Do you suffer from bad gut health or the sudden pangs of aches? Maybe they are accompanied by constipation, bad digestion, nausea, bloating, low energy levels, or even blood in the stool. But why does that happen? And how can you heal a bad gut naturally without pumping chemicals into your body? Do these superfoods actually work wonders in actively healing your gut health? Let’s find out.
GI or your Gastrointestinal tract is also commonly referred to as the digestive tract or the gut of your body. It includes all the body parts required to intake, digest and excrete the foods. Like, the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, intestines (small and large), and anus. All these organs have their unique sets of properties and functions. However, there are a few common features of all these organs – the presence of bacteria. There is a mixture of bacteria, viruses, and fungi in your body that can count up to 40 trillion. This is known as the microbiome.
And no, this is not something to be wary about. There are good bacteria and bad bacteria as well in your GI. Let’s get a bit into it for a better and clearer understanding. Our body consists of more bacteria than cells. The count of bacteria exceeds that of body cells by ten trillion. This growth of bacteria starts multiplying from the very moment we are born. The beneficial gut bacteria help in breaking down the food particles and non-digestible dietary fibers, to induce the process of digestion. It further helps the body in maintaining good health by releasing digestive enzymes which help boost nutritional absorption. Furthermore, they also help in – boosting immune health, reducing diabetes, improving metabolism, rejuvenating skin health, and maintaining the health of the brain and nervous system. These healthful bacteria assist in maintaining a healthy gut flora which helps ward off infections and harmful pathogens.
There are numerous good bacteria that help benefit your body. Most common of them are the bifidobacteria and lactobacilli. This is what the gut microbiome consists of.
Symptoms of gut health problems generally include signs of bloating, abdominal pain, digestive problems, nausea, constipation, and sometimes even chest pains. Sometimes, untreated gut problems can lead up to severe symptoms like severe fever, unbearable stomach pains, heavy vomiting, blood in the stool, pain while swallowing, sleep disturbances, unhealthy weight gain or loss, etc.
Try to look out for all these symptoms which might indicate a problem in your gut. And if it is not treated quickly, it can lead to energy depletion, burnout, sleep loss, and other health problems.
Ever since our birth, whatever we consume shows a direct effect on the gut microbiota. Starting with breastmilk that we consumed as a child. It is not only a nutrition-rich diet for babies, but it also helps the gut microbiome to flourish and strengthen. Thus, helping the infant develop a strong immune system and gut health to fight off infections, asthma, bowel problems, neurodevelopmental issues and other chronic diseases.
Similarly, the contaminated or processed foods that we consume on a regular basis also leads to a negative effect on our bodies. Causing an influx of harmful bacteria and viruses that disturb the healthful gut flora. These bacteria and germs cause the body to react harshly, inducing fever, belly aches, vomiting, nausea, and all the symptoms that come with an unhealthy gut microbiome. Your diet can thus influence your gut microbiome. And these changes are mostly temporary and your body’s immunity tackles the bacteria and virus influx with the help of safe probiotic-infused supplements. At the same time if you don’t treat your gut health problems sooner, then these alterations to your gut microbiota would shift to a more permanent state. Causing severe damage to both your mental and physical health. However, even in the temporary state, it is still risky and may have an adverse impact on your immune health, energy levels, and stamina.
So, what sorts of foods should you consume to establish a thriving intestinal flora and good digestive health? The gastrointestinal health of the body is very important as we have discussed earlier and it needs proper nutrients, prebiotics, and probiotics to function better. And the best way to ensure proper nourishment to the gut is through nutrient and prebiotic + probiotic-rich superfoods.
Superfoods are classified according to their high nutritional values and beneficial anti-inflammatory properties within them. They also have antioxidant characteristics and don’t contain too many calories. We can say that all superfoods are natural and many of them are plant-based.
All of these foods are well-known superfoods with scientific research-backed backgrounds. Most of them are plant-based but all of them are naturally produced and have no additives, allergens, or chemical impurities. All of their properties are extremely helpful in boosting the body’s immune health and strengthening the body’s defense to ward off harmful bacteria, germs, and viruses. Hence, they provide high nourishing nutrients to promote healthy gut bacteria. All these aspects of superfoods are what they all have in common.
However, to be included under the term ‘superfoods’, these food products must have all these beneficial qualities:
- Nutritionally rich with a lot of minerals and vitamins in them.
- High antioxidant properties to neutralize free radicals in the body.
- Rich density of probiotics and prebiotics.
- Energizes your body by utilizing and boosting mitochondrial health. This helps in the production of ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) in the cells and increases your clean natural energy levels.
