We all want to live our healthiest most vibrant lives, but when it comes to actually making changes to support our health it is easy to get overwhelmed by the conflicting information currently swirling around in the media. But, as an integrative dietitian if there is one thing I know for sure it is that healthy hormones and a healthy body rely on a healthy gut.
What Makes Up Our Gut Health?
When it comes to our gut there is an entire microbiome of over 1000 species of bacteria that are influencing so many aspects of our health from our hormonal balance, to how we absorb and utilize vitamins and other nutrients. While many people may be used to hearing the terms “good” and “bad” bacteria, this really isn’t an accurate way of talking about the thousands of species that make up our gut microbiome. Instead we need to be thinking more about how these bacteria are interacting both with each other, and our bodies to support our health.
Often times when our gut health has been compromised it has less to do with “bad” bacteria taking over, and more to do with a dysbiosis or an imbalance of bacteria in our gut that can contribute to chronic conditions like SIBO, candida, leaky gut, and IBS. Since 80% of our immune system is located in our gut, and our gut is connected to other parts of our body like our brain and skin it is no wonder that when our gut health is compromised, other aspects of our health are as compromised.
Common Signs That Your Gut May Need Some Attention
But how do we know if your gut health is in tip-top shape? In my nutrition practice the most common signs of poor gut health that I see are usually related to one of the following:
- Irregular Bowel Movements
- Skin Inflammation (Acne, Rashes, Dermatitis)
- Hormonal Imbalance
- Mood Swings
- Brain Fog
- Poor Immune Function (Constant Colds, etc.)
Now while these symptoms can also be related to other issues, the first place I usually start when it comes to addressing them is by looking at what is going on in the gut. Often times I find that by focusing on some gut healing protocols many of the above symptoms will go away with time and the person will be left with more energy, clearer skin, and improved digestion that no longer impacts his/her day-to-day life.
How To Feed A Healthy Gut
Luckily there are so many ways that we can quite literally feed our gut and the beneficial bacteria in our bodies. Personally, I like to focus on nourishing the gut with prebiotic plant based foods and beneficial probiotics that can help heal the gut, and act as preventative health measures to maintain optimal gut health in the future. Some of my favorites that I recommend to clients are:
- Fermented foods like sauerkraut, and kimchi that help provide the gut with beneficial naturally occurring probiotics. (note you may want to avoid these if you have SIBO)
- Fiber rich foods like ground flaxseed, gluten-free oats, nuts, and lentils which will help aid digestion.
- Prebiotics such as berries, artichokes, onions, and banana for feeding beneficial gut bacteria.
While there are many ways to support a healthy gut I always recommend that individuals listen to their own bodies when it comes to supporting their gut health. Our bodies are very unique and so what may work wonders for one person’s gut health may be a trigger for someone else. So when it comes to supporting your gut health the best thing you can do is listen to your own body and focus on developing a dietary lifestyle that addresses your specific needs.
About the Author:
Megan Faletra is an Integrative Registered Dietitian, and founder of The Well Essentials where she is devoted to inspiring others to create an authentic life through good food, sustainable choices, and most importantly lots and lots of love. Megan consults on nutrition and global health issues both domestically and abroad, and works with nutrition patients individually in Boston, MA.
Megan holds a Master of Science in Nutrition from Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition and a Master of Public Health from Tufts University School of Medicine. She received her clinical training through Brigham and Women’s Harvard Affiliated Teaching Hospital and is also a certified yoga instructor.