Over the past few years, the relatively obscure topic of gut health has gone mainstream. It’s an exciting step in the right direction, as gut health really is incredibly important for overall health and well-being, and we would all benefit greatly from eating in a way that looks after our gut health. It’s fascinating to see the sharp increase in interest in gut health – check out the Google Trends chart below. Those of us who have been eating for gut health know that this trend is only the beginning.
Why is Gut Healthy Eating so popular now?
Of all nutritional interventions, gut healthy eating has been the most powerful tool for my family’s health journey. The unbelievable impact from eating food for gut health that we’ve personally experienced (see Isaac’s story here) is what led me to create my online program, Quirky Cooking for Gut Health, where get into the practical “how to’s” of gut health based on the GAPS protocol, with videos, tutorials, meal plans and recipes. I wanted to share the information and simple ‘food hacks’ that we found most helpful for beginning this way of eating, which is why I wrote the program. This post of for those of you who are not yet ready to try GAPS but want to start adding more gut healthy foods into your diet.
Our gut plays many roles when it comes to our health and well being. The health of the gut itself is incredibly important when it comes to the larger health of the individual. There are two major factors to consider when looking at gut health:
- the state of the gut lining, and
- the state of the gut microbiome.
The Gut Lining
The lining of our gut absorbs and transports nutrients across the intestinal wall. This gut’s permeability allows small particles of nutrients to cross into the blood stream but stops larger molecules, such as proteins and microbes from entering. The gut lining is also where the most number of immune cells are produced. If the gut lining is not healthy, our immune system is directly compromised. The gut lining can also become leaky, allowing large, unwanted molecules to pass into the blood stream. As these large molecules enter our blood stream, our immune system responds with inflammation which leads to a host of health issues. Any gut healing diet must address the health of the gut lining.
The Gut Microbiome
There is 10 times more microbial DNA in and on us than there is human DNA. The gut contains an incredible number of bacteria, fungi, yeast and viruses that are important for our health. They play a large variety of complex roles that range from food digestion to manufacturing vitamins. The absence or presence of certain species, or even the relative ratios of bacterial species determines how healthy we are. Our modern life places a lot of stress on our gut health. Anything from chlorinated water to antibiotics or eating refined foods will have a direct impact on the microbiome. Eating to support existing beneficial microbes and to reduce the population of harmful microbes is necessary for gut health.
Now that we’ve covered some basics of gut health, let’s take a look at the Top 6 Foods that should be included in a gut healthy diet.
1. Bone Broths & Meat Stocks
Broth is now appearing on the menu in cafes around the country, which is wonderful news as it is one of the most gut healing foods around. Bones from grass-fed cows or lamb, free range chicken or wild caught fish make a highly nutritious broth that contains gelatine, a compound with numerous health benefits. Specifically for the gut, gelatine increases gastric acid secretion for improved digestion, and restores a healthy mucosal stomach lining, which seals the gut for decreased permeability. Don’t be deterred by the name bone broth, a good quality chicken soup is rich in gelatine, as is any other bone-based soup.
For those with major gut health issues, you will need to begin slowly with meat stocks, and move on to bone broths later, as the meat stocks are gentler on a damaged gut. Meat stocks are made with joint bones, meat close to the bone, lots of connective tissue, and gelatinous meats – not the muscle meats. The connective tissues contain the really gelatinous proteins that the body uses as basic building blocks to heal damaged cells and gut lining.
You can also buy powdered gelatine (we love Changing Habits gelatine) or powdered collagen (see here), which is a great supplement to have in your pantry for those days when the whole food option of broth or stock is unavailable. Gelatine powder can be added to hot liquids to turn them into a jelly. Collagen does not jellify but easily dissolves in cold water.