By Kristy Podruchny
A healthy immune system starts with a healthy gut. The market is exploding with products containing probiotics, but gut health isn’t as simple as popping a pill every day. Gut health is closely connected with your lifestyle. In fact, it’s dependent on you making healthy choices. Staying active, eating whole foods and avoiding certain foods is a good foundation.
Eating a variety of vegetables and fruits is a given, but have you ever tried fermented foods? We need a variety of different strains of probiotics and can introduce them into our bodies by eating fermented foods. If the thought of fermenting your own foods gives you nightmares, there are plenty to find in health food stores—look for locally made fermented goodness! Growing your own at home is ideal, but not necessary. Kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut and non-GMO miso are all wonderful products filled with beneficial probiotics.
A bonus to eating fermented cabbage comes from its glutamine content. This gut-healthy amino acid nourishes cells in your intestines. Not a bad deal! Critters in your gut need to eat too, and they thrive on prebiotic fibers in vegetables and fruits. In fact, chicory, artichoke and bananas are all great sources of prebiotic fibers.
The collagen, amino acids, vitamins and minerals from a homemade bone broth can also help restore damaged stomach lining. This is important for people struggling with leaky gut as well as any other chronic inflammation. There are also a few well-made packaged bone broths sold in health food stores.
Avoid processed and fried foods that cause chronic inflammation. These can stress your body and compromise your immune function. A diet high in processed foods creates an ideal environment for pathogens, or “bad” microorganisms.
Stress management is crucial for gut health. When you’re stressed and in a fight-or-flight (sympathetic) response, your digestive system gets put on hold while your body prepares you to survive a threat. If you’re not digesting your food and absorbing nutrients properly, your gut health takes a nosedive. You can engage your rest-and-digest (parasympathetic) response with relaxation exercises and diaphragmatic breathing, which manually massages your vagus nerve. This gets the gears moving in your digestive system and jumpstarts your body’s regenerative processes.
Kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut, and non-GMO miso are all wonderful fermented products filled with beneficial probiotics.