“All disease begins in the gut.” – Hippocrates
Are you already dreading the yearly winter cold? If you are stocking up on hand sanitizer and hoping for the best, it’s time for another, more effective plan of action! A healthy gut is the bedrock of a strong immune system. Did you know that 70-80% of your immune system is in your gut? It has a whole defense team which includes physical barriers like mucus, chemical ones like pH levels, T-cells, neutrophils, plus beneficial bacteria who help us defend. The beneficial bacteria in our guts help to break down our food, fend off pathogens, and remove toxins. The bad guys make us sick. It is a balancing act. A healthy, functioning gut is vital to overall health. An unhealthy gut composition contributes not only to the winter cold but also to a wide range of diseases such as diabetes, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, depression and chronic fatigue syndrome. A great first step to stay healthy this winter is to support the good gut bacteria and keep the bad guys in check!
5 Steps to a Healthy Gut:
1. Remove inflammatory foods-
Inflammatory foods can damage the gut lining leading to something called intestinal permeability or leaky gut. This is when food particles pass through the tight junctions in the intestinal wall into your blood. That’s not good. Leaky gut has been linked to autoimmune diseases.
This week, consider reducing your amount of these top inflammatory foods: sugar (all kinds), glutinous grains (wheat, rye, barley, spelt), refined “ vegetable” oils like corn, soy, cottonseeds, and canola, and commercial dairy products.
2. Eat probiotic-
Rich fermented foods like sauerkraut (look for the real stuff, the ingredient label should NOT include vinegar), kimchi, kombucha, organic kefir, organic plain yogurt. Probiotics are the good bacteria that support a healthy gut.
3. Include prebiotic foods-
Prebiotic foods are non digestible carbohydrates that feed the good bacteria. Think of the “pre” in prebiotics to help you remember that they come before the probiotics. You need prebiotics to feed and create a thriving environment for the probiotics.
Eating a bunch of probiotic rich foods without creating the right environment for them to survive will not work. Foods rich in prebiotics include onions, garlic, bananas, and asparagus.
Chronic stress negatively affects the microbial environment making you more susceptible to infection. Try taking 5 deep breaths to signal your body to relax if you’re experiencing a stressful situation. This triggers your parasympathetic, or “rest and digest,” nervous system.
5. Drink bone broth-
This traditional elixir takes your average broth and kicks it up a knock, nutrition-wise. The bones from a well-raised animal like grass fed beef, organic/pastured chicken are simmered with veggies, a splash of apple cider vinegar, and spices just like if you were making a soup.
But for bone broth, you cook the bones much longer, even up to 24 hrs, to gain even more nutrients from the bones like collagen. Once you strain the soup, the broth is full of gut-healing amino acids like glutamine, tons of minerals, and easily digestible protein.
Pick up some fermented veggies today and stay healthy this winter!
Karen is a certified nutrition consultant, trained chef, and real food enthusiast. She earned a B.A. in anthropology from University of Colorado-Boulder in 2000 and a professional Food and Wine certification from CookStreet in 2007. After adopting a primal-type diet in 2009 and finding great health improvements, she attended Bauman College in Boulder, CO to receive her certification as a nutrition consultant in 2011. She has been working with clients since then, helping them learn what foods to eat, how to cook them, and how to find greater health and vitality. For more information, check out her website, Go Primal by Karen.
Main Photo Credit: Death to Stock; Second Photo Credit: Sunny Forest/shutterstock.com; Third Photo Credit: paulovilela/shutterstock.com; Fourth Photo Credit: Anna Hoychuk/shutterstock.com