The 3 simple dietitian-recommended easy ways to improve gut health and boost immunity today.
Do you ever think about your gut health?
I’ve been thinking more about my ‘gut’ – AKA digestive system – since reading the book The Good Gut by Justin and Erica Sonnenburg, PhDs. Here’s why:
Keeping the gut healthy can actually strengthen your immune system. Our large intestines – where the majority of our microbes reside – is 5 feet long making it one of the largest organs in our immune system.
And the good bacteria or ‘pets’ as the Sonnenburgs call them, that live in our gut help fight off many of the bad bacteria that enter our bodies. So, a healthy gut could mean:
- Less sickness from the likes of the common cold
- Fewer symptoms from seasonal allergies
- Less chance of developing allergies among infants
- And amazingly, even less autoimmune and chronic disease
I learned a ton from the Sonnenburgs, who are respected Stanford University microbiologists. And I’d recommend The Good Gut to everyone as a fascinating read – or listen on Audible – which is what I did. (And then halfway-through listening, I bought the hard copy so I could actually highlight text) But if you won’t get around to reading the book till you’re sitting on a beach somewhere (Deanna!) here are:
My Top 3 Ways to Improve Your Gut Health Right Now:
1) Eat More Fiber. When I asked, ‘What would you recommend to help people improve their gut health?’ to a group of dietitians on Facebook, ‘More fiber!’ was the most popular answer. Indigestible roughage or fiber that humans cannot use for nourishment is actually the food or nourishment for good gut bacteria. It’s the prebiotics that probiotics feast on
- Any type of fruits, vegetables and whole grains contain some fiber.
- Eat more: Bananas, raspberries, prunes, lentils, carrots (with the peel!) brown rice, oatmeal, etc.
- And if you really want to make your gut happy, eat a type of fiber known as inulin found in: Onions, garlic, Jerusalem artichokes and even some fiber-enriched cereal/protein bars.
Eat fiber at every single meal and snack. Healthy gut bacteria may even be another reason why folks who eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains have less chronic disease like cancer and diabetes.
2) Don’t Stress About Dirt. In other words, being a neat freak has it’s downsides in terms of health. Bleach-powered home cleaners are probably overkill; more microbe-friendly cleaners are vinegar and lemon juice. (THANK YOU Justin and Erika for releasing some of my #momguilt!)
The Sonnenburgs recommend:
- Don’t worry if dirt gets tracked into your house
- It’s OK to play with the family dog and not wash your hands
- Let your kids play in the dirt
- If it’s not a choking hazard, let babies experiment with objects by putting them in their mouths.
I know with my own kids, my fourth kid gets sick less. Maybe because with more kids, I just couldn’t keep up with the hand-sanitizing after all dirty encounters. But it’s also a fact that our house has more dirt with more kids around. (#KeepingItReal) 3 Easy Ways to Improve Your Gut Health Right Now. 1 way may surprise you! via @tspcurry Click To Tweet
3) Drink Kefir
Kefir is sometimes described as drinkable yogurt – although it’s not really yogurt. It’s a dairy beverage with probiotics in it.
But unlike yogurt, which usually contains 4-6 probiotic strains and/or cultures (see below) kefir generally has 10 or more, plus yeast – another culture to build up gut bacteria.
If you’re new to kefir, here’s the scoop:
- It’s found in the dairy case.
- There are a variety of flavors. Most are fairly low in added sugar – but flavored kefir does have more added sugar than plain kefir.
- Besides drinking it straight up, use kefir:
- On cereal instead of milk
- Instead of buttermilk in baking
- Mixed into soups after cooking (to cool hot soup for kids!)
- In smoothies
- Any way you’d use yogurt