These foods can dramatically improve not only your digestion, but your immune system as well, helping to keep you from getting sick!
In addition, poor gut health is one of the main causes of autoimmune diseases (including Thyroid problems), and some researchers think that one of the required conditions for an autoimmune disease to exist is leaky gut.
Some of the main causes of gut problems are:
- Chronic stress (VERY important to control your stress)
- bacterial imbalances (we'll discuss more below)
- Poor diet
- Excess toxins and gut-harming lectins
Please note: if you have food intolerances to foods such as gluten, dairy, or various grains, you'll still need to find out about those intolerances and get rid of those foods in your plan if you're going to completely fix your digestion issues.
It should also be noted that grains and legumes have the highest concentrations of any foods of gut-harming lectins. While some people may be able to get away with eating a lot of grains and legumes without any noticeable harm to their gut, many people need to minimize or eliminate grains and legumes in order to heal a damaged gut.
But aside from food intolerances and removal of gut-harming foods, I think you'll be amazed to see how rapidly your digestion and bowel movements improve once you start incorporating a LOT of these 7 foods we'll discuss below!
This is important... even if you're already eating 1 or 2 of these foods below, it's MUCH more powerful to include as MANY as possible to dramatically improve your digestion.
So what exactly are we talking about... well, we're talking about probiotics from fermented foods, and also prebiotics to help FEED your gut bugs.
Unfortunately, today’s modern diets are processed, pasteurized and basically ‘dead’ foods most of the time. What happens when people eat a diet heavy in processed, ‘dead’ foods, is that harmful bacteria can take over in the digestive systems, causing many problems—not only with the digestive system, but the body as a whole.
Many diseases start in an unhealthy environment in our guts. And this becomes even worse from taking antibiotics. While antibiotics can kill dangerous pathogens, they also kill off the healthy and beneficial bacteria in our bodies as well.
Probiotic actually means "for life," and probiotics like lactobacillus, plantarum and bifidis help immune cells fight disease, prevent diarrhea and constipation, protect the mucous lining of the intestine, assist digestion and provide the proper nutrients for healthy blood cells. Probiotics are also responsible for the manufacture of B vitamins and vitamin K right in the intestines where are immediately absorbed.
Eating too much unhealthy, processed, starchy or sugary foods can cause bad bacteria to grow out of control, making our immune systems weak, and affecting our ability to metabolize and synthesize vitamins and nutrients.
The intestines also function as one of the body’s most important immune defenses. In fact, 70-80% or so of the body’s immune cells are present in the intestines. Of course our immune systems protect us from dangerous viruses, bacteria, and parasites, but they also control responses to foods and food allergies as well.
Negative changes in our intestinal flora can be associated with inflammatory bowel disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome. It is now thought that many allergic reactions, asthma, and even obesity are tied to bacterial imbalances in the gut.
The good news though, is that adding the right types of probiotics and good bacteria will maintain or restore a healthy balance in your intestinal tract and improve overall health in the entire body, and fight aging.
Although we typically think of probiotics benefiting just the intestines, they actually benefit the entire digestive system, including the mouth, throat, stomach, etc.
Some of the other ways probiotics can benefit your body:
• Probiotics can help prevent wrinkles and give you a glowing complexion by eliminating the toxins and fighting free radicals that can damage skin and cause early signs of wrinkling and sagging. And probiotics help you digest your food better, so you get more nutrients in your body.
• Probiotics can help you burn fat better by reducing cravings for carbohydrates, sugar and alcohol and help you have more energy to be more active.
• Probiotics help to protect your liver which is reflected in your skin and eyes. When you keep toxins from building up in the liver, you have younger looking skin with less liver spots, moles and skin tags, and you have bright, clear eyes.
• Probiotics help your hair and fingernails grow faster and stronger by keeping the blood vessels surrounding your hair follicles nourished. Healthy blood nourishes hair, skin and nails. Probiotics also help to break down proteins in the diet that benefit hair and nails.
So what are the best sources of probiotics?
Kimchi (pronounced Kim Chee) -This traditional spicy Korean condiment is made of fermented cabbage and other vegetables and seasoned with salt, garlic, ginger and chili peppers. Fermented vegetables make them easier to digest as well as increasing the vitamin levels. I like to have some Kimchi with my morning eggs for an extra daily probiotic boost...mmm, tasty!
The types of beneficial bacteria in Kimchi are quite different than the organisms in yogurt and other fermented foods, and variety works best when it comes to probiotics!
Kombucha Tea - This tea is made from a culture of symbiotic beneficial bacteria and yeasts that has been popular in China for thousands of years. Kombucha contains many important amino acids, B vitamins, and powerful substances that can enhance your immune system. It’s also thought in health circles to help prevent cancer. It may not be the "cure all" that many people make it out to be, but it's very healthy for your gut for sure!
Yogurt - Avoid the sweetened, heavily processed yogurts, and instead go for unsweetened, plain, organic types of yogurt. A good plain full-fat greek yogurt can be amazing with berries, nuts, and a little stevia! And be sure the label says, “Live cultures” to be sure that it's not pasteurized after culturing.
