Restoring Gut Health

Many of us have got obsessed with restoring our gut health recently.

We’ve heard a healthy gut will heal everything from heartburn and headaches to inflammation.

And we’re popping probiotics and gorging on fermented food but we are NOT seeing the benefits!!

What can we be doing wrong?

Well the truth is :

  1. Probiotics can cause problems
  2. And they are NOT the single secret to a healthy balanced gut.

I learned this the hard way by falling down a rabbit hole of supposedly gut healthy food that caused a whole bunch of digestive problems.

So I have here a simple guide to restoring gut health that helps you :

  1. Avoid issues with probiotics.
  2. And enjoy a range of great gut food.

I do hope it helps you heal your gut and enjoy better health. I would love to hear what works best for you.

Problems With Probiotics

Probiotics can restore a healthy mix of gut bacteria. They are very valuable after antibiotics that knock out both “good” and “bad” bacteria.

But there are issues with probiotics :

  1. Enormous range in quality.
  2. Not prescribed based on test of what gut bacteria we already have.
  • Lack of probiotics in our diet
  • OR the other huge causes of our crazily unbalanced guts.

So let’s look now at the other key reasons our gut is unbalanced and then a big list of gut healthy food.

Rebalancing Our Gut

A healthy gut needs a great balance of good bacteria PLUS a balance of :

  • Stomach acid
  • Gas
  • Fibre
  • Protein
  • Fats
  • Minerals e.g. Iron, Magnesium
  • Vitamins
  • Sugars
  • Salts.

Most of us are saturated in some of these and seriously short on others.

Extra gut bacteria won’t restore gut health whilst they are out of sync and can make things worse!!

So before jumping on the gut bacteria bandwagon – done that!! – and mainlining Kefir we need to look honestly at our diet and bodies.

If you suffer any of these digestive symptoms focus on them first :

And if you don’t eat any of these regularly check for deficiencies :

Finally, if you already eat a high fibre diet rich in fermented food e.g. vegan and you have gut issues, step back right now from that Kombucha!!

You may have excess bacteria …

Too Much Gut Bacteria

Some of us struggling with stomach pain and digestive issues actually have too much gut bacteria.

Many long term non-meat eaters already eat more than enough :

  • Beans & pulses
  • High fibre vegetables
  • Fermented food
  • And if vegetarian, yoghurt and cheese rich in lactobacillus.

Unfortunately, the gut bacteria bandwagon can lead many vegans & vegetarians with digestive pain or inflammation to double down and overdose on fermented food!!!

This, believe me, can be a disaster causing constant painful burping.

If this sounds like you try to :

  • Then make sure you have a good balance of lower fibre, non-fermentable protein and carbohydrate.

But assuming the rest of our gut is pretty well balanced how can we restore gut bacteria in our diet?

Well, that’s where the big list of gut healthy food comes in …

Over 125 Foods To Help Restore Gut Health

As humans we are super susceptible to the latest silver bullet solution fad and repeatedly obsess excitedly about fashionable super foods!!

But the real secret to restoring gut health is rather more humdrum.

It’s ALL about balance and eating a wide range of gut healthy food.

PLUS nutritional quality.

So use this list of gut healthy food to widen what you enjoy and use your cash to buy nutrient rich – e.g. organic, pasture fed – cheap food not obscure fancy ingredients.

Gut Healthy Basics

Restoring gut health is NOT about fancy recipes and meal plans. Good quality – nutrition rich – basics make a big difference to our gut :

  • Virgin olive oil
  • Dark chocolate
  • Green tea

Gut Healthy Herbs & Spices

Common herbs & spices are natural antibiotics that can kill bacteria like h pylori. They are also prebiotics that feed our healthy gut bacteria.

And it is super easy to use them to garnish food and make herbal teas or ice cubes to flavour your water :

  • Parsley
  • Cumin
  • Tarragon
  • Coriander seeds
  • Fennel seeds
  • Bay leaves
  • Cloves
  • Cardamom seeds

You don’t need herbal supplements or essential oils. Just buy the best dried herbs & spices you can or grow gut healthy herbs in a herb garden.

It is best to avoid herbal teas if you suffer with acid reflux symptoms.

Gut Healthy Alliums

Alliums are gut healthy power houses with natural antibiotic & anti-fungal powers to see off unwanted bugs in our stomach so include some daily in cooking :

  • Onions
  • Scallions
  • Leeks

They are all cheap to buy and it is easy to grow garlic and pretty chives.

But all alliums can exacerbate :

So always tackle those problems first before boosting general gut health.

Gut Healthy Dairy

Dairy can be rich in gut bacteria like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium which control pathogenic bugs PLUS other nutrients that boost gut health.

So if you eat dairy it is great to include a range of gut boosting :

  • Natural yoghurt – sugar free!!
  • Blue cheese
  • Matured cheese
  • Fermented cheese e.g. feta, cheddar, mozzarella
  • Creme fraiche
  • Sour cream
  • Pasture fed butter
  • Kefir
  • Cottage cheese
  • Buttermilk
  • Whey (the natural liquid rather than dried protein products).

Adding dairy from goats, sheep and buffalo into the mix can also increase the biodiversity of our gut.

BUT many dairy herds are pumped full of antibiotics & hormones and cattle suffer poor gut health & inflammation themselves!!

