Poor gut help has been linked with an increased risk of Autoimmune Diseases, depression and anxiety, obesity, and decreased longevity due to chronic disease but how does one get a good (vs. bad) gut? As it turns out, some of it is out of your control, but the majority is completely within your power.
Non-modifiable Factors to Good Gut Heath
Your gut health starts early on. Though there is still some debate on whether your initial gut health is dependent on your mom’s weight during her pregnancy, researchers do know that the mode of birth is a big first factor. Vaginally born babies have more diversity early on (due to passing through the birth canal and picking up mom’s bacteria along the way) and this continues if mom breastfeeds baby as well. What you were fed early on in life has an impact as well. Other factors leading to an unhealthy gut may be living in an environment that was ultra clean, and lack of exposure to places outside the home. As a baby, you have no control over these early years but as you grown older, YOU can make choices to make your gut as healthy as possible. Here’s how.
The Tools to Getting a Good Gut
Getting a good gut starts with what you chose to put in your mouth every day. Feed your gut a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fermented foods, and healthy bacteria will flourish. Feed it sugar and processed foods, and the bad bugs (and subsequent disease) may take over. In fact, many experts believe that diet may be THE most important factor in determining gut health.
The Role of Fermented Foods and Probiotics
Fermented foods such as Sauerkraut, pickles, kombucha, Kefir, Kimchi, Natto, Miso and yogurt with live and active enzymes can all help to strengthen the gut and benefit overall health. Probiotics may also impact health and are usually ingested through a supplement. In addition to helping overall health, probiotics may benefit individuals with depression as well. A 2018 study found that individuals suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) found relief from both depression and adverse digestive issues when they took a probiotic. As with all supplements, talk to your physician before starting a probiotic supplementation regimen.
Your gut is in your hands. Every time you put something in your mouth, you’re telling your gut how important health is to you. The Meadows Behavioral Healthcare family of programs realize that food choices affect the overall success of treatment. Many nutrients have connections with depression, anxiety, and addiction.
Stay tuned for next month’s fuel column where I’ll cover all the reasons why you shouldn’t fear fat!
By Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RDN, Senior Fellow of Meadows Behavioral Healthcare