Kefir - A cultured milk product and is generally helpful to those with lactose intolerance. Kefir contains different types of beneficial bacteria than yogurt does, as well as beneficial yeasts. Kefir contains more bacterial strains that remain viable in the digestive system, increasing the likelihood of intestinal colonization. As with yogurt, try to avoid the sweetened varieties and get plain full-fat kefir and then add your own stevia and/or vanilla if you need it a little sweeter. Kefir is great to use in smoothies!
Remember, it is well known that in the Caucasus Mountains of eastern Europe, that natives to that area drink kefir daily throughout their lives and routinely live to over 100 years old. Just remember THAT when some "guru" out there on the internet tells you that that all dairy is bad for you.
Sauerkraut - This cabbage dish has been salted and lacto-fermented over a period of weeks. The healthy bacteria in sauerkraut produce beneficial enzymes as well as having anti-carcinogenic substances. Make sure it’s fresh and not canned sauerkraut which is likely to be “dead” from the heating during canning.
Tempeh - A healthier form of fermented soybeans (generally soybeans are not a healthy food-unless they are fermented). This soy food is easier to digest and provides many valuable vitamins and nutrients, as well as protein, calcium and iron, but without the antinutrients that non-fermented soy contains. The mold that is produced from the fermentation produces a natural antibiotic that strengthens the immune system.
Fermented drinks - Besides kombucha and kefir, there are beginning to be many fermented fruit and vegetable drinks showing up on the shelves of many healthy grocery stores and health food stores. One of my favorites is called, “Inner Eco”, which is a fermented coconut water, and can be found at Whole Foods and other health food stores or specialty stores. This product contains one of the highest concentrations of beneficial bacteria that I've seen with over 100 billion probiotics per Tablespoon, and at least a dozen strains! I've also found a beet kvaas (fermented beet drink) at a local health food store that I really enjoyed.
Some people don’t enjoy the taste of fermented drinks like kombucha tea, so what I often suggest for them is to mix kombucha tea with regular iced tea to balance the taste. Personally, I love the taste of most brands of kombucha tea, and some of the newer flavors brewed with ginger (or other flavors) in them too are really delicious in my opinion.
In addition to the naturally fermented foods we’ve talked about here, considering that we consume a lot less bacteria in our food compared to our natural ancestral diet, I think one of the smartest supplements you can take to FIX your digestion problems and boost your immune system is a probiotic…
Something that I personally use, and is fairly new on the market is called: Pro-X10
It's one of the most powerful probiotic supplements that I've seen yet to date… it also uses a patented technology called micro-encapsulation which prevents most of the probiotics from dying in your stomach and making it to where they need to be... this gives Pro-X10 the equivalent of 50 Billion CFU compared to other probiotic supplements since much more survive through to your intestines.
But perhaps most interesting ingredient in Pro-X10 is something called Actazin™ ... this unique substance supports the regeneration of gut-lining cells, as well as enhanced gut lining protection. This means that even if the gut lining has been damaged by exposure to harmful compounds, including dangerous wheat fragments like gluten and gliadin (which most people’s guts have been damaged by), Actazin™ shows strong promise in being able to help heal the damage and return the gut to normal function.
So if you want to fix your digestion, heal gluten damage, reduce GI inflammation, and improve your bowel movements, definitely try out Pro-X10 ... I'm very excited about this product.
Don't forget about Prebiotics:
With all this talk about probiotics, please realize that it's quite possible that prebiotics are just as important for gut health. Prebiotics are basically fibers and resistant starch from various plant foods that FEED your gut bugs and help the GOOD bugs multiply. On the other hand, sugar in your diet tends to feed the BAD bugs, while fiber feeds the good bugs.
Without getting into excess detail on the topic of prebiotics, just realize that if you're getting a good variety of fruits, vegetables, and nuts, you probably get plenty of prebiotics daily. It's also important to pay attention to your ratio of sugar to prebiotics. Basically if you eat more sugar (from candy, sweetened drinks, ice cream, cakes, etc) and not enough fiber, you're probably feeding your BAD bugs more than you're feeding your GOOD bugs, and therefore, you're setting yourself up for gut imbalances and poor health.
In addition to prebiotics feeding your good gut bugs, there are certain polyphenols and other antioxidants that feed your good bugs too... such as certain phytochemicals found in coffee, red wine, pistachios, cocoa, dark chocolate, and other superfoods.
Here is an article I wrote on the gut benefits of red wine.
And here is another interesting article on the gut benefits of pistachios.
And here's yet another interesting article on the gut benefits of dark chocolate and cocoa.
- Licorice Root - 500mg once or twice a day seems to be the recommended dose. Licorice root is not supposed to be used long term, but just for a couple months during a gut healing protocol.
- Digestive enzymes - This is often overlooked, but enzymes can help to FULLY digest your foods, since partially digested foods can add more damage to your gut walls. I personally use this digestive enzyme from a company that I trust. It's the most complete digestive enzyme I've found.
- Glutamine - 5 to 10 grams per day added to a drink (I do 5 grams before bed since it is theorized to help improve growth hormone release too). Glutamine is known to be a direct rebuilding nutrient for your gut walls.
- Bone broth - I have another blog post here about the powerful gut healing and joint benefits of bone broth
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Certified Nutrition Specialist