Foods That Are Good for Your Gut Health

Recent research suggests that your gut plays a crucial role in your health and wellbeing. You have around 40 trillion bacteria in your body, most of which are found in your gut. Together, they make up your gut microbiome (or gut flora), and they're crucial to your overall health. Additionally, specific types of bacteria in your intestines may also cause several diseases.

Your gut bacteria not only aid digestion but also keep you healthy by producing vitamins, maintaining your immune system, and protecting you against harmful bacteria. Indeed, your gut is home to more than 70% of the immune system.

Your diet directly affects the composition of your gut microbiome, which in turn affects your gut health. A severe form of gut sensitivity known as irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, affects 15 percent of people in Western countries, which causes gas, constipation, and diarrhea.

Healthy gut bacteria can help prevent diseases like heart disease and cancer. They can also reduce bloating, inflammation, promote brain health, and help you maintain a healthy weight. The following foods can help enhance digestion, prevent common gastrointestinal symptoms, and promote gut health. 

Variety of Foods Improve Gut Health Naturally

Numerous species of bacteria live in your intestines, all of which serve specific health functions and require different nutrients for growth. In general, healthy gut flora has a diverse range of microorganisms. Having more bacteria may lead to greater health benefits since they are capable of contributing more to your health1.  

Having a varied diet can promote the growth of a diverse microbiome2. Traditional Western diets are rich in fat and sugar and do not offer any variety. An estimated 75 percent of the world's food comes from only 12 plant species and five animal species. Some rural regions, however, have diets that are richer in different types of plants. In this respect, studies have found that gut microbiome diversity is much higher among rural residents of Africa and South America than among urban residents of Europe and the United States3.  

Fiber-Rich Foods Such as Fruits, Vegetables, Beans, And Legumes

Plant-based foods contain various types of fiber, which can be classified as soluble or insoluble. Water-soluble fiber breaks down into a gel, which is consumed by gut bacteria. As for insoluble fiber, it passes through your digestive system mostly intact and helps bulk your stools. As a result, food passes through the GI tract more quickly, promoting regular bowel movements. 

Both types of fiber contribute to gut health, assisting with digestion and decreasing the likelihood of constipation. In addition, eating high-fiber foods can help prevent obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, some types of cancer, and the development of chronic conditions4.  

Furthermore, fiber encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, particularly Bifidobacteria. In addition to preventing intestinal inflammation, Bifidobacteria helps improve gut health5.

Some fiber-rich foods that are good for your gut health include:

  • A variety of fresh fruits, particularly apples and pears with skin, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries 
  • Vegetables like broccoli, green peas, artichokes, winter squash, potatoes, and sweet potatoes with skin
  • Peas, beans, and lentils
  • Raisins, prunes, and other dried fruits
  • A variety of nuts and seeds 

What’s more, keep yourself well hydrated throughout the day by drinking plenty of water. Water is necessary for fiber to do its job properly, as well as for keeping your digestive system and other parts of your body functioning properly. 

Whole Grains Such as Wheat, Oats, And Quinoa

According to medical experts, it's important to consume as much fiber as possible for a healthy colon, more than 25 grams a day. Whole grains are packed with a large amount of fiber and nondigestible carbohydrates, like beta-glucan, and are also packed with nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids. These carbohydrates do not enter the small intestine but make their way instead to the large intestine, promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria. Whole grains have been shown to support the growth of bacteria such as Bifidobacteria, Lactobacillus, and Bacteroidetes in humans6.  

Additionally, gut bacteria use fiber to produce short-chain fatty acids. It is these molecules that help maintain proper functioning in the cells lining your colon, where 70 percent of your immune cells live. Diets low in carbohydrates are popular for weight loss, but eliminating grains for good gut bacteria may not be beneficial7

Here are some examples of whole-grain foods:

  • Whole grains, like barley, bulgur, brown rice, and quinoa
  • Oat and wheat Bran
  • Whole-grain foods include whole-grain cereal, whole grain bread, and whole-grain pasta

Probiotic Foods Such as Yogurt, Miso, Sauerkraut, And Kefir

Probiotic foods contain live microorganisms that are similar to the healthy bacteria found in your gut. You can increase your body's beneficial bacteria population by eating probiotic foods.

Probiotic foods typically contain Lactobacillus (abbreviated as "L." on labels) or Bifidobacterium (abbreviated as "B." on labels). Probiotic food is created by adding microbes to food or by fermenting it. The fermentation process allows yeast or bacteria to break down the sugars in a food.

People who consume a lot of yogurts seem to have a lot more Lactobacillus in their guts. Additionally, they have less Enterobacteriaceae, a type of bacteria linked to inflammation and a number of chronic conditions8. Further, it has been shown that consuming yogurt improves intestinal bacteria and decreases the symptoms of lactose intolerance. Moreover, yogurt is believed to enhance microbiome composition and function9.

Here are some examples of probiotic foods:

  • Dairy and non-dairy yogurt
  • Fermented soybean products, like miso, tempeh, and natto
  • A fermented milk product called Kefir
  • Fermented vegetables, or Kimchi
  • Fermented cabbage or Sauerkraut
  • Fermented tea beverages like Kombucha

Choose probiotic foods that have active cultures on the label, which means they are still alive. For instance, pick a refrigerated brand of probiotic sauerkraut with live cultures when shopping for it. A living microbe is beneficial because it becomes part of the gut microbiome already present.