Here are the top 7 scientifically-backed superfoods that can help immensely in building up your GI health.
1. Fiber-rich foods
This includes foods that have high fiber content and have healthy carbs. Certain foods that contain healthy dietary fiber, prebiotic fibers, etc. are whole grains (not the gluten-containing grains like barley, wheat, or rye), fennel, chia seeds, and beets.
- Foods that are rich in fiber help nourish a healthy gut environment.
- Whole grains contain a non-digestible carb called beta-glucan that survives the acids in the small intestine. It makes its way to the large intestines where it feeds and nourishes the health-boosting bacteria.
- It also stimulates the growth of good bacteria like bifidobacteria, lactobacilli, and Bacteroidetes.
- Chia seeds improve digestion and reduce constipation. It also helps you lose weight and reduces appetite to regulate body weight and overall food consumption.
- Fennel helps boost bowel contractions or peristalsis. That is because of its antispasmodic agent that helps the muscle lining of the gut to relax. It is also highly beneficial in skin treatments, improving eyesight, regulating blood pressure, and reducing indigestion.
- Beets are one of the highest sources of fibers.
- Whole grains are rich in fiber, proteins, essential vitamins, antioxidants, and trace minerals such as iron, copper, magnesium, manganese, calcium, and zinc.
- Chia seeds contain Omega 3 fatty acids, proteins, fiber, important minerals, and plant compounds such as chlorogenic acids, caffeic acid, quercetin, and kaempferol. All of the mentioned plant compounds are high-performing beneficial antioxidants that help reduce inflammation and neutralize free radicals.
- Fennel is rich in Vitamin C, dietary fibers, and minerals like iron, magnesium, calcium and potassium.
- Beets are abundant in vitamins like Folate (Vitamin B9), and Vitamin C. It also contains healthy carbs, fats, protein, sodium, potassium, and fibers.
- Add chia seeds to your smoothies, baked goods, and salads, or turn them into delicious blends of fruits and chia drinks. Just don’t cook chia seeds, otherwise, they lose their nutritional value. However, roasting them is alright.
- Whole grains can be added to stews, soups, stir fry, and breakfast meals. Try to stick to gluten-free whole grain baked goods as well.
- The healthiest way to eat beets is by making beetroot juices. It can also be enjoyed in its raw form like grated or thinly sliced or steamed, roasted, and pickled.
- Fennel seeds can be eaten by adding them to your cooked meals and making fennel tea. You can also add them to the batter of your baked goods as well.
- High fiber foods reduce constipation by adding bulk to stool and help regulate bowel movements.
- They also act as prebiotics that helps feed the good bacteria in your gut.
2. Prebiotic foods
Prebiotic foods are also high in fiber and act as healthy nutrition for gut flora or healthy gut bacteria. This includes a wide range of food products like – chicory roots, artichoke, garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, oats, apples, flax seeds, seaweed, and unripe bananas.
- One of the biggest benefits of prebiotics is their positive effect on intestinal bacteria.
- It also helps boost the immune powers of the body.
- The nourishment that the prebiotics provides the microorganisms in the gut will, helps boost the digestive health, mental health, mineral, and nutrition absorption quality of the body and metabolism.
- Prebiotics are also immensely important in decreasing the risks of skin diseases and hair fall problems.
- Foods that have prebiotic benefits are rich in short-chain fatty acids.
- Prebiotics contain fructooligosaccharides and galactooligosaccharides that act as important stimulants which promote the growth of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli.
Prebiotic foods can be prepared following numerous delicious healthy recipes. Prebiotic supplements are also helpful in providing the same benefits.
- It helps strengthen your gut and immunity by fighting bad bacteria in your intestine and at the same time helps maintain the health of the intestinal lining.
- It also helps reduce constipation, improves digestion, and restores gut homeostasis.
3. Polyphenol Rich Foods
Polyphenol is a compound found naturally in plants. This phytochemical is found abundantly in a lot of fruits (apples, pears, pomegranate, most berries, and citrus fruits), vegetables, tea, dark chocolates, wine, extra virgin olive oil, etc.
- This plant polyphenol acts as a powerful non-toxic antioxidant in the human body.
- Protects the body from type 2 diabetes and heart problems.
- It builds up strength in the immune system and protects the body against risks of cancer.
There are over 8000 types of polyphenols found in plants. However, some of the most commonly known are –
- Flavanols and flavonoids
- Phenolic acids
- Other polyphenols include Ellagic acid, curcumins, and lignan.
- Polyphenolic amides.
