As the name implies, a gut health diet feeds and nourishes your gut microbiome. But it does more than improve your digestive system. Having a healthy gut is essential to overall physical and mental health.
How a Gut Health Diet Impacts the Gut Microbiome
The gut microbiome is comprised of trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms. Most of them are located in the large intestine (colon), where they live in symbiosis with the host (you). (1)
These bacteria break down foods, extract nutrients, ferment fibers, produce essential postbiotic metabolites like butyrate, keep the number of harmful bacteria in check, and much more.
The gut microbiome must maintain a diverse balance of good and bad bacteria to function well. Like you need to eat to survive, your good and bad gut bacteria need food to survive and thrive.
If you give good bacteria the foods they need, they will grow and prosper within your gut, keeping the harmful bacteria in check. Unfortunately, the reverse is also true -- if you give bad bacteria the food they need, they will grow and become stronger, eventually crowding out the good bacteria.
The latter is called gut dysbiosis, and if not corrected, it can lead to numerous health problems.
The Problem with An Unhealthy Gut Microbiome
An imbalanced gut microbiome impacts more than your digestive tract. It affects the health of your brain and body.
How is that possible?
Gut bacteria communicate with the brain via the enteric nervous system (ENS), a mesh-like layer of neurons lining the gastrointestinal tract. Interestingly, more neurons (nerve cells) reside in the gut than in the entire spinal cord. (2).
The ENS communicates with the brain through the vagus nerve that extends from the large intestine to the brain stem. In this way, the gut and brain work together to regulate bodily functions. For this reason, the gut is often called the "second brain."
If the communication between the gut and the brain doesn't go well -- i.e., if dysbiosis occurs -- it can lead to poor digestive health and numerous health problems.
Symptoms of Poor Gut Health
Health conditions associated with poor gut health include:
Eating foods that promote gut health -- and avoiding foods that impair it -- is one of the best things you can do for your health.
Here are the best and the worse foods for gut health.
Best foods for Better Gut Health
Here are some of the best foods for gut health.
High-Fiber Foods / Prebiotic Foods
Eating a high-fiber diet supplies your body with various nutrients, regulates bowel function, and leads to the production of short-chain fatty acids and other essential postbiotic metabolites.
The helpful bacteria in your lower colon ferment the soluble fiber you consume and then excrete postbiotics like butyrate. Experts believe that the health benefits attributed to probiotics come from postbiotics.
Most fiber foods contain both types of fiber -- soluble and insoluble -- so you don't have to worry about finding a highly soluble source. As long as you eat various fiber foods, you should be good to go.
Fiber-based prebiotic supplements are widely available to help feed the good gut bacteria and support a healthy gut microbiome.
They can be an efficient way to get prebiotic fiber, as it does not rely on you consuming a specific amount of fiber foods each day.
However, it's always best to get fiber by eating a balanced diet, as it provides the nutrients your body needs.
Probiotic foods contain healthy bacteria and other microbes that promote health.
They are created by adding helpful bacteria -- often Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium -- and then subjecting them to a fermentation process. Probiotic foods promote healthy digestion.
Eating these fermented foods can help increase the number and diversity of healthy gut bacteria in your system.
Probiotic-rich foods include:
Kefir (fermented milk)
Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage)
Fermented soy foods, such as miso, natto, and tempeh
Kombucha (fermented tea drink)
Kimchi (fermented vegetables)
Check the labels to make sure they contain active live cultures. Heat-treated (pasteurized) fermented foods will not have live bacterial cultures, making them worthless for gut health.
What About Probiotic Supplements?
Probiotics are also available in supplement form. However, most probiotic supplements don't survive stomach acids and other digestive processes to make it to your lower colon. (3)
There is insufficient evidence that probiotic supplements help balance gut bacteria or improve gut health. In addition, they can be dangerous for some people.
According to a review published in theBiomedicine & Pharmacotherapy journal."
"Some probiotic strains might take advantage of the weak immunity in these vulnerable groups and turn into opportunistic pathogens engendering life-threatening pneumonia, endocarditis, and sepsis. Moreover, the unregulated and rampant use of probiotics potentially carries the risk of plasmid-mediated antibiotic resistance transfer to the gut infectious pathogens." (4)
Synbiotic foods contain probiotics and prebiotics, creating a synergy between them. They also add to the existing gut bacteria colony and feed them!
Sauerkraut is one of the few natural symbiotic foods.
But you can make your own by combining probiotics with prebiotics.
Kefir bowel with a banana
Yogurt with blueberries
Add yogurt to your banana smoothie
Polyphenols are compounds found naturally in fruits and vegetables. They have long been valued for their antioxidant properties, destroying free radicals and preventing cell damage.
Research shows that they are also crucial for a healthy gut microbiome. In a 2021 editorial published in Frontiers in Nutrition, researchers write:
"Within the gastrointestinal tract, dietary polyphenols have been shown to benefit colorectal tissue integrity and function, gut bacterial growth and activities, and the immune system. Studies have also shown that gut microbes can often convert polyphenols into secondary bioactive metabolites that can influence health." (5)
Cocoa is one of those foods. Several clinical studies found that cocoa consumption enhanced the growth of beneficial bacteria like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium while reducing the growth of harmful ones. (6)
Foods rich in polyphenols include:
Worst Foods for Gut Health
You should avoid several foods if you want a healthier gut. These foods usually feed bad bacteria and may kill the good kind.
The worst foods for your gut include:
Genetically modified foods (GMOs)
Foods with added sugar
Factory-farmed meat and fish
What About Postbiotic Foods?
There are no postbiotic foods. Instead, postbiotics are bioactive compounds that probiotic bacteria produce when they ferment fiber in the lower colon.
Thousands of postbiotic compounds have been discovered, each with unique health benefits. These compounds include:
Although all are crucial to health, the short-chain fatty acid butyrate deserves special mention.
Harvard doctors call butyrate the "optimal" postbiotic metabolite, noting that it is more potent and provides more health benefits than the other short-chain fatty acids.
Numerous studies indicate that butyrate:
Defends against gastrointestinal diseases
Supports colon health
Promotes a healthy weight
Prevents gut inflammation
Supports gut barrier
Heals a leaky gut
Supports the immune system
The Best Diet for a Healthy Gut
So, the best diet for a healthy gut microbiome is one that includes:
Fiber and prebiotic foods, and perhaps prebiotic supplements
Polyphenol foods, i.e., plant-based foods high in polyphenols
Probiotic foods, i.e., fermented foods that contain live strains of good bacteria
Postbiotic supplements containing butyrate
How to Get More Postbiotics
The only way to get probiotics naturally is to eat a variety of fiber foods. However, eating a high-fiber diet can result in painful and embarrassing gas, bloating, heartburn, and other digestive issues.
How About Postbiotic Supplements?
Postbiotic supplements are available now, and the ones with the most incredible health benefits contain butyrate.
There is a big problem with creating butyrate supplements. Butyrate is destroyed by the digestive process long before it gets to your colon, where it's needed to provide incredible health benefits.
So, working around the clock, researchers developed a breakthrough process that efficiently transports butyrate to the colon fully intact.
Introducing: Viscera-3™ Postbiotic Clinical Research Formulation
Viscera-3™ is a groundbreaking multi-factor postbiotic supplement containing Corebiome Tributyrate™ that allows butyrate to be directly delivered to your lower colon!
It can help improve digestive health, boost immunity, defend against numerous health problems, promote weight loss, and more!
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