By: Destiny Matthews, MS, Dietetic Intern, Texas A&M University
Reviewed by: Katy Bowen, MS, RDN, LD
Edited by Andi Champion, CHEF
There is so much information out there about what you should and shouldn’t eat but health begins with the place where food starts in your body–your digestive system! How can you work with your body to keep your digestive tract healthy?
The bacteria that lives in your digestive tract are called your microbiota. They help to support the immune system, produce vitamins and enzymes, regulate absorption of nutrients, affect metabolism and maintain digestive balance. The health of your gut bacteria depends on diet, age, medications, physical and mental stress, among other factors.
There are several foods, such as foods containing high amounts of saturated fat or ultra-processed grains, that we know may harm your gut over time. Instead, you should focus on consuming whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, fish, and olive oil. These types of foods provide your gut with antioxidants and are anti-inflammatory. Other foods that can be helpful for your digestive health are low-fat dairy, nuts, and healthy fats. Lifestyle habits such as eating a mostly plant-based diet along with drinking enough water (8 cups per day) have also shown to be beneficial.
What about probiotics and prebiotics?
Probiotics are the “good bacteria” that live in your gut. Foods containing probiotics include:
Prebiotic foods serve as nutrition for the gut bacteria. These include dietary fibers such as inulin fiber and foods naturally containing dietary fiber, such as:
Did you know that combining a probiotic with a prebiotic is known as food synergy? Try eating more of these foods for healthy digestion. Your gut will thank you!
Tomasello G, Mazzola M, Leone A, et al. Nutrition, oxidative stress and intestinal dysbiosis: Influence of diet on gut microbiota in inflammatory bowel diseases. Biomedical Papers of The Medical Faculty Of The University Palacky, Olomouc, Czechoslovakia. 2016;160(4):461-466. doi:10.5507/bp.2016.052.