A close up of a glass with yogurt and strawberries

A Balanced Gut for Health + Vibrancy

Everything begins with the gut.

When your body is well functioning on all systems, you feel strong and inspired to do what you love. Solid stable energy, confidence, well-rounded health and vibrancy all allow you to move around your world in a way that makes you feel connected and content.

Your gut impacts all of these things.

It Begins with the Gut

I’d like to dig into the notion of health and vibrancy and how it all begins with a healthy gut. The gut-cornerstone philosophy at Healthy Nest is one that has stood the test of time and has been increasingly researched (and researched and researched) with depth and interest.

What we normally refer to as your gut is the trillions of bacteria that live in your large intestine. Sometimes it is referred to as gut flora or microbiome. We are talking hundreds of different types of bacteria, some better for you than others, but their presence and balance is important for all kinds of body functions, including how the body metabolizes food.

The large intestine used to be thought of as an empty tunnel that byproducts passed through to leave the body. Now we know that it is WAY more complicated, populated by literally pounds of beneficial or friendly bacteria that creates vitamins, sends messages (similar to hormones) for the body to DO things, including proper digestion. In fact, bacteria has its hand in most of the systems of the body. There is also opportunistic bacteria, which is important, but needs to be checked, and kept in balance.

Overall, it’s safe to say that the gut plays important roles in health, including how the body functions, metabolizes food, and how it reaches and maintains set weight.

Food + Gut Inflammation

Inflammation rightfully assists when there is an acute problem, like a cut finger or a sprained ankle. Inflammation is not good on an ongoing basis. Too much opportunistic bacteria may cause inflammation. Also, it’s no secret that there are foods that you SHOULD eat and those that you SHOULD NOT eat (detailed lists later) to lessen inflammation. But, what is relatively new info is that the YES food list promotes the bacteria strains in the gut that reduce inflammation. Specifically, we know that the bacteria Bifidobacteria and Akkermansia are proven to help prevent inflammation-causing chemicals from passing through the gut lining into the bloodstream. Good news – These bacteria strains can be made from foods eaten as well as supplemented.

An unhealthful diet, like the standard American diet, with too much sugar and processed food, can negatively impact your gut. These types of foods lead to the production of inflammatory chemicals called lipopolysaccharide. These chemicals pass into the bloodstream and fat tissue and research suggests may contribute to weight gain and insulin resistance. Not good.

Eating for less inflammation is better for the gut bacteria composition, body functioning and health including weight and blood sugar balance. I’ll talk more about what to eat and what to avoid at the end of this post.

Food + Gut Bacteria + Your Weight

Specific gut bacteria can influence HOW you digest food and how FULL you feel after eating. This is partly because of food’s fiber composition. Fiber can be broken down into soluble and non-soluble. Non-soluble fibers do not feed gut bacteria but DO help bulk up your bowels to provide healthy regular movements. Beneficial gut bacteria feed off soluble fiber, which creates chemicals that benefit gut health. One recent study found that increased levels of Prevotella bacteria, which is good at digesting fiber from carbohydrates, helped participants to lose more weight (5.1 pounds more) compared to a bacterium that is found in animal proteins, or Bacteriodetes, at the same levels. More research is needed, but this does point to increased soluble fiber promoting gut function as well as weight loss.

Other studies found that composition of gut bacteria (again, certain strains present) can influence how dietary fats are absorbed, which may affect how fat is stored in the body. Again, this is ongoing research, but interesting, nonetheless. The food with soluble carbohydrates are showing to be powerful in new ways, including weight loss.

Food + Gut + Hormones + Weight Loss

Your body produces several different hormones that affect your appetite, one is called leptin. Leptin decreases your appetite. We know that bacteria in the gut affects how much leptin is produced and how full you feel. In studies, gut bacteria that feeds leptin production shows promise in contributing to how much weight is lost in study participants.

Here’s What You Can Do

Knowing about gut bacteria, gut flora composition and microbiome balance (all the same thing) is increasingly important for understanding how the body works. From the examples above, you can see that gut influencing body is a multi-step process, breaking down food which impacts gut bacteria. Bacteria goes to work in positive and negative ways. Getting from food metabolism to feeling healthy and vibrant is something to watch for best health. So far, here’s what we know to eat and avoid. Hint: It closely resembles the Mediterranean Diet.

To feed beneficial gut bacteria

  • Whole grains: Focus on grains that haven’t been refined and are high in fiber
  • Fruits and vegetables: Eat lots of variety with an emphasis on pre-biotic foods: lentils, chickpeas, beans, bananas, oats, artichokes, asparagus, garlic, leek, onions
  • Fermented foods: Yogurt, kimchi, kombucha, kefir and sauerkraut all of which contain beneficial bacteria like lactobacilli, or take a probiotic
  • Nuts and seeds: Again, lots of variety
  • Polyphenol-rich foods: Dark chocolate, green tea and red wine
  • Proteins, plant and animal: High-quality wild-caught and grass-fed

To minimize opportunistic (bad) gut bacteria

  • Sugary foods
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Foods containing unhealthy processed fats
  • Overuse of antibiotics
  • Too much alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Lack of sleep
  • Too much stress

Want to chat about your gut health? Reach out for a complimentary consultation with a holistic nutritionist.