Your gut isn’t just for digesting. Making sure your gut is in good health can not only improve your digestive symptoms, but your mood, sleep, and skin as well. Making the right food choices for your body can allow your gut to heal. Though there are many possible gut healing diets, a few particular diets are known for their positive impact on digestive symptoms.
In this article, we’ll discuss what makes a gut healing diet, its benefits, the best gut healing diet options, and how to follow your gut healing diet.
A gut healing diet is any diet you adopt to reduce digestive symptoms, inflammation, or other related symptoms, such as joint pain, skin symptoms, or insomnia, for example.
Because many common foods can inflame the gut, gut healing diets are usually elimination diets. An elimination diet removes likely trigger foods so you can evaluate what exacerbates your symptoms. Removing the problem foods also reduces inflammation, which gives the gut a chance to heal and repair.
A gut healingelimination diet is designed to:
Reduce or remove foods that may irritate your gut lining or feed imbalanced gut bacteria.
Heal and seal intestinal permeability (leaky gut)
Feed your good gut bacteria
Help you understand which foods are triggering your symptoms
Why Would You Use A Gut Healing Diet?
A gut healing diet is one of the fastest ways to relieve the worst immediate symptoms of your health challenges. Here is a list of symptoms or conditions that may benefit from a gut healing diet.
Digestive symptoms and conditions:
Chronic constipation or diarrhea
Bloating, abdominal pain, or gas
Food allergies or food sensitivities
Heartburn or reflux
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), such a Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
Autoimmune Diseases, such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis or Type 1 Diabetes
Skin symptoms such as acne, rosacea, eczema, or psoriasis
Intestinal permeability is when small gaps open up the tight junctions between the cells of the gut lining in the small intestine. This allows partially digested food particles to enter the bloodstream, which can trigger an immune system response. Normally, the gut barrier prevents these food particles from entering the body until they are broken down further.
The best gut healing diet for you will be highly individualized. That said, there are some basic principles of a healthy diet that apply to everyone.
This means that to maintain a healthy gut, you should generally aim to eat an anti-inflammatory diet that:
Is made primarily of real, whole foods
Is free of sweeteners and processed foods
Contains the right ratio of carbs, healthy fats, quality proteins, and fiber for you
Avoids your unique food sensitivities and food allergies
In addition, your best gut healing diet also needs to have a positive effect on your gut microbiome.
A few particular elimination diets meet these criteria. Let’s review which specific diets have been shown to improve digestive health and reduce inflammation and symptoms in research.
Low FODMAP Diet
FODMAPs are fermentable carbohydrates that naturally occur in some veggies, fruits, nuts, and seeds. Many people with digestive symptoms and disorders are sensitive to FODMAPs, so a low FODMAP diet can help reduce symptoms. A low FODMAP diet has been shown to:
Making any kind of dietary change can be a challenge, so make it easy on yourself by following these guidelines while you make the transition:
Keep it simple. Choose a few basic recipes and use them to develop a simple meal plan. Expand your repertoire once you’re comfortable with your new diet.
Be prepared. Shop for ingredients you need for your basic meal plan, and remove the foods you’ll be avoiding from your pantry. Batch cook your simple recipes, and load up your freezer.
Be as strict as possible for 2-4 weeks. If you don’t notice any positive changes in that time, try something different.
Use what you learn to create a sustainable, healthy diet going forward.
What To Include in a Gut Healing Diet
Now that you’ve removed inflammatory foods, it’s time to talk about what to add. No matter which gut healing diet template you choose to work with, including particular gut healing foods and supplements can increase your chances for success. Let’s review some of the options.
Probiotics and Prebiotics
Probiotic supplements have been shown in numerous studies to:
Prebiotics are simply natural fibers that feed your good gut bacteria. Most people get enough prebiotics from their diet, as long as it contains sufficient fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds. However, some people need supplemental prebiotics to make their gut microbes happy. In spite of this, prebiotics may increase digestive symptoms for people, so they should be tried with caution [97 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source].
Bone Broth and Collagen
Bone broth is naturally high in gelatin and collagen, which is made primarily of the amino acids glutamic acid, proline, and glycine . Collagen has been shown to improve skin elasticity and hydration [99, 100, 101]. And though the data are early, some studies have suggested that collagen directly improves intestinal permeability [102 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source]. And though these are lower quality data, other studies showed glutamic acid improved intestinal permeability in pigs [103 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source] and L-glycine given to rats prevented ulcers [104 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source].
Fermented foods are valuable for gut health, as they are a natural source of good bacteria. Though they don’t typically have therapeutic doses of probiotics [105, 106, 107, 108], they may continue to seed your digestive system with diverse probiotics from natural fermentation when used as a small, daily supplement. Examples include sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, and kombucha.
Gut Healing Supplements
Diet and probiotics should always be your first, go-to step to work on gut healing, but a number of gut healing supplements can enhance your progress once that piece is in place.
In general, give supplements a short-term trial to see if they improve your symptoms. If so, then continue using them. If not, you can discontinue them. Here are a few that are most likely to improve your gut healing diet success.
Digestive enzymes are chemicals your body naturally produces to break down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. A deficiency of particular enzymes can lead to digestive symptoms.
For example, if you don’t make lactase, the enzyme responsible for breaking down lactose in dairy products, you’ll experience lactose intolerance symptoms like gas, bloating, and diarrhea.
Eating a gut healing diet is mostly about common sense. Eat a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet full of nutrition, and watch how quickly your gut and other health challenges respond. Include supportive supplements if needed.
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