Gut Healing Superfoods You Should Have on Rotation
You know your gut health is important, but how can you actually adjust your diet to support a healthy digestive tract? These are the foods you need for a healthy gut.
You’ve probably heard by now that optimal digestive function is paramount to overall health and wellness. The state of your gastrointestinal tract—also known as the GI tract or the gut—plays a critical role in supporting your health. But if you don’t tend to your gut flora, it can also contribute to some common health conditions.
Why gut health matters
A healthy gut digests and absorbs the food you consume so that the body can use all of the nutrients. The lining of your gut is critical to the proper absorption of these nutrients as well as the efficient excretion of waste and protection from harmful foreign invaders. When this lining becomes permeable or “leaky”—from chronic stress, processed foods, alcohol, medications, or an imbalance in your gut microbiome—nutrients and predigested materials leak out from the gut and can trigger an inflammatory response.
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This inflammatory response can present as gas and bloating, acid reflux, fatigue, joint pain, irregular bowel movements, insomnia, brain fog, skin issues like eczema, and even anxiety and depression. Poor digestive function and leaky gut have been associated with many modern diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, cancer, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, and heart disease.
So what does it take to keep your gut lining strong and running smoothly? At Parsley Health we always recommend starting with what is on your plate. Here are the top healing foods to keep in heavy rotation for a strong and healthy gut:
The Best Gut Health Foods
1. Coconut oil
This healing saturated fat contains anti-microbial properties that combat common bacterial overgrowths in the gut such as candida/yeast, fungi, parasites, and viruses. Specifically, coconut oil contains lauric and caprylic acid, the active agent that fights excessive candida in the gut. When buying coconut oil, choose organic, extra virgin and cold pressed oil to use for cooking or eating right off the spoon.
2. Aloe vera
You might know aloe as being soothing to the skin, especially after too much sun, but the soothing properties of this plant go way deeper. Aloe is a gut healing powerhouse. Drinking aloe vera juice fights inflammation and soothes and relaxes the GI tract. It can even help to heal ulcers by supporting mucosal secretions and heal the lining of the GI tract, preventing leaky gut. Finally, aloe vera gel can alleviate constipation by increasing intestinal water content. I recommend starting with 1 to 2 ounces of pure aloe juice or gel per day. Avoid aloe vera if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
3. Anti-inflammatory Foods
Foods that can irritate the GI tract and cause inflammation include processed foods, refined sugars and flours, dairy, alcohol, and conventional seed oils. Removing these foods from your diet can do wonders for your gut. But it’s not just about what you take out!
Upping your intake of anti-inflammatory foods helps to further reduce inflammation, bacterial overgrowth, or leaky gut. Load up on dark leafy greens, colorful non-starchy vegetables, and be sure to include healthy fats such as chia seeds, flax seeds, fatty wild caught fish, and avocado. Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory herb that can be added to soups, curries, veggies, and even your morning smoothie or afternoon latte.
3. Probiotic and prebiotic-rich foods
Your gut microbiome is made up of trillions of bacteria, fungi and other microbes that dictate our health by controlling digestion, supporting proper immune function and even contributing to mental wellness. Keeping a healthy balance of gut bacteria is key to GI health. Adding probiotic rich foods to your diet will help to continually replenish the beneficial bacteria in your gut, supporting a healthy bacterial balance and proper digestion.
- Cultured vegetables like fermented sauerkraut, kimchi, beet kvass
- Coconut water kefir
- Miso (if non-gmo/organic soy is tolerated)
- Goat kefir (if dairy is tolerated)
- Coconut milk yogurt.
Just as important to gut health as probiotic foods, prebiotics are types of dietary fiber that feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut. Consuming prebiotic rich foods help gut bacteria produce nutrients for your colon cells.
- Raw chicory root
- Raw Jerusalem artichoke
- Raw dandelion greens
- Raw garlic, onions, and scallions
Resistant starch is a prebiotic food that has particular benefit to the colon, reducing inflammation and aiding a number of digestive disorders including ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, diarrhea and constipation and even colorectal cancer. Resistant starch can be found in green bananas, cooked and cooled rice, potatoes, and plantains, and whole grains like oats and barley. If any of these foods cause you bloating, talk to your doctor, as it may be due to bacterial overgrowth.
5. Bone broth
Not surprisingly, bone broth makes the cut for top gut healing foods. This traditionally slow cooked broth contains lots of gelatin and collagen, the building blocks of our connective tissue, including the tissue that makes up our GI tract. Some research shows that collagen may help prevent the breakdown of tight junctions, gaps in the gut lining that regulate intestinal permeability.
Bone broth also contains amino acids like proline, glycine and glutamine, which all contain anti-inflammatory properties. Glutamine specifically can help to heal and seal the lining of our gut. Consume 2-3 cups of bone broth daily either by adding it to soups, stews, and sautéed veggies or simply by sipping a cup by itself. If you’re sensitive to high FODMAP foods or histamine, bone broth may be more difficult for you to tolerate. In this case, a collagen protein powder makes for a great substitution.
Adding these gut healing superfoods to your daily routine is a wonderful start to support your gut and begin to heal any digestive issues you may be dealing with.