Foods rich in this compound can be consumed normally.
- They help a smoother digestion process. This is achieved by getting rid of harmful disease-causing bacteria in the gut while nurturing healthful microbes.
- Scientific studies have also discovered that polyphenols may fight off severe harm causing bacteria like salmonella, E. Coli, and C. difficile.
- It also assists the probiotics to work better in the gut.
4. Probiotic foods
Probiotics are healthy to live microorganisms that boost our gut health by improving gut flora. Examples of probiotic-rich foods include – fresh fruits, yogurt, kefir grains, tempeh, kimchi (a dish of Korean pickled cabbage), sauerkraut, buttermilk miso, and a variety of cheeses. However not all fermented foods are probiotic-rich foods and vice versa.
The many benefits of probiotics include –
- These healthy microorganisms help maintain your digestive system and prevent gastrointestinal health disorders.
- Boosts the quality of absorption of nutrients.
- Feeds nutrients to the good gut bacteria.
- Enhances your immunity for better protection.
- Helps you gain healthier glowing skin, good gut health and aids healthy weight loss.
- Probiotics are great for people who have gut inflammation, and digestive issues, including IBS, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, and lactose intolerance.
All of the probiotic-rich foods mentioned above can be eaten in any regular way. However, if you are allergic to any of the above-mentioned dietaries or are lactose intolerant then it’s best to settle for probiotic supplements. Choose the best high-quality probiotic supplement for gut health that suits your diet.
It helps the process of digestion by utilizing and boosting the entire gut flora. That means Probiotic bacteria are helpful in maintaining healthy intestinal flora and digestive system.
5. Fermented foods
Fermentation is a process in which food products are broken down by yeast or bacteria. They provide you with probiotics and a lot of benefits that positively affect your entire body. Examples of good sources are – apple cider, kombucha, and all probiotic fermented products like fermented milk, fermented cabbage, etc. Fermented foods provide you with the impressive health benefits of probiotics. And alongside that, fermentation allows these products to have other health benefits, immunity-boosting agents, and better shelf life.
- Lactic acid bacteria, one of the most beneficial bacteria for our gut health, can be derived from fermented foods.
- It helps the digestion process to be smoother.
- Aids the body to boost its nutrition absorption rate.
- The healthy bacteria of probiotics and fermented foods assist in killing the harmful bacteria in the small and large intestines.
- They are anti-oxidant, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and anti-diabetic.
There are numerous mouth-watering recipes for probiotic-rich food products. Fermented foods can also be consumed in a similar fashion.
Their vast beneficial properties help clean and refurbish gut flora.
6. Glutamine rich foods
Glutamine is one of the many naturally-forming amino acids found in the human body. However, when there is a shortage or deficiency of glutamine in the body, it can lead to IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), inflammatory bowel disease, and other gut problems. In such cases, we need to consume glutamine-rich foods to make up for that deficiency. Some sources of glutamine are chicken, fish, lentils, beans, tofu, cabbage, spinach, beets, peas, seafood, nuts, and foods that are rich in protein.
- It sustains the gut microbes in the gut lining and intestines.
- Glutamine is an important building block for protein synthesis in our bodies.
- It also plays an important role in natural energy production in the cells.
- Glutamine heals intestinal damage and helps increase nutritional absorption efficiency.
- It is important to ensure that the meals you prepare are free from artificial flavors, excessive salt, additives, chili spices, and other unhealthy additions. Try simpler and healthy meal recipes.
- In case you want to go for glutamine supplements, it’s best to seek medical advice before using them regularly.
Glutamine aids the digestive process by enabling fast breakdown and absorption of nutrients. It is also a source of energy for the cells in the small and large intestines of the gut.
7. Ginger and healthy herbs and spices
Healthy spices and herbs include ginger, garlic, cayenne pepper, peppermint, cumin, turmeric, and cinnamon.
- Ginger helps ease painful cramps and aches that come with indigestion.
- They are all anti-inflammatory and have antioxidant properties.
- They heal your gut, ease the pains of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS symptoms), soothe cramps, and aid the process of digestion.
- Ginger relieves symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease and gut inflammation.
- They also help with immune boosting and many other health benefits.
You can make ginger tea, garlic paste to accompany your meals, stews and broths rich in flavor with all these healthy herbs and spices, hot cocoa with peppermint and so many other delectable flavorful dishes.
They have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Along with that, they are also packed to the brim with vitamins and healthful compounds that are anti-microbial, anti-fungal, and have detoxifying properties.