So a little organic, grass fed, wild or small farm dairy can be better than lots of intensively produced milk.

Sugar Free Yoghurts

Always read yoghurt ingredients!!

Big name brands e.g. Yakult, Yoplait can include sugar, glucose-fructose syrup, maltodextrin & flavourings. Sugar unbalances gut bacteria.

Choose natural yoghurt with just milk & NO added ingredients.

Too Much Dairy

If your diet is very rich in dairy & fermented food you can overdo bacteria & trigger painful gas & burping PLUS high histamine & knock on food sensitivities e.g. :

  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplants
  • Kidney beans
  • Chick peas
  • Sauerkraut
  • Fermented food
  • Alcohol

Remember gut health is about balance. Drowning in a vat of pricey kefir is not a recipe for a happy gut!!

If gassy go easy …

Gut Healthy Vegetables

Eat your greens!! Eat your greens!!

Leafy greens – rich in both & – are amazing for our gut and all over body health.

Devour two big helpings daily with all the delicious recipes & tips here:

For super fresh veggies you can easily grow spinach & collards.

On top of our leafy greens, our gut needs a real rainbow of vegetables as different colours boost the diversity of our .

  • Reds : radish, tomato, pepper, onion, chillis, radicchio, red lettuce
  • Orange : carrots, sweet potato, pumpkin, pepper, acorn squash
  • Yellow : swede, squash, pepper, sweetcorn, yellow beets
  • Purple & blue : eggplant, cabbage, beetroot, turnip, purple carrot
  • Green : broccoli, zucchini, green beans, peas, celery, cucumber, asparagus, green plantain, salsify
  • White : cauliflower, mushrooms, celeriac, artichoke, onion.

We don’t need to rewrite our whole meal plan to up our intake. Just add 1 or 2 extras to every fave recipe and try some of these side dishes.

Now although veggies are essential some high FODMAP varieties can trigger gut issues for some of us.

High FODMAP Vegetables

FODMAPs are fermentable sugars that can trigger painful excess gas in out intestines & IBS symptoms. Too much gas can spike histamine levels.

If you suffer with IBS or gas go easy on high FODMAP veggies and other high FODMAPs for a few weeks.

It’s NOT about food intolerances just rebalancing sugars & gas in our gut.

Gut Healthy Salad Leaves

Sadly supermarket salad leaves are often super low in nutrients.

But some old fashioned lettuces, which are very easy to grow, are rich in gut boosting goodies including :

  • Radicchio
  • Chicory
  • Dandelion greens
  • Lamb’s lettuce / corn salad
  • Oak leaf lettuce
  • Mustard & cress
  • Water cress
  • Beet leaves
  • Turnip leaves
  • Carrot leaves.

Some of these like corn salad and radicchio can be grown all winter long in covered pots for deliciously crunchy salads on the cheap.

Gut Healthy Fruit

Some new super fruit always seems to be promising instant gut health.

But no single food – however obscure or expensive – can do that!!

What can help boost gut health is a range of fruit – especially berries – that are super easy to grow or pick for free in the wild :

Many of these can be grown in pots and can deliver a huge haul in a tiny garden as they are so space efficient.

If you suffer from acid reflux skip fruit for 6 weeks on the acid reflux diet making up vitamins with veggies.

Gut Healthy Fermented Food

Fermented foods are a fashionable fad BUT truly can boost gut health.

That doesn’t mean we need to fork out a fortune for fancy brands.

Many of these delicious fermented foods can be made at home :

  • Sauerkraut
  • Lacto fermented pickles
  • Kefir
  • Kombucha
  • Kvass
  • Miso paste
  • Kimchi

Try out these beginner recipes …

But remember balance is key

I personally overdosed so much on fermented food the other winter, I could have single handedly solved the global gas shortage!!

It wasn’t pretty & it was painful!!

Gut Healthy Grains & Pulses

Problems with gluten and diabetes mean many of us skip carbs full stop.

But less processed grains with a lower GI play a key role in digestion.

So swap some gut healthy grains into your diet. As ever work them into the recipes you know and love rather than starting from scratch :

  • Barley
  • Spelt
  • Rye
  • Shirataki noodles
  • Sourdough bread
  • Flaxseed
  • Tempeh
  • Amaranth
  • Buckwheat
  • Quinoa
  • Chickpeas

If you don’t eat animal protein and do eat lots of fibre your gut may welcome some starchy carbs e.g. simple white bread!!

As we see over and over again, gut health is all about balance.

Other Forgotten Foods For A Healthy Gut

Some out of fashion, cheap foods can be great for our gut including :

  • Seaweed
  • Tallow
  • Gelatin
  • Mutton
  • Cockles
  • Jellied eels.

They are all nutritionally dense with nutrients many of us go short on. So keep your eyes peeled for local suppliers and add them to your mix.

And there we go, a big list of gut healthy food you can work into favourite recipes and meal plans for a better balanced gut that really can see off bugs and inflammatory issues whilst boosting energy and resilience.

I do hope it helps heal your gut.

For more simple, practical healthy living tips check out my other posts :

Photo: Healthy breakfast – yogurt with muesli, Bowl of Greek salad and turmeric powder by Marco Verch and Yoghurt by Jules under Creative Commons 2.0

This content was originally published here.

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