This chapter will give you eight pieces of advice about what to do or not to do to have a healthy gut and to restore you gut balance, which will in turn help you lose weight and boost your immune system.
Take probiotics and prebiotics
Probiotics are a species of good bacteria just like the ones that you already have in your gastrointestinal tract. This is why their consumption aids digestion and increases the number of good gut bacteria.
Prebiotics, on the other hand, are fiber compounds that pass through the upper part of your gut undigested and stimulate the growth of the good gut microorganisms. Both the probiotics and the prebiotics are found in food and are a powerful combination for a functional and healthy gastrointestinal system.
Probiotics are mostly found in fermented foods of all kinds and in cultured dairy or non-dairy products. Here is a detailed list of foods that contain the largest quantity of probiotics that you should try to include in your daily menu:
Fermented foods Fermented foods are known to strengthen the intestinal cells, reduce the risk of allergies and large intestine cancer and to improve the immune system. As they are rich in probiotics, you should try to increase your everyday consumption of either purchased or homemade fermented foods. You can choose from among the wide array of fermented vegetables, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, pickled carrots, pickled cauliflower, pickled peppers, pickled cucumber, pickled olives and the like; fermented beans, such as green beans, lentils, chickpea; fermented soybeans, such as miso, tempeh and natto; fermented beverages, such as kefir and kombucha and fermented condiments, such as apple cider vinegar, white or red wine vinegar and soy sauce.
Cultured dairy and non-dairy products The culture products contain active and live cultures that help your good gut bacteria maintain the balance, keep your digestive system functional and thus boost your metabolism, which will help you lose weight. Cultured products are: yogurt, buttermilk, kefir, and cheese, as well as yogurts and kefirs made from non0dairy products, such as from soy, rice, coconut, and the like. People who drink a lot of cultured products have been proven to lose weight more easily. This is why if you feel hungry late at night or between courses, drink a glass of yogurt or kefir and you will both feel satiated and you will also help your gut flora do its job properly.
Foods that are rich in prebiotics are the following:
Almonds Almonds have been proven to be a great prebiotic as they stimulate the growth of the healthy gut bacteria. So make sure you eat at least a handful of almonds three or four times a week.
Jerusalem artichoke Jerusalem artichokes are rich in an insoluble fiber called inulin that travels from our small intestine to the large one, where it ferments and creates friendly bacteria. Other ingredients that also contain high levels of inulin are that are also listed in this good gut food list are banana, onion, garlic, asparagus and chicory.
Bananas Bananas maintain the gut harmony and reduce inflammation because they contain great dosage of magnesium and potassium. This is why when you have a stomachache you are often advised to eat a banana.
Leafy green vegetables All leafy vegetables such as broccoli, leek, spinach, lettuce, cauliflower, and cabbage contain an ingredient called glucosinolates that the microorganism in our gut broke down into substances that suppress inflammation and reduce the risk of gastrointestinal cancer.
Blueberries Blueberries are rich in fiber, antioxidants and Vitamin K, which help improve your immune system and provide a diversity of the healthy gut bacteria.
Legumes Legumes are known to produce SCFA or short-chain fatty acids and are rich in fiber, protein and Vitamins B that improve the absorption of nutrients and strengthen the gut tissue. Legumes are also confirmed to improve weight loss as they make you feel satiated.
Mushrooms Mushrooms have been found to alter the gut microbiota as they help the growth of the “friendly” bacteria, while reducing the number of unhealthy and pathogenic bacteria.
Whole grains All whole grains, such as whole wheat, oats, barley, rye and brown rice are full of fiber, so, once they reach your stomach, they act as prebiotics, stimulating the growth of good gut bacteria that help digestion.
Kiwi Kiwi is known for its ability to feed the good gut bacteria because of the fiber that it contains, which is used as prebiotic food for the probiotic bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. The “fed” probiotic bacteria in turn fight the pathogenic bacteria and convert the fiber into acids that the gut bacteria use together with their human host.
Polenta Polenta is rich in fiber that goes straight to your large intestine and ferments there into a variety of good gut bacteria.
Chicory Last, but not least, chicory is well known for its ability to eliminate intestinal parasites thanks to its volatile oils, which is why it is one of the top prebiotics that you should include in your diet as much as possible.
