Friday, May 2, 2014

How to Improve Our Digestion and Gut Health

I have never even thought of or don't even know that gut health is something that I have to pay attention to. I know of probiotics. I know them as the "good bacteria" that are needed in our digestive tract. Our pediatrician gives my daughter probiotics to help with her eczemaMy doctor told me to drink some when he prescribed me an antibiotic for an operation I did. But I have never really understood why I needed to take them. What does it do to my body and what happens if my body lacks these "good bacteria?" 

Our overall health is closely related to our gut health and our gut plays an important role in allowing nutrients to enter and preventing toxins from entering the body. Overuse of antibiotics (even meat and dairy products can contain antibiotics!) and eating the wrong kinds of food that are hard to digest can easily cause an imbalance in our gut flora, weakening our immune system. When our immune system poorly functions, our body becomes vulnerable to many kinds of diseases, including allergies, asthma, gluten and lactose intolerance, yeast infections, inflammatory diseases, and bowel problems.

Consuming food that are rich in good bacteria will help to:

- balance our intestinal flora
- inhibit harmful bacteria
- promote good digestion and assimilation of nutrients
- boost immune function
- suppress excessive inflammation
- increase resistance to infection
- regulate metabolism and bowel movement

Fermenting water kefir grains

So, What Can We Do to Improve Our Gut Health?

Be mindful when consuming antibiotics and birth control medications. They quickly deteriorate our gut flora. Avoid or limit food high in carbohydrates, refined sugars, and processed foods. They are disruptive and burdensome to our intestinal flora.

Eat more foods that are rich in beneficial, living bacteria:

- yogurt (get the plain ones and sweeten them yourself with fresh fruits or honey), 
- sourdough bread (I really recommend the sourdough bread from Bud of Joy)
- fermented vegetables such as kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, and miso 
- fermentable fibres such as yams, sweet potatoes, garlic, and bananas.
- fermented cod liver oil. I recommend Green Pasture brand.
- water kefir and milk kefir. Try making your own. It's something that I've been experimenting (more on this on the blog soon). 

Beware of the probiotic drinks sold in the supermarkets. They usually contain more harmful ingredients than good. Here is an example of one popular drink that we value for their probiotic content but unfortunately the bad ingredients outnumber the good. Also beware of pickled vegetables sold on the shelves, they use vinegar instead of the traditional fermenting method, rendering any of the good bacteria dead. If nothing works, take probiotic supplements. There are many good ones out there, but here is one well-reviewed one to start with. 

Fermented foods are rich in beneficial bacteria and they can restore and re-balance the condition of our gut, thereby strengthening its ability to communicate with our immune system in various ways. Don't take our gut for granted! A healthy gut is one of the cornerstones for a healthy life!

Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link.


  1. Thanks for this article! I have a history of IBS and just came down with a nasty stomach bug. I am definitely going to try this probiotic! Thanks~

  2. You're welcome. I hope you feel better!