Looking to improve your gut health naturally? Using food as medicine is one of the most effective natural ways to improve your gut health. Before medications and modern healthcare came about, our ancestors solely relied on food and herbs as medicine to heal from ailments. Food (as real, whole foods that come from nature) is medicinal as it contains an abundance of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals which support optimal functioning of our organs and thus optimal health. When we revert back to our ancestral roots, we can reap those same benefits of food as medicine and actually restore our health.
If you have gut issues, chances are your gut is inflamed, irritated, and your intestinal lining is weakened causing "leaky gut syndrome." Leaky gut syndrome happens overtime due to diet and lifestyle factors like a poor diet, processed foods, chronic stress, excess alcohol consumption, overuse of medications like NSAIDs, food allergies, and more. The intestinal lining becomes weakened by these factors creating holes in the lining which then allows food particles and pathogens to escape into the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, the immune system identifies these foreign invaders and attacks. Overtime, if not addressed, this causes food allergies or sensitivities, and also an overworked immune system which can lead to "cell mimicry," or an attack on your body's own cells, AKA an autoimmune disease.
In order to "reverse" this, we need to of course remove any irritants and then reduce inflammation, strengthen, and heal the intestinal lining to address the leaky gut. This can be done using the medicinal properties of specific foods!
The best foods for repairing the gut are foods that have healing properties, contain fiber, and are nutrient-dense. Here are some of the top foods for gut health that you can start incorporating into your diet to fix your gut:
Bone Broth: one of the best foods for healing the gut. It's high in collagen, gelatin, glycine and glutamine, all shown to strengthen the gut lining as well as reduce inflammation. The gelatinous quality of bone broth is what helps to seal up a leaky gut and reduce further irritation. I'd recommend sipping on this throughout the day, having it first thing on an empty stomach, or using it in place of regular broth or stock in soups, stews, sauces, and more. I like to add warming spices such as ginger, turmeric, and a squeeze of lemon to enhance the flavor and light the digestive fire. While making your own is obviously the best option, it's not always the easiest option as it is time consuming. If you buy a store bought bone broth, make sure that it's gelatinous (not preferably in a box). Some brands I like are: Bare Bones, Trader Joe's Bone Broth (found in the meat section), and BonaFide Provisions. I used to get BonaFide Provisions shipped to me in a freezer pack which gave me weeks worth! Another option is to buy a bone broth protein powder like the one from Ancient Nutrition or Vital Proteins.
Ginger: contains anti-inflammatory & antioxidant properties amazing for gastrointestinal health. It also helps with nausea, bloating, and constipation as it speeds up gastric emptying. Ginger can be enjoyed raw, used in a tea, ground in powder form, dried, or infused into water. I always recommend ginger to anyone struggling with digestive issues, and it always works like a charm!
Dark Leafy Greens: this includes spinach, kale, collard, dandelion root, beet greens, and swiss chard to name a few of the more popular greens. Leafy greens are beneficial for constipation and bloating as they are high in insoluble fiber which means they add "bulk" in the digestive tract to weigh down and move along any stagnant food. They are also packed with vitamins and minerals such as potassium, magnesium, vitamin K, and and vitamin D which support tons of processes in the body related to the gut. Lastly, they are excellent for detoxification and cleansing the liver as the chlorophyll in greens works to eliminate any toxins built up which add stress to your digestive system. Try adding greens to sauces, make a pesto, mix into a salad, sautée them easily into any dish or soup or add to a smoothie without even tasting them! The options are limitless!
Fermented Foods: naturally rich in probiotics which support a healthy gut ecosystem. Probiotics provide beneficial bacteria to the gut which help to fight off any bad bacteria and keep them at bay. When there's an imbalance in the gut with more bad than good bacteria, that's when issues arise such as reflux, indigestion, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and more. Instead of supplementing with probiotics, you can always eat probiotic rich foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and anything else fermented.
Turmeric: a superfood which is contains anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Curcumin which comes from turmeric root support digestion by relaxing the gut and helping to move food through the digestive tract. It contains vitamins and minerals which help fight inflammation and improve liver function as well to help you detoxify. You can enjoy this as a tea, juiced, or ground as a seasoning. I like to add turmeric to my cooked leafy greens. Make sure to add a dash of black pepper to help with absorption!
Collagen: collagen is made of amino acids which are the building blocks for our bodies. It helps build cartilage and maintain the gut lining. It's beneficial in restoring leaky gut and preventing it from recurring. I use Vital Proteins collagen peptides daily in a smoothie to get my collagen in. You can also enjoy bone broth which is rich in collagen.
In conclusion, instead of taking medications which come with negative side effects and inhibit true healing, you can utilize food as medicine and heal without side effects.
Jenn Horowitz, FNTP, CPT, CES is a Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Certified Personal Trainer, and Corrective Exercise Specialist who works to address the root cause of illness. Jenn is the founder of JTH Wellness, a holistic nutrition and wellness practice, specializing in helping people with stomach issues, disordered eating, and weight management problems, take back control of their health through 1:1 nutrition and lifestyle counseling. Jenn works to teach others how to live a balanced lifestyle that allows them to achieve their goals while enjoying life. Learn more about Jenn’s nutrition counseling services and schedule a free 15-minute discovery session by visiting her website, http://www.JTHwellness.com.