Best and Worst Foods For Your Gut
The gut and the mind are more connected than one might think. There is a reason we use expressions like “butterflies in my stomach,” or “go with your gut.” There is a reason you feel nauseous in certain situations.
The gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to all sorts of emotions – anger, anxiety, sadness, elation – all those feelings can trigger symptoms in the gut. And in turn, symptoms in the gut can trigger or worsen those emotions.
The gut biome may trigger big emotional shifts experienced by people coping with irritable bowel syndrome and functional bowel problems such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, pain and stomach upset. “For decades, researchers and doctors thought that anxiety and depression contributed to these problems. But our studies and others show that it may also be the other way around,” says Jay Pasricha, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Neurogastroenterology. Researchers are finding evidence that irritation in the gastrointestinal system may send signals to the central nervous system (CNS) that trigger mood changes.
The food we eat is not only affecting our mental health. It is also directly affecting out mental health. According to Dr. Will Bulsiewicz, the best thing we can do for our gut health is eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Plant foods are rich in fiber that not only move things along, but also helps maintain and build healthy gut bacteria.
Here are some of the best foods for your gut:
1. Fermented Foods (Probiotics)
Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha, miso and yogurt contain probiotics that assist with digestion and introduce helpful bacteria to your gut.
2. Fiber-rich Prebiotics
When you feed your body healthy bacteria via probiotics, it’s important to feed those bacteria in your gut with prebiotics. Foods high in prebiotics include: leeks, onions, beans, legumes, asparagus, garlic, bananas, pears, watermelon.
Polyphenols are a type of plant chemical that gut bacteria love. Berries, apples, artichokes, red onions, tea and dark chocolate are all good sources of polyphenols.
Here are some of the worst foods for your gut:
1. Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners have no calories and no nutritional value. They pass through the gut completely undigested, but along the way they come into contact with the microflora of the gut. Artificial sweeteners negatively impact the composition of the gut bacteria in ways that can lead to gluten intolerance.
2. Red Meat
Carnitine, a compound found in red meat, interacts with gut bacteria to produce a substance called TMAO. TMAO is associated with the buildup of plaque in the arteries.
3. Processed Foods
Processed foods often lack diversity and fiber and are instead filled with refined sugars, salt, artificial sweeteners and preservatives. Your microbiome thrives on diverse fibers and polyphenols from a variety of colorful fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Alcohol, or ethanol, kills bacteria – gut bacteria included.