Kick poor gut health to the curb with these five superfoods
By Dr. Suhani Shah, ND
Superfoods are everywhere these days. In fact, it seems like any healthy food—as long as it’s nutrient-dense and packed with vitamins, minerals, or antioxidants—can fall into this category. Therefore, when talking about superfoods, it’s better to discuss them in relation to specific body systems. While many foods benefit the entire body, some foods have a greater health benefit for organs.
In this article, I will discuss superfoods that benefit gut health, specifically. The top five superfoods for maintaining good digestive health are fermented vegetables, turmeric, bone broth, chlorella, and garlic.
MORE SWEET THAN SOUR
Fermented vegetables like sauerkraut, kimchi, and pickled radishes and carrots provide a source of probiotic bacteria to re-populate healthy gut flora. A healthy gut microbiome has benefits to the human body beyond just good digestion—it can improve mood and provide nutrients like B vitamins and vitamin K. Gut dysbiosis, an imbalance of bacteria that can result in more bad bacteria than good, can lead to inflammation in the digestive tract, leaky gut, and immune dysregulation. In turn, this may bring on the development of allergies and autoimmune diseases. Gut dysbiosis can be caused by a number of issues, the most common being prolonged antibiotic use, low stomach acid, and improper digestion of foods. A lack of good bacteria may also play a role in metabolic disorders, bacterial infections, and colorectal cancer as well (Prakash et al., 2011).
A BONE TO PICK
In recent months, bone broth has gained incredible hype—and for good reason. It contains lots of nutrients to support and help maintain optimal health, including a healthy gut. Moreover, bone broth contains collagen, glutamine, glycine, proline, calcium, magnesium silicon, phosphorus, glucosamine, and chondroitin sulphate (Axe, 2016).
Glutamine provides fuel for the cells lining the small intestine and helps them regenerate to repair and heal leaky gut. Glutamine also helps with optimal immune function. Collagen and proline also help to strengthen the connective tissue within the gut lining to maintain integrity.
Additionally, when collagen gets broken down to gelatin, it supports gut function, soothes the gut lining, and may help to decrease inflammation. It also supports the growth of good bacteria in the gut. Therefore, next time you make your own bone broth, do not get rid of the jelly-like layer that may form on the top: it will give your gut a healthy boost.
GO FOR GOLD
Turmeric, a golden-yellow herb, is a superstar in the world of nutrition. It contains active constituents known as curcuminoids, with the most abundant of them being curcumin (Jurenka, 2009). This potent anti-inflammatory compound helps decrease inflammation in the body and can be used for joint pain. It also helps to decrease inflammation in the digestive tract, aiding with the ailments caused by gut dysbiosis. Curcumin also helps with liver detoxification, promoting healthy liver function and eliminating toxins through the expression of glutathione S-transferase, an enzyme that helps with glutathione detoxification pathways (Nishinaka T et al., 2007).
Additionally, turmeric is considered a “warming spice:” according to Chinese medicine, the organs responsible for digestion prefer warmth—rather than cold and dampness—for proper digestion.
Chlorella, an alkalizing green superfood, contains a fibrous, indigestible plant cell wall that helps with detoxification. This fibrous component absorbs any toxins, such as mercury and other heavy metals, within the intestines and promotes their excretion in stool. It is also a source of fibre, helping to create regular, well-formed bowel movements (Mercola, 2016). Chlorella also helps stimulate the growth of certain types of probiotic bacteria.
Furthermore, it contains digestive enzymes, which help with protein digestion. This may help to reduce gas, bloating, and indigestion. As a bonus, chlorella has one of the highest concentrations of chlorophyll—even more than liquid chlorophyll or alfalfa!
To give this superfood a test run, add it to your favourite smoothie. You can also consume it mixed in a little bit of water, but you will find it has a very marine-like or earthy taste.
BRING ON THE GARLIC BREATH
Garlic has a plethora of benefits, from supporting cardiovascular health to its antimicrobial activity. Garlic is especially great for gut health due to these antimicrobial actions—it can help to eradicate candida, the most common cause of fungal infections.
If you find you cannot tolerate garlic, speak to your health-care professional—many people with liver detoxification problems may have a hard time consuming this sulphurous superfood.
While there are plenty of other superfoods that have incredible benefits on the digestive system, fermented vegetables, turmeric, chlorella, garlic, and bone broth are my top five. However, check with a healthcare professional to find out the best foods and supplements to optimize your health. Naturopathic doctors like myself are trained to identify interactions with any medications you are on, as well as provide individualized treatment plans. VM