Superfoods are an absolute necessity to add to your diet if you want to heal your gut and optimize your health. It helps your gut to strengthen and nurture healthy gut bacteria. It also assists in strengthening your immune system to fight off disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and protozoa.
The question now leads to – how do they work?
- The answer is that superfoods contain a high percentage of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which purifies your digestive tracts and helps the immune system deal with gut problems and deficiencies.
- Simultaneously, superfoods contain a very minimal amount of calories that contribute to a steady nutritional inflow to your body without causing weight gain.
- The antioxidant properties fight off the excess free radicals and their harmful effects on the body cells. Thus, massively reducing the chances of getting diseases like arthritis, cancer, immune deficiency, Parkinson’s disease and symptoms of cardiovascular disease.
Sometimes simply including certain superfoods in your diet might not do it for you. The reasons can be – if you have an unhealthy and nutrition deficient diet or if your daily food intake doesn’t meet the minimum nutritional needs of your body. However, this does not mean that you have to give up on every delicacy and food you like. A balanced diet is what leads to a well-balanced life and good health. Try to find a diet that suits your body’s vitamin and mineral needs. Such diets must contain some of the superfoods mentioned to provide the basic needs of gut nourishment. And in addition, throw in some protein-rich foods, food sources of collagen, fruit and green leafy vegetables, fresh herbal teas, seeds and grains, and a whole lot of water.
Do not limit yourself to only buying superfoods from over-expensive organic brands. Any good enough branded products from the local grocery will also serve the purpose. But remember to clean them evenly with hot water before eating.
When it comes to supplements and multivitamins, try to incorporate high-quality products into your diet.
- Check the labels,
- Ingredient lists,
- Reviews, and
- Consumer reports on them before deciding which gut supplement is the best for you.
Try to buy products that are allergen-free and safe to use, without any side effects.
- Include nutriments in your meal that have antioxidant properties, like leafy green vegetables, fruits, etc.
- Have healthy snacks like almonds, green grapes, blueberries, cocoa or dark chocolates, varieties of health-benefiting nuts and seeds, berries, etc. Or you can put them in meals as well in a variety of delicious recipes.
- Try to limit your consumption of red meat. Instead, prepare hearty meals made of high fiber and probiotic items like – salmon, tofu, broth, cruciferous vegetables, kimchi, and tempeh.
- Replace your regular tea with green tea or a variety of other herbal teas that provide antioxidant benefits.
- Spice up your meals with ginger, cloves, turmeric, cumin, and oregano. Limit using chili flakes and other such spices that can cause stomach aches.
- Try new interesting recipes with lots of berries, veggies, and healthy snacks! This is so that you don’t bore yourself by only eating vegetables. Try acai bowls, fruit smoothies, berry baked cakes, oatmeal with fruits, miso soups, dishes with spirulina, and a lot of fun vegetable dishes.
- And most importantly, drink lots of water! You need to flush the toxins out and hydrate yourself. This also ensures better working of the probiotics, prebiotics, and multivitamins in your body.
- Use a trusted supplement for gut health and better immunity. Use safe multivitamins for better nourishment, physical performance and natural energy production.
Overall Conclusion: How to improve digestive health?
Including superfoods in your diet is important and highly beneficial for your body to thrive. However, alongside consuming such nourishing food, you should also try to incorporate healthy hygiene routines into your daily life.
- Such as regular brushing and flossing your teeth twice a day to keep away the harmful bacteria from entering your digestive tract
- Altering your daily diet to suit your nutritional and health needs
- Limiting your daily intake of artificial flavors and sweeteners
- Drinking lots of water,
- Getting enough sleep to keep your stress levels low etc.
- Cutting out caffeinated drinks like coffee and soda also helps generously in building a healthy foundation for your daily physical performance, energy levels, and immune system.
- Limiting your regular consumption of fast food, fried recipes, alcohol, and processed food items can help you heal your gut health naturally and faster. [What Foods Should You avoid if You have Leaky Gut Syndrome?]
Tim Koping (Medical M.Sc Physiology, Founder of Original Eating, and a Professor at a Leading Health Institute in the US): I am a medical M.Sc physiology graduate and the founder of Original Eating, an online resource that provides information and advice about healthy eating. I have a strong interest in health and nutrition, and I am passionate about helping people to eat well and live healthily. I have over 15 years of experience working in the health and nutrition industry, and I am dedicated to providing accurate, reliable information that can help people to make healthy choices for themselves. My work with Original Eating has been featured in publications such as Men’s Health and more, and I am frequently consulted by journalists for expert commentary on dietary issues. However, in my spare time, I also enjoy reading, hiking, and playing the guitar.