Palmer: Nutrition and Gut Health

Gut health is loosely defined as the general absence of disease or gastrointestinal illness. It’s a topic that is trending both in scientific research and in nutrition and wellness circles due to the far-reaching effects the well being of our gut has on overall health.

Everything we eat and drink must pass through our GI tract, which in turn feeds the millions of naturally occurring good and bad bacteria that live within our bodies. Keeping our gut microbiota in balance by promoting the good bacteria, known as probiotics, helps reduce our risk of chronic conditions and disease. Imbalance can be caused by a combination of poor diet, lack of exercise and chronic stress.

Foods that are high in dietary fat and fructose feed the negative bacteria in our GI tract, causing problems such as fatty liver disease and chronic inflammation. Plant-based foods that are nutrient dense and high in fiber, on the other hand, help to feed the good bacteria and have been associated with the prevention of health issues such as cancer, obesity and allergies.

Prebiotics act as food for the good probiotics in our gut. Foods such as whole grains, bananas, onions, garlic, honey and artichokes all provide prebiotics. While probiotics occur naturally inside of our bodies, they can also be introduced into our GI tract through foods. Yogurt and other fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir and kombucha tea all contain live, beneficial bacteria.