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The Connection Between Fermented Foods and Digestive Health

Posted by Smarter Nutrition on

Did you know that digestive health is central to the body’s overall health? Without optimal digestion, other parts of our health can be disturbed. Problems such as food intolerances, skin issues, and even mood disturbances can occur as the result of poor digestion.

So what can we do about our digestive health? What are some ways we can support it?

Adding fermented foods to your diet is an excellent place to start. These foods are rich in beneficial bacteria to feed the healthy flora in the gut.

The bacteria in the gut also plays a critical role in our health. With nearly 100 trillion bacteria and microorganisms living in our digestive tract, it is essential to keep these bacteria healthy! When there is an imbalance in the gut flora, pathogenic bacteria can take over.  

This can cause things like candida, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, and digestive discomfort. However, when you fuel your body with foods that feed the healthy bacteria and eliminate foods that feed the pathogenic bacteria, you will give your gut what it needs to thrive.

We will look at the connection between fermented foods and digestive health, and then discuss the foods you want to avoid when trying to improve gut health.  

The Connection Between Fermented Foods and Digestive Health

Fermented foods have been aged and are full of healthy probiotics. Probiotics are live microorganisms that help support optimal digestion. The live cultures that are in foods like kefir and yogurt, can help feed the healthy bacteria in the gut.

Supporting these healthy bacteria is essential to overall health.  This is because gut bacteria have been linked to many different areas of health. Having an imbalance in gut bacteria has been associated with obesity, cardiovascular disease and even type 2 diabetes.

A recent study indicated that the addition of probiotics can be important in supporting healthy gut flora and overall health. The study showed that taking probiotics during pregnancy and breastfeeding, helped protect against atopic eczema in infants for the first two years of their lives! Pretty amazing stuff, right?

Supporting optimal gut flora could also help support a robust immune system, fight off inflammation, boost digestion and even help promote a better mood. The gut has even been called “the second brain” because of the incredible connection between gut flora and mental health.

This connection is so strong that it cannot be ignored.  Since there is a direct link between microorganisms affecting the brain, it is important to ensure that we eat foods that support healthy bacteria in the gut. This will result in a happy and healthy mood and optimal mental health.

The following is a list of fermented foods you can add to your diet, so you can benefit from a healthy digestive system.

What Fermented Foods Should I Add to My Diet?

The following foods are excellent options that can be found in most grocery stores. It is important to look at the food label to ensure that the product has been naturally fermented. Products like pickles may have been fermented with vinegar. This will not provide the same probiotic boost as a naturally fermented product would.

The following foods are excellent options:

✔ Sauerkraut

Tastes great added to sandwiches, turkey or veggie burgers, or served as a side.

✔ Naturally fermented pickles

Makes a great snack or with a sandwich, turkey, or veggie burger.

✔ Kimchi

Many people like to eat kimchi as a snack or with stir-fried Asian-inspired dishes.

✔ Kombucha

Kombucha is a delicious alternative to other sugary soft drinks, like soda and juice. It’s fizzy and has a refreshing taste, and is packed with many beneficial bacteria.

✔  Kefir

If you can tolerate dairy, it makes a great addition to your diet.  It can be added to smoothies

✔ Tempeh

While processed soy can be damaging to gut health, fermented soy products, like tempeh, can help support digestive health. This is an excellent option for vegetarians since it is high in plant-based protein.

✔ Miso

This is another fermented soy product that can be added to soups.

✔ Full-fat unsweetened yogurt

Yogurt is an excellent way to add some healthy probiotics to your diet.  It is important to check the nutrition label of the yogurt to ensure that it is unsweetened. Full-fat yogurt is recommended, since the low-fat varieties add sugar to compensate for the lost flavor, once the fat is removed.


Which Foods Feed the Unhealthy Bacteria in the Gut?

In order to maintain and feed healthy gut bacteria, it is important to keep certain foods out of your diet. The following foods feed the pathogenic bacteria in the gut. This can result in gut bacteria imbalances, such as dysbiosis and candida. You should eliminate or significantly reduce these foods in your diet.

  • Sugar
  • Soda
  • Gluten
  • Fried and other processed foods
  • Conventional dairy products

Fermented dairy products, like unsweetened full-fat yogurt and kefir, can be beneficial if tolerated.  However, conventional dairy products like sweetened yogurt, non-organic milk, cheese, cream cheese, and ice cream should be avoided.

  • Non-fermented soy

    Since you know the foods that support gut health and those foods that harm gut bacteria, you can take action to achieve optimal gut health. With some minor dietary changes, you can supercharge your digestive health and improve your overall health.  These changes can help you to get sick less often, sleep better, have more energy and have clearer skin.

    To help you get started, we have included this gut-boosting smoothie recipe. You can add it to your diet to help support optimal digestive health.

    Gut-Boosting Blueberry Smoothie

    Serves: 1

    Ingredients:
    • ½ cup of full-fat, unsweetened coconut milk
    • ½ cup of unsweetened almond milk
    • 1 frozen banana
    • 1 cup of frozen blueberries
    • ½ cup of full-fat, unsweetened Greek yogurt
    • 1 Tbsp. raw honey
    Directions:
    1. Place all the ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until smooth.
    2. Enjoy right away!

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