Summertime is here and that means your calendars are probably filled with fun summer activities. Many of us will be running around dropping the kids off at summer camps or friends’ homes. But, it seems when the kids are out of school we tend to cater to their tummies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, leaving us with a not so healthy gut.
When you’re at your best it means you can maintain energy and feel great all summer long, and it all starts in the gut. I wanted to create this article to offer some suggestions of gut healthy food choices along with a little background on the gut microbiome.
A healthy gut microbiome – the diverse community of microorganisms living in the digestive tract – is essential to your health. These bacteria are essential to a healthy metabolism, energy levels, and digestion.
So what should you feed these bacteria to optimize your health?
Prebiotics, Probiotics, and the Not So Healthy Antibiotics
The digestive tract is full of good (symbionts) and bad (pathogens) bacteria. The healthy bacteria need your assistance with the right foods to fight the pathogens to help keep your immune system healthy and digestion right on track.
Heavily refined and processed foods, antibiotics, and some environmental factors such as stress and a sedentary lifestyle can negatively affect the balance of gut microflora (bacteria).
Antibiotics wipe out not only the bad bacteria in your system but the good bacteria as well – leaving the gut in mayhem and open to intruders. So it’s important after a dose of antibiotics to flood your system with prebiotics and probiotics.
2 things you need to balance your gut microflora to promote healthy digestion:
1. Probiotics – These are the good live bacteria such as Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium that we get mostly from fermented foods or drinks. Probiotics help fight off the bad bacteria, support immune system, produce vitamins and promote good digestive health.
2. Prebiotics – Different from the well-known probiotics are the non-digestible parts of food that help feed probiotics – the good bacteria. Prebiotics are found in most fiber-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables. They help your digestive system run smoothly, decrease inflammation, boosts your immune system and decrease your risk of certain diseases.
10 Gut Healthy Summer Foods
Eating healthy foods is not only good for you but great for your healthy bacteria. The following foods will help your good bacteria thrive giving them strength to fight off any pathogens trying to invade. So with all that running around you’ll be doing this summer – I wanted to provide some food suggestions to help keep your gut in tip-top shape!
1. Kombucha – This yummy drink is a great substitute for sodas in the summer to quench your thirst. Kombucha is a fermented black or green tea made with bacteria and yeast which carbonates after fermenting – this is great when you’re craving that coke this summer.
This drink is a wonderful probiotic for your stomach due to the good bacteria these drinks are made out of. The natural antioxidant in kombucha helps fight the pathogens that may be causing mayhem in your digestive tract.
2. Green leafy vegetables – How many times have you heard “eat your green leafy vegetables?” Well, if not enough we’ll say it again – “eat your green leafy vegetables” to stabilize your gut bacteria.
Healthy gut bacteria feed off these green leafy vegetables. They contain sugar molecules that good bacteria need to grow – shutting down the bad bacteria and promoting gut health.
So during those summer BBQs have a hearty green salad as a side dish!
3. Kefir – You’ve probably heard of this cultured dairy product before since it’s been the “it” health food of the 21st century. But, if you haven’t I’m glad to be the first to introduce it to you.
Kefir contains as many as 30 strands of good bacteria and is one of the best probiotic foods out there. Kefir benefits are endless, not only does it help restore your gut with an abundance of good bacteria but it fights cancer, builds strong bones, boost your immunity, and promotes detoxification.
4. Yogurt – Yogurt is one of the top consumed fermented dairy products in the United States making it the top probiotic food. The lactic acid-producing bacteria include Lactobacillus and Streptococcus species benefit your gut function through the gut microflora.
Unfortunately, most of the yogurt brands on shelves pack their products with sugar which the bad bacteria in the gut love to feed off of. It’s important to read the labels and ingredients on your foods!
5. Sauerkraut – Essentially sauerkraut is just cabbage and salt, but when it’s fermented the health benefits skyrocket compared to fresh cabbage. Fermentation is the process of microorganisms like yeast and bacteria that convert the sugars on the cabbage to beneficial probiotics.
Studies have proven that these probiotics help protect against gastrointestinal disorders such as gastrointestinal infection and inflammatory bowel disease.
Sauerkraut is high sodium – so keep this in mind if you’re watching your salt intake.
6. Onion and garlic – The two most flavorful ingredients to add to your summer shopping list if they aren’t already there. Not only do they make every dish pop with flavor, onions and garlic are high prebiotic foods.
The prebiotics in these foods promote the growth of Bifidobacteria – good bacteria – in your gut and prevent disease-promoting bacteria from accumulating leading to a balanced digestive system
Since onions are high in fiber they promote better digestion, and garlic can aid in eliminating any digestive problems such as dysentery, colitis, and diarrhea.
7. Mushrooms –The polysaccharides found in mushrooms are considered non-digestible by your digestive tract. But, what these fibers can do for us is feed the healthy bacteria in the large intestine and in return we give them an environment to thrive in. Now that’s a symbiotic relationship!
This prebiotic vegetable can be added to your summer salads or what’s even better is mushrooms on the grill!
8. Asparagus – Another wonderful grilled summer vegetable – asparagus. Filled with prebiotic fiber and antioxidants, asparagus is a must for your summer grocery list.
The prebiotics stimulate healthy gut bacteria growth while the antioxidants help prevent colon cancer.
9. Bananas – Bananas are a quick snack for kids and parents on the go. They are a great source of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and prebiotics. Make sure you buy bananas a little under-ripe since the unripe bananas are full of resistant starch which gives the bananas their prebiotic effect.
10. Dandelion – Surprisingly you can eat these dandelion flowers you see growing in your yard and what’s even better – they are rich in fiber and prebiotics for your gut. Their similar taste to arugula makes them great for salads or even boiled up for tea.
If you pick your own be sure to avoid the dandelion’s treated with weed-killer – a not so healthy option for your gut.
Healthy Gut, Healthy You
The trillions of microorganisms living in your gut need food to survive, just like us. If you are feeding your gut processed and unhealthy foods – we are directly feeding bad bacteria, giving them an invitation to set up shop and create havoc.
But, if you are eating nutritional foods filled with prebiotics, probiotics, vitamins, and minerals you’re strengthening your body to fight off a laundry list of diseases.
Gastrointestinal issues can be detrimental to your health, so it’s important to keep your diet on track. It can be hard when you’re always on the go, adding these nutritional foods to your diet at least once a day can help balance your gut bacteria. If you’re in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and need guidance with your gut issues call or book an appointment today with my practice.