What Foods Needed for Digestive Wellness?
Do you know the foods that are needed for a healthy gut? What about how other lifestyle factors impact GI health? There is more and more research that shows how our health habits affect our digestive wellness!
It is a challenge to keep up with all the latest information out there and separating fact from fiction. There a lot of old information versus the current science circulating around also .
How Many People Are Affected by Digestive Health Issues?
About 70 million people are affected by GI health conditions. The impact on the quality of life, productivity and financial cost to both them and their employers is over $100 billion dollars a year in medical costs alone. This does not include time off lost from work which would make these conditions much more costly.
Digestive health conditions include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gastric esophageal reflux disease (GERD), diverticulosis, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease or IBD, (which includes both Crohns and ulcerative colitis), small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and these are just the most common ones.
What is Gut Microbiome? Gut Microbiota? Gut Integrity?
First of all, let me explain some gut health to create a better understanding of what some of them mean. This article in Nutrition Reviews provides some great explanations.
Gut Microbiome: Is the community or collection of a group of microorganisms that work together
Gut Microbiota: The individual types of microbes and their genes.
Not only is the quality of what is inside the gut important but the outside too which brings us to gut integrity.
Gut Integrity: The gut wall and the structural part of it are essential to important nutrients going out to the rest of the body and other things from leaking out that you don’t want to get out in the bloodstream like harmful bacteria, viruses, and large protein molecules.
Gut Motility: Is the movement of food from the mouth to the other parts of the digestive tract and out of the body.
Today, we will focus more on what affects gut bacteria. In a later posts, we will discuss in more detail all of the factors involved with gut integrity and gut motility.
Why the increase in interest in the bacteria in our gut?
Is it an increased awareness of how our body feels?
Is there an increase in people who have problems with GI conditions linked to the modern lifestyle?
We may have more self-awareness but our lifestyle may have been increasing the incidence. In a 2015 research article, it mentions several lifestyle factors that have been shown to affect the quality of gut bacteria. These include:
Lifestyle Factors That Negatively Impact Healthy Gut Bacteria
- What We Eat
- Lack of Exercise
- Maintaining a Healthy Weight
How do these habits worsen our in our digestive wellness? A diet high in processed foods has poor nutrition quality. In addition, excess animal protein, a high amount of sugar, and also excess saturated fat increases the amount of inflammation in our bodies and has a link to obesity. And as a result of these negative impacts, it determines the type of bacteria in the gut. Unfortunately, this way of eating is common and has been referred to as the Standard American Diet (SAD).
Not only what we eat, but not getting enough physical activity will increase the risk of obesity, inflammation and impacts our gastrointestinal system.
Lastly, we may not associate gut health with stress but according to recent studies, it is strongly connected.
Have you heard that when someone is stressed that they are more likely to get sick? And many of us have that bad gut feeling when something bad happens. In the journal of Brain, Behavior, and Immunity it sheds some light on the relationship of stress, gut health and its effect on our immune system.
Now, let’s talk about some of the healthy foods that are needed for gut health:
Foods for A Healthier Gut
- Fermented Foods Rich in Probiotics
- Diversity of Fruits and Vegetables Rich in Prebiotics
- Diet Rich in Fiber (getting a variety of whole grains)
- Healthy Fats Rich in Omega 3 Fatty Acids
- Learning If You Have Food Intolerances & How to Cope With Them
- Getting Good Gut Health Nutrients like polyphenols
In this 2019 article on nutrition and gut health, we can find out more about how these foods have an effect on creating a healthy gut microbiome. We will talk more about each of these positive ways to improve gut health in upcoming posts.
Also, eating a variety of colors is good for our overall health and the purple foods rich in the phytonutrients polyphenols there is a lot of research out these foods that are needed for a healthy gut. Foods richest in polyphenols include cherries, strawberries, red grapes, artichokes, hazelnuts, dark chocolate, and coffee.
Check out my previous blog post for tips on gut health and boosting our immune systems and try my soup recipe below:
My Work in Digestive Wellness
All these new research areas have inspired me to help people challenged with digestive issues. But the real encouragement came 8 years ago from a doctor’s referral for a client with IBS who requested a referral to a dietitian to help her follow a low fodmap diet.
I knew nothing about the low fodmap diet but read the research behind it, how to help my client through the elimination phase and teach her how to reintroduce foods to create a diverse diet. We worked on meal planning ideas during each phase. She saw results and felt a lot better!
This positive experience created a spark for me to help people who suffer from IBS. And it opened my eyes to the new areas of research and tools to help people manage digestive health conditions.
I realized how much I enjoyed these clients because when they feel better, they are very motivated to maintain healthy changes!
I continued my training in gut health with the help of Patsy Castos and Kate Scarlata, two dietitians who are digestive wellness experts in the U.S. I also researched information from Monash University where Sue Shepherd and Peter Gibson had done the initial research on the low fodmap diet and IBS.
I have studied further in the best ways to help people with other GI health issues. And 2019, I attended my first conference with Food the Main Course to Digestive Health with University of Michigan.
Seeing people transform their lives through food and digestive wellness has motivated me to communicate that I enjoy helping people improve their digestive health conditions. And I have a unique and individualized path to provide the knowledge and support.
I want to introduce A Fresh Approach to Digestive Wellness Program which includes three individualized visits for people with GI issues.
It provides the tools people need to help them discover which foods contribute to GI symptoms and help them find effective ways to reintroduce foods. And encourages exploration for the best ways to integrate all the new things learned to maintain digestive wellness.
This program has been created to complement the health care received with a physician. A physician may need to run tests to help determine what GI health conditions someone has and what medical treatment to take to receive the best possible care.
I have created resources for the program that includes plant-based eating for clients who desire that option.
A few questions to consider to decide if A Fresh Approach to Digestive Wellness may benefit you:
Are digestive symptoms ruling your life?
Does it seem that food is connected to your GI symptoms but you aren’t sure which food?
Do you want to feel better but don’t want a complicated way of living?
Are you tired of all conflicting information out there about your health condition?
If you answered yes, you may be ready for A Fresh Approach to Digestive Wellness!
Here are how the three personalized visits are structured within the program:
Session One-Nurture Your Gut
- Discover your individualized nutrition needs for gut healing.
- Find out which foods trigger GI symptoms.
- Receive your personalized resource care kit with menu ideas, grocery/pantry list, and a recipe book.
Session Two-Feel Renewed
- Learn the best ways to slowly add back the foods you enjoy.
- Practice revising favorite recipes & meals to reduce triggers.
- Determine what portion sizes work best for you.
- Explore your own individual food sensitivities.
Session 3: Maintain Your Progress
- Work towards increasing the variety of your food choices.
- Create a plan to find which of your trigger foods can be eaten together & portion sizes you can eat to prevent symptoms.
- Develop a long-term wellness plan and support network to help prevent
relapses & what works best for you.
If you are looking for help in improving your digestive wellness, I would love to work together to improve your eating habits and achieve digestive wellness!
(I am a provider for the North Carolina State Employee Health Plan, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina and Federal Blue Cross Blue Shield Programs. I also offer a pre-paid discounted plan for clients who do not have one of these plans.)
Now, that you know some foods that are needed for a healthy gut, I hope that you are off to a healthy start making healthy changes! I will be sharing more topics on digestive wellness in upcoming posts!
Stay tuned in 2010 for an online community for people who want to maintain GI wellness!