Eat fiber-rich food
Research has shown that fiber-rich food stimulates the growth of the good gut bacteria and reduces the risk of stomach cancer. This is why you should include in your daily menu foods that are high in fiber, such as whole grains, wheat bran, brown rice, oatmeal, broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, carrots, beans, apples, pears and figs. You should however start slowly in order to prevent gas, cramps and bloating in your stomach and drink a lot of water with these fiber-rich foods. After a while you can start eating a minimum of three servings of whole-grain food per day, one serving consisting of a slice of whole-wheat bread or an ounce of breakfast cereals.
Eat antioxidant food
Foods rich in antioxidants are known to have a positive effect on the healthy bacteria because they reduce the number of gut pathogens, while leaving the good bacteria unharmed. All fruits and vegetables are known to have antioxidant properties. They are also rich in Vitamins C and E, folic acid and carotene, all of which are substances that help prevent stomach cancer. This is why it goes without saying that you should include fresh fruits and vegetables in your everyday diet for a good gut and a strong immune system. You should also drink a lot of cranberry and raspberry juice as these berries have been confirmed to contain substances that prevent the growth of pathogenic gut bacteria and thus protect you from intestinal diseases.
Use soothing spices
Certain condiments are known to prevent or relieve gas and bloating, which is why you should use them to preserve your gut balance. These are: cinnamon, cumin, fennel, ginger, mint, nutmeg, cardamom and the like. For example, when you prepare black beans, you can see that most of the recipes with black beans include cumin, too, as it helps the digestion of the beans.
Ginger and cinnamon are known to have the effect of accelerating the digestive process and helping you stomach be emptied more quickly. So, by using them regularly in your cooking or by adding them in your beverages, you can say goodbye to your belly fat much sooner.
Mint, too, is known to help relieve gastrointestinal disorders as it relaxes your abdominal muscles. So, drink a cup of mint tea or add mint leaves to your dishes for a relaxed and happy gut.
Have a diverse diet
Diversity is best when it comes to resilience because the more good bacteria you have in your gut, the more your digestion will improve and you stand a better chance of fighting infections and health problems. In other to help the friendly bacteria in your stomach thrive, you need to eat a diverse diet. You will thus have a greater variety of bacteria in your gut that will help you keep your perfect weight, reduce your body mass index and also decrease the level of sugar in your blood.
This is why you should try to change your menu every day and eat diverse, but healthy foods, in particular the good gut food listed in the previous three items. In Chapter 3 you will find recipes that use the aforementioned good gut food ingredients to make a healthy and delicious breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Avoid unhealthy foods
Because the food that you consume defines the composition of your gut flora, you should avoid eating unhealthy foods, such as carbohydrates, animal fat and protein and starchy food. This is because sugary, fatty and starchy foods usually lack fiber and are therefore ideal for the bad bacteria to thrive. For instance, it has been confirmed that, if you eat red meat constantly, the levels of the harmful Bilophilia bacteria, which is known to cause inflammation, increase in your gut. This is why you should limit the intake of red meat to only once or two times a week (if you are an irremediable meat lover), while try to have white meat, seafood or meat alternatives for the rest of the week.
Avoid certain types of medications
Avoid excessive use of antibiotics, analgesics (painkillers), antipyretics (fever-reducing medications) and birth control pills as they are harmful to the gut bacteria. This primarily refers to antibiotics because recent studies have confirmed that they lead to a rapid and serious loss of the diversity of the gut flora and even change the composition of the gut, thus causing imbalance and subsequent intestinal permeability that makes you more susceptible to infections and diseases.
Try to avoid stress as much as possible
I know that this is easier said than done especially in the modern world when we are simply inundated in stress. We constantly face stress either at work, at home, at school, you name it! Yet stress is known to be the major cause of most gastrointestinal disorders, such as ulcers, heartburn and more serious intestinal diseases, because it weakens the intestine cells, while helping the overgrowth of the harmful gut microorganisms. So, although it is very difficult to avoid stress altogether, try to manage it and abate it as much as possible either through stress management techniques or through yoga relaxation techniques. Your gut will certainly be thankful!