At least 70-80% of our immune system is in our gut, and yet we are self-inflicting damage upon it by literally starving our good gut bacteria through overindulgence on processed foods, rancid vegetable oils, and low fiber diets.
How can you ensure your gut can do as it’s intended and keep you healthy and running optimally?
1. Minimize tap water consumption: Water is great and all, but when you consume city water that has chlorine and fluoride residues in it, there may be enough left to kill the friendly microflora in your gut. Chlorine is a highly efficient disinfectant, and is added to public water supplies to kill disease-causing bacteria that the water or its transport pipes might contain. All good in theory, but according to the U.S. Council of Environmental Quality, the cancer risk to people who drink chlorinated water is 93 percent higher than among those whose water does not contain chlorine. Meanwhile, fluoride is added to the water supply as a public health measure to prevent tooth decay (though this doesn’t seem necessary in the 21st century with easy access to toothpaste and dentists). If you drink a lot of water (like you should), it might be worth investing in a Zero Water filtration system. Bottled water is often times pulled from a municipal water supply, so that’s not the answer here. If a water filter isn’t in the cards, proceed to #2 and #3 to help counterbalance the negatives of tap water!
2. Eat Fermented Foods: Fermented foods were far more common among our ancestors’ diets, but have lost their way over the years. I’m bringing them back! Look for kimchi and sauerkraut to balance microflora in your gut. The benefits may go beyond immune boosting and disease prevention. A study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that obese people reduced their abdominal fat by 5 percent when they added fermented products to their diet for 12 weeks.
3. Eat prebiotic/probiotic fiber: Raw veggies are high in prebiotic fiber, with the best sources coming from raw garlic, leeks and onion. If veggies aren’t on your priority list, resistant starch is a fermentable insoluble fiber found in white rice and potatoes. Note: They must be cooked first, then cooled before consuming. The cooling packs the substance resulting in the formation of resistant starch. If you’re the type who mass cooks on Sundays and brings tupperware meals with you everywhere you go, you’re doing yourself a service! You can re-heat the rice later and still maintain RS, so don’t force it down cold if that’s not your style. Also of particular importance, a low carb diet (popular nowadays) starves your gut since it’s generally low in insoluble fiber, so some type of supplementation would be advised. Look for oligosaccharides – found in abundance in Quest Bars as one example. Meanwhile, probiotic fiber can be found in yogurt – greek yogurt is my personal favourite – but be leery of added sugar varieties: an optimal protein-to-sugar ratio on the nutritional facts is 1:1.