as ‘fuel’ for your beneficial gut bacteria. Try to toss a few of these foods into your meals and snacks a few days a week.
A few examples of prebiotic-rich foods are:
- Raw Jicama
- Raw Bananas
- Raw Onions
- Raw Garlic
- Raw Leeks
- Raw Asparagus
- Raw Jerusalem artichokes
- Raw Dandelion greens
Here are a few tips you can use to keep your gut healthy:
- Feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut with clean, whole, organic foods, especially dark leafy greens and fermented foods, which are filled with probiotics – sauerkraut, kefir, and kimchi.
- Eat more fresh organic veggies, especially leafy greens!
- Eat more healthy fats such as walnuts, avocados, avocado oil, coconut oil and extra-virgin olive oil.
- Remove inflammatory fats such as vegetable oils (such as canola, corn, soybean, sunflower, and safflower) and trans fats (which are hydrogenated oils are found in margarine and some cakes, crackers and other processed foods).
- Eat a few prebiotic foods a few days a week in your meals and snacks
- Try an elimination diet as noted in my book, Eating Clean, to identify what foods are wreaking havoc on your body and causing inflammation.
If you’re dealing with a health issue or persistent symptoms, I highly suggest you take some time to incorporate a few of the healthy gut tips above as well as work with a Functional/Integrative MD to determine what is going on in your gut. Many gut health issues have similar symptoms such as candida and SIBO but they are treated VERY differently so it’s important to do your own work on these subjects, listen to your body, and work with a doctor who understands how to treat these conditions without just handing you a pill to cover up your symptoms.
Amie Valpone is the founder of TheHealthyApple.com and the best-selling author of Eating Clean: The 21-Day Plan to Detox, Fight Inflammation, and Reset Your Body. She recently healed herself from a decade of chronic health issues such as Lyme disease, C-diff colitis, Hypothyroidism, Leaky Gut, Candida, PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), toxic levels of mold and heavy metals, and more through detoxification and an anti-inflammatory lifestyle.
The views expressed in this article are intended to spark conversation and highlight alternative studies and is for information purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any health or medical conditions, nor should it be relied upon as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, even if it features the advice of health experts, medical practitioners or physicians. When making any lifestyle or health changes, consult your primary care physician. The views expressed in this article are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Organic Authority, Inc.
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