Gut Health Basics

There’s more to gut health than kombucha. The hype around probiotics can be confusing! What really makes a healthy gut? 

When it comes to gut health, master these basics before popping supplements. Spoiler: “basics” doesn’t mean easy! 

Nutrition 

Is it true that “you are what you eat?” Well, you aren’t Oysters Rockefeller, but the food you eat comprises your gut bacteria! Support gut health by including diverse foods in your diet. Nutrient diversity provides your body with antioxidants and micronutrients to bolster immunity. Rather than repeating similar meals, incorporate colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and heart-healthy fats. 

Adequate caloric intake for your energy needs and hydration matter, too. While fad diets or cleanses promise weight loss, they can be detrimental to overall gut health. Those with plentiful bacteria strains in their gut are more likely to maintain and lose weight! 

Sleep 

Sleep is interconnected with gut health. Inconsistent sleep contributes to stress in the body via increased cortisol, a stress hormone. This can change your gut microbiome’s composition as well as increase symptoms of bloating or intestinal discomfort.  

How well-rested you feel may impact your nutrition. It’s normal to crave simple carbohydrates and caffeine when low on sleep; long-term, this can negatively impact your gut health. 

Stress 

If you’ve ever noticed intestinal issues like bloating, cramping, heartburn, or loose stools crop up when you’re stressed, you’ve experienced the gut-brain connection! The opposite is also true: the composition of your microbiome can influence symptoms of anxiety and depression. 

Take inventory of your stress management skills. Stress is a part of all our lives. In some cases – like exercise – it’s actually good for us. When stress feels hard to manage, don’t hesitate to seek help from trusted loved ones or health professionals. Your gut will thank you!  

Prebiotics & Probiotics  

Prebiotics, fiber that our bodies cannot digest, feed your “good bacteria.” When we eat foods with prebiotic fiber, we support the existing gut bacteria and their production of nutrients, like short-chain fatty acids. These fatty acids support our metabolic and colon health. 

Probiotics are live bacteria found in foods and supplements. Probiotic bacteria is shown to improve digestive function, enhance immunity, decrease inflammation, and reduce diarrhea from antibiotic treatment. Some may notice changes to skin health, mood, and weight. 

Including foods rich in pre- and probiotics will support your gut health. Consult the table below for foods to add to your grocery list. Prepare a yogurt bowl with flaxseeds, banana, and a sprinkle of cocoa for a gut health-promoting snack!  

Looking for a probiotic supplement? Since individual bacteria strains affect our health in different ways, it’s best to share your symptoms and health goals with your doctor or dietitian to get the best recommendation for you. Send them a message via your online health portal today! 

 
 
Role + Function  Food Sources 
Prebiotics Fiber that “feeds” the good bacteria in your gut Chicory root, garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, bananas, apples, oats, cocoa, flaxseeds, jicama, wheat bran 
Probiotics  Strains of live bacteria that populate your gut microbiome Yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, pickled vegetables, beverages such as Big Easy Bucha kombucha or Good Belly  

Maria Sylvester Terry, MS, RDN, is the Ochsner Eat Fit NOLA dietitian; her mission is to promote visibility of nutritious items wherever food is served and break down nutrition myths for all audiences. 

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