Probiotic bacteria, prebiotics, and adequate hydration add up to a healthy gut microbiome (i.e., a healthy gut)
You might have heard the oft-quoted expression, “Good health starts in your gut.” And as with many axioms, there is a lot of truth in this saying. Over the past 20 years or so, groundbreaking research studies have been linking overall gut health with the immune system, mood, mental health, autoimmune diseases, endocrine disorders, skin conditions, and even cancer.
What Is Good Gut Health?
So what is it good gut health? To answer that question, we must first define exactly what the gut is. The gut and stomach are not the same thing. The gastrointestinal system—or gut—is a network of organs including the mouth, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, small intestine, colon, and rectum. Good gut health means that these organs are all functioning properly and working well together.
In addition, the term good gut health signifies the right balance of gut microbiota, the microorganisms that live in our digestive tracts. Not to get too technical, but these trillions of microbiota make up the body’s microbiome. Too much of one type of bacteria—or not enough of another—can lead to one or more of the many negative health effects mentioned earlier.
Getting And Maintaining Good Gut Health
You probably have heard experts touting consumption of probiotics, but that’s only part of it. (More on probiotics in a little bit). Imagine saying the only important part of having a well-running automobile was making sure you had plenty of gasoline … but not talking about maintaining oil and other critical fluids. Even further, what if a car owner added kitchen grease to the gas tank?
That’s how your gut works, too. You need to eat the right foods, avoid adding unhealthy ones, and make sure your diet is properly balanced. Today, many busy people don’t get the right amounts of the necessary nutrition building blocks, including probiotics.
3 Components Of A Healthy Gut
Essentially, there are three basic components of a healthy gut:
Probiotics are the live microorganisms (certain bacteria and yeasts) living in the gut of all healthy people. Natural sources of probiotics include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, and other fermented foods. Probiotic supplements are not necessarily needed as the bacteria are alive, and therefore reproducing. As gross as it may sound, it’s more important to feed the probiotics.
That’s where prebiotics come in. Again, it’s better to ingest prebiotics naturally rather than take prebiotic supplements. Yuca, sweet potatoes, and green plantains are more than just yummy. They are so fibrous and take so long to break down, they provide many meals for your good gut bacteria. Other good prebiotic sources include butter, garlic, onions and leeks, asparagus, apples, bananas, oranges, barley and oats, wheat bran, and cocoa beans.
(Be sure to try our chef-approved Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Brussel Sprouts recipe for a good prebiotic booster.)
It’s nearly impossible to overstate the importance of proper hydration to good gut health. Water—your best hydration choice—helps the body absorb nutrients and keeps the digestive tract running smoothly. One final tip: Limit your intake of sugar and alcohol, as these substances can negatively alter your gut microbiota.
If you would like more information on how The Pickled Beet can help you manage your gut health through healthy, delicious food, contact us.