Prebiotic Foods Such as Soybeans, Bananas, And Garlic

Consuming probiotic-rich foods is not enough; you must also consume foods that keep these microorganisms alive. This is where certain soluble types of fiber, referred to as prebiotics, come in. They are primarily fiber or complex carbohydrates like fructooligosaccharides, inulin, and galactooligosaccharides that cannot be digested by your cells. Rather, certain strains of bacteria in your gut digest them and use them as energy. They are nutrient-dense foods for your healthy gut microbes; by eating them, you feed the good bacteria that keep your gut in balance10.

Prebiotics are typically found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, but they can also be obtained separately. One form of prebiotic is resistant starch. Unlike other starches, this one is not absorbed in the small intestine and passes into the large intestine, where the microbiota breaks it down. 

Prebiotics has been shown to enhance a variety of beneficial bacteria growth, such as Bifidobacteria. It has also been shown that certain prebiotics can lower insulin, triglyceride, and cholesterol levels in obese individuals, which could be beneficial for preventing conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes11.  

Among the best prebiotic foods are:

  • Soybeans, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes
  • Bananas, chicory, leeks
  • Oats, garlic, onions

Symbiotic Foods Such as Yogurt Topped with Blueberries

Foods that combine probiotics and prebiotics make up a symbiotic meal that offers gut microorganism support. These foods support your gut bacteria and deliver additional living cultures by providing both prebiotics and probiotics simultaneously.

Here are some examples of symbiotic foods:

  • Smoothies made with bananas, kefir, and yogurt
  • Tempeh stir-fry with asparagus, garlic, leeks, and garlic
  • Yogurt topped with blueberries

You can boost the benefits of these foods by adding high-fiber ingredients like whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and legumes. 

Probiotic Supplements

Probiotics are live microorganisms, usually bacteria, that benefit the gut when taken. In most cases, probiotics do not colonize the intestine permanently. However, they may positively impact your gut health by altering the microbiome's overall composition and improving your metabolism.

Several studies have found that probiotics have little impact on the gut microbiome composition in healthy individuals. Some evidence suggests, however, that probiotics may improve the gut microbiome in people with certain diseases12. According to a review of 63 studies, probiotics change the microbiome to various degrees. According to the researchers, probiotics appear to be most effective at restoring a healthy microbiome once it has been compromised13.

A probiotic supplement can help increase your intake of probiotics. One of the best dietary supplements that can help you restore a healthy gut microbiome is Vibrant Health - Maximum Vibrance. It contains various vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and 25 Billion probiotics required by your body for optimal gut health and overall wellbeing. Nonetheless, it is important to speak with your doctor before beginning supplementation, especially if you take other medications or have underlying health conditions.

Anti-Inflammatory Foods Such as Flax Seeds, Fatty Fish, Grapes, And Walnuts

Inflammation occurs when your body releases white blood cells and other compounds to defend you against infection. Inflammatory processes benefit you when you have an infection. Still, the body may go into overdrive when there is no infection present, dispersing inflammatory chemicals like cytokines when they aren't needed. This process can exacerbate or contribute to irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, or Crohn's disease. 

Nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins can help reduce inflammation found in anti-inflammatory foods. In addition to aiding the body's natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory pathways, these may also be beneficial for gut health14

Foods that are anti-inflammatory include:

  • Flax seeds
  • Fatty fish like sardines, salmon, and anchovies
  • Fruits like berries and grapes
  • Vegetables like broccoli, peppers and tomatoes
  • Walnuts

Plant-Based Foods

Different kinds of intestinal bacteria grow faster in diets containing animal-based foods than in plant-based foods. Numerous studies have shown the benefits of vegetarian diets to the gut microbiome, which may be connected to the high fiber content. 

In a small study conducted in 2013, vegetarian diets led to lower levels of bacteria that cause diseases in obese individuals, as well as decreases in body weight, inflammation, and cholesterol15. Furthermore, according to a 2019 review, plant foods contain specific nutrients that can support gut health by increasing levels of beneficial bacteria and reducing harmful strains16.

Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach or kale, are excellent sources of fiber and nutrients such as folate, vitamin C, vitamin K, and vitamin A. Moreover, leafy greens contain a specific type of sugar that fuels the growth of healthy gut bacteria. If you eat a lot of fiber and leafy greens, you can develop a healthy gut microbiome, and support your gut health.  

Polyphenols-Rich Foods

Polyphenols have many health benefits, which include reducing blood pressure, cholesterol levels, inflammation, and oxidative stress17. Your bodies often cannot digest polyphenols. Several polyphenols make their way to the colon, where gut bacteria digest them since polyphenols aren't absorbed well.  

Polyphenol-rich foods include:

  • Cocoa and dark chocolate, red wine 
  • Grape skins, almonds, blueberries
  • Onions, broccoli, green tea

The polyphenols in cocoa are able to increase the quantity and diversity of Bifidobacteria and lactobacilli in humans as well as reducing Clostridium bacteria. As a result of these changes in the microbiome, the triglyceride levels and inflammatory markers, such as the C-reactive protein, decrease18. Red wine polyphenols have similar effects, increasing levels of beneficial bacteria in individuals with metabolic syndrome19.

The Bottom Line

Your health starts in your gut, and your gut microbiome (or gut flora) is extremely important for your gut health and overall wellbeing. An excellent way to maintain a healthy microbiome and gut is to consume a variety of probiotic foods primarily from plants, such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, beans, fatty fish, and whole grains. Probiotic supplements like Vibrant Health - Maximum Vibrance are also helpful for improving your gut's health.