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The topic of gut health has been rising in popularity over the past few years and for good reason! Our gut microbiome is full of bacteria (both good and bad) that are the basic make up of our health. Check out the video below by Dr. Shilpa Ravella, a gastroenterologist with expertise in nutrition and an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center where she directs the Adult Small Bowel Program, for a great breakdown of the gut with a few studies included and more of the science! There is so much more to learn about gut health and what causes it. What we do know is that our gut bacteria is effected by our environment, medication (like antibiotics), and even whether we were born by C- Section or naturally. The only major factor that we have control over is what we are eating!

What kind of biome do you want?

It has been found that the healthiest people have the most diverse microbiome due to diversity of environment and consumption.

Why is it important to have a healthy gut?

It is important because most diseases begin in the gut and if you have a strong population of healthy bacteria you will have stronger immunity and reduced chances of getting sick! Did you know that 70% of the body’s immune system resides in the gut? The more good bacteria you have the stronger defense system you have.

What should I be feeding my gut?

Most people think that fermented foods are the only way to feed your gut bacteria as they grow bacteria during the fermentation process. However, anything with fiber will feed your gut as when you consume fiber it is fermented naturally in your body! Dr. Will Bulsiewicz, MD, MSCI, puts it best:

"A healthy gut is essential for human health.

Fiber is essential for a healthy gut.

Therefore, Fiber is essential for human health."

What foods have fiber?

Well that’s an easy one… ALL PLANTS!

Legumes specifically are very high in fiber but as long as you are consuming something that grew from the ground it most likely has a decent amount of fiber!

However, just eating plants isn’t the most important part… consuming a VARIETY of plants is! This will be able to provide you with the most diverse number of microbes.

What if I don’t digest fiber well?

This is a very common problem that I address in my fiber article (click here to read). Dr. B @theguthealthmd said in a recent podcast with @richroll about gut health that if he sees his patients having trouble digesting fiber it’s because the gut is not prepared due to the lack of fiber in the previous diet and needs time to adjust and start building the proper bacteria to receive it. He made this comparison that I think will make this easier to understand. Take it slow. Start with a little bit at a time. Let your body adjust.

“If you have never been to the gym and go try to lift 300lbs, it probably won’t feel too great if you could even do it at all, because you don’t have that muscle! Your body could build it over time, but it won’t happen overnight. The same goes for your gut. If you go from eating processed foods and animal products to eating a 3-bean chili it might not go so well. You need to build up the healthy bacteria slowly and over time so that you can better digest it later.

Should I just take a probiotic?

You can take a probiotic however, it is simply not the best option. The key point here is diversity and a probiotic will only provide you with a few types of good bacteria and cannot make up for a balanced and varied diet. Your body will get used to this influx of that type of bacteria and if you stop taking it your body will no longer make it. It may help, but there is just not enough research showing lasting benefits when we know that consuming fiber and fermented foods gets the job done! Do not waste your money on overly expensive probiotics - try to fix your diet first.

My Diverse Plant List:

*Try to stay away from consuming the same 3 vegetables each week and work a new one into your diet wherever possible! Look up some recipes and see what is seasonal in your area.

*I also recommend using this guide to tell you which food is in season around you to help you pick the most sustainable options!



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What is a Registered Dietitian?

A food and nutrition expert who can work in a wide variety of employment settings, including health care, business and industry, community/public health, education, research, government agencies and private practice. RDNs are accredited health professionals that must meet state and government regulations to maintain their credential in addition to completing continuing education. RDNs can practice something called Medical Nutrition Therapy to improve the health of those who suffer from chronic diseases. 

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