When we refer to the “gut” we are talking about the digestive system, in particular the stomach and small intestine. This is where most of the processing and absorbing of food and nutrients takes place. We want to absorb as much nutrition as possible from the healthy food we are eating so that our body functions well, on all levels. Simple. Yet there’s so much more to consider…
The gut is closely linked with other areas of the body: mood, sleep, energy and immune health, to name a few. An unhealthy gut can also lead to the development of food sensitivities and auto-immune conditions.
Did you know that most of our serotonin, our ‘happiness’ neurotransmitter lives in the cells that line the small intestine? An out of balance digestive system can lead to an out of balance mind and contribute to depression and anxiety. Melatonin, our sleep hormone, is also on this same chemical pathway in the body. So looking after our gut cannot only balance our mood but can also promote a healthy sleep cycle.
To put it simply, the gut wall is like the watchdog of the entire body, being closely linked with the immune system. Food sensitivities can start from a stressed gut wall causing the immune system to work overtime to try and protect the body. All of a sudden we find ourselves in the situation where bloating follows meals and we are reacting to all sorts of foods.
The great thing is we can support our gut through nutrition. Naturally fermented foods like kraut and kimchi as well as other goodies like Kefir and prebiotics have amazing benefits for our gut. So what can we do?
- Create a happy environment for our good bacterial to live in. Probiotics like your kimchi and kraut are key here! They help to reduce inflammation in the gut, improve digestive function and promote a nice balance of bacteria.
- Feed your good bacteria. What do they eat? Prebiotics like slippery elm powder, psyllium husk and asparagus.
- Starve the bad bacteria: Time to cut out the sugar, bad bacteria thrive on this! Remember this includes processed carbohydrates as well as sweets.
- Increase glutamine rich foods in the diet such as bone broth, cabbage and spinach. This helps improve the health of the cells lining the intestine. These cells are where your mood-regulating serotonin lives, also the precursor to melatonin for a good night’s sleep.
- Have lemon juice or apple cider vinegar in water in the morning to improve the function of your stomach and promote an appropriate pH balance
- Increase zinc in the diet to aid stomach acid production, which is needed for proper digestion. Zinc rich foods include oysters, mushroom, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, lamb, egg yolk and beef.
- Limit intake of wheat, gluten and other refined carbohydrates, which can contribute to food sensitivities and digestive symptoms.
- Calming, soothing aids such as aloe vera juice, turmeric, chamomile and peppermint can promote a healthy gut function.