By Hilary Sheinbaum
When it comes to health: going with your gut takes on a different meaning.
Every time we eat or drink — whether we’re craving a savory dish or a sweet sip — we have the opportunity to consume something beneficial or, alternatively, something not-so-great. As Kimberly Griffith, MS HNFM, CNS, a Thryve clinical research partner puts it, “With every food choice, we either feed commensal/beneficial bacteria contributing to our gut health, or pathogenic bacteria that contribute to inflammation and disease.” While this information may sound shocking, extreme, or increasingly obvious: it is, in fact, true. And, it’s a decision we make at least three times a day.
As you scan your pantry and refrigerator for your next snack, or pick up your cell to place a carryout order, there are helpful pointers to keep in mind if you’re selecting fare for gut health.
One thing that gut health is not, is a six pack of abs. “Gut health refers to the microbiome of the gastrointestinal tract,” says Attending Gastroenterologist Gina Sam, MD/MPH P.C. “Our GI tract consists of millions of colonies of bacteria. Foods, medication, environment and stress level can affect the bacteria of the GI tract.”
Griffith also notes that beneficial gut bacteria contribute to the processing and the absorbing of nutrients needed for health, as well as overall being.
Take a quick self assessment. “The signs of a healthy gut include daily bowel movements that are void of diarrhea/loose stools or constipation,” says Griffith. She also says you’ll be free of common GI-related symptoms such as excessive gas, bloating, and abdominal pain.
Here’s the million dollar question! Griffith recommends foods in three categories.
Exclusively eating good-for-your-gut foods is ideal, but often it can be unrealistic. That said, there are a few boundaries to keep us in line (or at least serve as a guide to staying on track in the long run). Dr. Sam says antibiotics should be avoided (if possible). Griffith adds that steering clear of low-fiber diets, long-term restrictive diets and those that promote simple sugars, refined carbohydrates, high fatty foods and heavily processed foods (among others) is best.
With these cues, you’ll have a healthier gut (and grocery list) in no time! Bon Appétit.