Below Ronnie from Water for Health tells us about the best gut health supplements and foods …
Gut health has become a hot topic in the health industry, to the extent that you might have become tired of hearing about “the gut-brain connection”!
However it pays to keep abreast of the research, because it turns out that the community of micro-organisms residing in your gut – comprising over 1,000 species of bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa – have a major influence on your overall state of wellbeing.
Indeed, the prevailing wisdom appears to link a wide number of diseases and conditions to microbial dysbiosis – or in plain English, an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract. These include gut-centric conditions such as IBS, IBD and SIBO, but also heart disease, autoimmune diseases, even obesity and mental health conditions.
Best Gut Health Supplements and Foods
With this in mind, we’ve put together an article detailing the very best gut health supplements and foods. Taken together, they form the cornerstone of a seriously bug-friendly diet.
Following such a microbiome meal plan will not only help to reduce lethargy, bloating and cramping, but also more insidious and difficult-to-detect symptoms of gut inflammation and bacterial imbalance. Let’s dive in.
Fermented foods like yogurt naturally contain an abundance of probiotic cultures to strengthen the digestive tract, promote immune health and enhance one’s vitamin B profile. However, that doesn’t mean you can pluck any old yogurt off the supermarket shelf and expect to achieve benefits.
What you need to look out for are yogurts labelled with the “Contains Active, Live Cultures” sticker. Only these reliably contain viable beneficial bacteria, since heat pasteurisation and sterilisation kills them off. Organic yogurt is better still because it’s not heat-treated post-fermentation.
For added benefit consume live yogurt with a handful of blueberries, an excellent source of slow-digesting fibre. Yogurt is definitely one of the best gut health supplements around.
Sauerkraut is another probiotic-rich fermented food, and it just might be the best of the lot. Brimming with lactic acid bacteria, fibre, enzymes and vitamins, this fermented cabbage is popular throughout Eastern Europe. Although it has become trendy in recent years due to the number of health bloggers singing its praises.
Whether in a salad, slathered over meat or a side dish, sauerkraut is a great healthy low-calorie food. Buy raw from the refrigerated section of the supermarket, since cooking or canning destroys the coveted probiotic bacteria. You could also try making your own Sauerkraut.
Sauerkraut isn’t for everyone, and if you don’t believe me, just offer a plate around at a crowded table; more than one person is likely to rebuke the invite with a look of intense and passionate distaste. Kefir is a superb alternative, a cultured dairy food hailing from the same region of the world and loaded with up to 30 strains of probiotic bacteria.
Made from starter grains and milk, this drinkable yogurt was described as “an antioxidant, antitumour agent and antimicrobial agent” in a 2015 study printed in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology. There are even non-dairy kefirs, made with coconut water rather than milk, which are similarly rich in probiotics due to the fermentation process.
The final pure foodstuff on our rundown is Jerusalem artichoke. This is a starchy root vegetable known for being one of the finest sources of prebiotic fibre in the plant world. You can read more about prebiotics below, but suffice to say they’re a major part of any gut-healing diet worth its salt.
Jerusalem artichokes go great in salads and stir-fries, and you can mash or boil them. As with sauerkraut, it’s wise to eat raw at least some of the time, since cooking reduces the inulin content.
L-Glutamine is one supplement your gut health regime should not be without. The most abundant free amino acid in the human body, it was formerly recommended for athletes as a means of quickly repairing broken-down muscle tissue. In recent years it has been suggested as a means of supporting intestinal cells and thus altering the make-up of your microbiome.
L-Glutamine not only helps to improve gut permeability (the dreaded Leaky Gut), but also suppresses pro-inflammatory signalling pathways and reduces cellular stress. These effects likely stem from the fact that L-Glutamine is the preferred fuel of cells in your gut lining.
Although you can source L-Glutamine from a number of whole foods, including chicken, beef, fish, dairy and eggs, some people will require supplements in the form of powders or capsules. It’s worth consulting a dietician or naturopathic nutritionist if you’re in any doubt. But if you do go down the supplement route, opt for a pure, high-quality product devoid of multiple additional ingredients (fillers, additives etc.)
Probiotics nurture gut bacteria diversity like nothing else, but with so many strains it’s difficult to know what your body requires.
You can’t go far wrong with so-called super strains like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium though; along with lactic acid bacteria, they are probably the most well-researched strains in existence.
In order for species to survive and thrive in the gastrointestinal tract, and to persist at high amounts in the intestine, you need to consume a significant volume of probiotic bacteria. Some put that figure at 50 billion plus, ruling out many of the probiotic supplements on the market. But others still believe a figure closer to a trillion is necessary to exert the best effects. Step in Progurt.
Progurt is a highly unique probiotic supplement which boasts one trillion Colony-Forming Units of bacteria per sachet. That’s more than you’ll get in a month’s supply of most store-bought supplements. To get all that gut goodness into your system, all you need do is disperse a sachet into water and drink. You can also use with the Progurt Incubator to make your very own probiotic yogurt.
Progurt is the world’s highest-strength probiotic. It contains exclusively human-derived bacteria attuned to the sensitive nature of the gut. This is noteworthy, since most supplement companies source their bacteria from either cows or soil. In simple terms, human bacteria is far more likely to colonise the human gut that bovine- or soil-derived bacteria.
Like probiotics, prebiotics nourish good bacteria. But where the bacteria perform various important functions within the body, prebiotics act as food for the bacteria. Think of microbes as miniature Pac-Men, chomping their way through prebiotic fibre and you’re not far off.
Great sources of prebiotics include bananas, the aforementioned artichokes, chickpeas, asparagus, leeks, chicory, garlic and onions. You can also experiment with prebiotic supplements which may well potentiate the effects of your chosen probiotic.
Diet Tips for the Microbiome
Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all diet – after all, your microbiome is as unique to you as a fingerprint. You should take the above foods and supplements because they are good for the microbiome. You may find however that you don’t tolerate or enjoy some of them. That’s OK – there’s plenty of scope to tweak your diet as you see fit.
The main thing, as far as the gut is concerned, is to eat plenty of fibre-rich, plant-based foods to feed healthy gut microbes. You should minimise processed foods of all kinds, including those high in refined sugar. Also ensure a plentiful supply of vitamin D, ideally from sun exposure but also, if needed, from supplements and follow a consistent exercise regime.
Why? Because exercise is good for the gut ecosystem
If your gut is telling you to nourish your microbiome, you should do as ordered. Start feeding the micro-organisms which call your body home, and the results are sure to astound you.
(So there you are, all you need to know about gut health supplements! Hope this article has helped you.)