I bet you thought that title was my latest advertising ploy to make you self-conscious enough about your mid-section to make you come running to my next class or purchase a personal training package. Nope, it’s neither. I’m not offering a promotion to trade cash for six-pack abs. While I encourage you to keep crunching those abs tightly, I also encourage you to keep a tight hold on your wallet as well.
Where am I going with this? Guts? Abs? Wallets? What the heck? Here’s the skinny: It seems every time I turn around, I’m seeing folks on Facebook and elsewhere promoting products that promise to improve your gut health. I’m being asked to lunch by friends……whose primary goal was not to see me at all it seems; they just wanted to tell me about their AWESOME products that will improve my gut health, normalize my blood sugar, and on and on. And if I like the product, I can promote it to all my clients who are a ready-made customer base for these amazing products. I already have their trust as a trainer; why not capitalize on that and make some extra moolah? Here’s why: I love you, I love your guts, and I love your wallets enough that I’m going to try to convince you that you don’t need these products. While I truly believe most of the people selling these products believe in them and are trying to help people, I want you to know there is a far superior way to heal or keep your gut healthy.
The products I’m speaking of, if you haven’t already guessed, are probiotics and prebiotics. Probiotics are the good bacteria that live in your gut and keep it healthy. Many people think you must eat yogurt with active, live cultures in it to get probiotics. You don’t. You can get probiotics from sauerkraut and kimchi, which I encourage since they are from plant sources. I’m not only promoting the plant sources because I personally eat a plant-based diet, but studies show that people who eat a more plant rich diet have a greater diversity of intestinal flora, which is shown to be healthier, along with a greater abundance of healthy bacteria and a lesser amount of harmful bacteria.
Along with eating probiotic foods, you can also eat prebiotics on a regular basis, and I highly recommend it if you want to have a healthy gut. Prebiotics are the plant fibers that nourish the good bacteria (probiotics) in our guts. When you eat foods that have the type of fiber considered to be prebiotics, you are feeding the good bacteria in your colon. Below is a list of some prebiotic foods:
- Raw Dandelion Greens
- Kale, Spinach, Chard
- Onions & Leeks
- Jerusalem Artichoke
- Barley, Oats, Wheat Bran
- Flax Seeds, Chia Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds
- Beans, Peas, Lentils
- Sweet potatoes, Squash, Yams, Jicama
- Beets, Carrots, Turnips, Parsnips
You can love your guts by loading up on these types of food. At the same time, you’ll be loving your wallet because you have to go to the grocery store anyway, so why not fill your cart with these delicious health-giving, gut healing foods and skip the supplements and save that money?
Of course, this is not the entire equation when it comes to gut health. These are the things that promote gut health, but what are some things that can put our gut health at risk?
The good bacteria are diminished when you take antibiotics because along with killing whatever bacterial infection you have, antibiotics kill beneficial bacteria as well. That’s why you sometimes get a yeast infection after taking antibiotics because the lack of good bacteria made it easy for yeast overgrowth. I know sometimes they are necessary, but you should avoid them as much as possible. Artificial sweeteners are also bad for your gut bacteria, so stay away from diet drinks and any foods containing artificial sweeteners. Not eating a diverse diet and too much alcohol can also damage your gut. Smoking, lack of exercise and lack of sleep are also known to damage the gut.
Pesticides can also alter the gut flora, so buy organic produce whenever you can, especially the Dirty Dozen listed below:
- domestic blueberries
- sweet bell peppers
- spinach, kale and collard greens
- imported grapes
Here’s a list of the Clean 15 which have little to no pesticide residue, so you can feel safe buying non-organic:
- sweet corn
- sweet peas
- kiwi fruit
- sweet potatoes
- sweet onions
I see a lot of prebiotics on that list! Again, usually you DON’T NEED a supplement for your gut to be healthy. You only need to load your shopping cart with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that are rich in fiber that are going to feed you along with the healthy bacteria in your gut, and you know what? The more you feed the good bacteria, the more they crowd out disease-causing bacteria, and that’s going to keep you and your wallet healthy!
This is a lot of information to digest, and you may be wondering, what do the bacteria in my gut have to do with my health anyway? As it turns out, your gut microbiome has more to do with good health than many people realize. Our guts even have their own nervous system, known as the Enteric Nervous System which has as many nerve cells as our spinal cords! Stay tuned for next week’s article where you’ll learn just what gut health has to do with obesity, depression, Parkinson’s Disease, arthritis, lupus, liver disease and more. The more you learn about the importance of keeping your gut healthy, the more you’ll love your guts like I do and want to do all you can for them.
I hope you’ve found this information helpful for your body as well as for your wallet. For more information on this fascinating topic, I highly recommend the book “The Mind–Gut Connection” by Emeran Mayer, MD., and if you have Amazon Prime, check out the documentary “The Gut: Our Second Brain.”
Until next week, love your guts!