You're a busy, overworked female who's desperate for some more energy.
You have on-going digestion issues that can't seem to be resolved.
When you get sick it takes way longer than it should for you to get over it.
You wake up feeling good some days, but your overall moods could use some work.
The gut has been named the "the second brain" where 75% of our immune system resides. Connected to the brain via the vagus nerve, the state of our gut health directly impacts our cognitive function (think: mood, concentration, memory, sleep, mental clarity, overall behavior).
Have you ever eaten a large dose of sugar and then snapped at everyone around you 30 minutes later?
Do you get tired after eating junk food and slip into a state of temporary anxiety and depression?
This is due to the state of your gut and what you eat, directly effecting how the brain functions.
When the lining of the gut gets small holes in it from things like antibiotics, processed foods, stress, excess sugar, and other lifestyle choices, it starts to leak food into our bloodstream where the body begins to react with joint pain, fatigue, headaches, IBS symptoms, depression, behavioral issues (especially in children), weight gain, and more.
If different lifestyle choices aren't made, these symptoms eventually end up as full-blown autoimmune diseases like celiac, crohns, arthritis, lupus, diabetes, and more.
The good news is, you don't have to continue down the path towards autoimmune disease. One of the best ways to improve your gut health immediately is to support the body with healing foods.
As we have continued to improve the diet of our family over the years, we now consume most of these foods on a daily basis. With a little planning and consistency, these can become part of your regular diet as well!
The foods below are both prebiotic and probiotic in nature. You probably don't hear as much about prebiotic, but it is equally as important as it feeds the probiotic bacteria which in turn builds healthy gut flora. They are both essential!
1. Fermented Dairy (particularly plain, grass-fed kefir; raw milk, aged cheese, full-fat plain yogurt)
Everyone and their brother is going dairy-free these days, and for good reason. The dairy we consume in our Western culture is almost entirely a processed, pasteurized, and toxic by-product of milk.
The body simply can't thrive on processed dairy.
When choosing dairy, make sure it's organic and from smaller farms where cows are raised on grass. Avoid ultra-pasteurized products and choose full-fat when possible.
Cheese should be white in color and either consumed raw or aged. Raw cheese can be found at Sprouts, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and farmers' markets.
By fermenting dairy, it breaks down the lactose (what some people are allergic to) and allows you be better absorb the nutrients from the milk. Kefir has between 10-30 strains of healthy bacteria present, making it one of the top fermented foods to consume for building healthy gut flora.
Try this Peanut Butter-Chia Kefir Smoothie for starts.
Other ways to use kefir: mix with granola, berries, hemp seeds, and raw cacao nibs.
2. Shiitake Mushrooms
An incredibly healing food, shiitake mushrooms are far superior to the white button mushrooms found in supermarkets. They are considered a prebiotic food.
Because prebiotics help probiotics flourish, eating more of them is essential for balanced gut health. Indeed, a 2012 study found a link between a diet high in prebiotics and a reduced risk of developing colorectal cancer. Other research has suggested that prebiotics increase calcium absorption and may improve bone density. And one small study tied prebiotics to increased satiety after meals.
We buy ours from the farmers' market in the summer and from Whole Foods in the winter as they have local options available year-round.
Shiitake Mushroom Omelet
-1/2 cup sauteed veggies (use avocado oil or butter to saute them): shiitake mushrooms, jalapenos, onions, and spinach
-omelet toppers: raw sauerkraut + aged cheese
3. Raw Honey
Another prebiotic food, raw honey (in moderation) is a nourishing sweetener that helps healthy gut flora flourish along with reducing symptoms of seasonal allergies, joint pain, and IBS.
The bee pollen found in raw honey, which contains natural microbes, helps modulate the body's immune response.
Regular honey found at the supermarket is an inferior product that has been pasteurized and striped of all nutrition.
Look for raw honey at your local farmers' market or co-op.
Raw Honey Kefir Bowl
-1/2 cup full-fat, grass-fed kefir
-1/4 cup granola
-1 tsp raw cacao nibs
-3 T hemp or chia seeds
-1/2 cup berries
-1 tsp raw honey
4. Coconut Oil (or milk, chips, butter)
Coconut products are high in lauric acid which kills pathogens such as bacteria and fungi. Lauric acid, a beneficial medium-chain fatty acids, works as a natural antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral substance in the body.
Coconut Oil Fried Potatoes
-3-4 red potatoes, cubed
-1/2 onion, diced
-2-4 T coconut oil
-salt and pepper to taste
Heat a skillet to medium heat. Add all ingredients, stirring frequently until potatoes are browned and softened. Finish by seasoning with salt and pepper.
5. Bone Broth
By simmering bones in water, veggies and apple cider vinegar, the bones and ligaments release healing compounds like collagen, proline, glycine, and glutamine, which are shown to reduce arthritis, joint conditions, and inflammatory bowel disease.
You can find your own recipe online or buy from various grocery stores. We get ours in bulk at Costco.
Quick Bone Broth Soup:
-2-3 cups bone broth
-2 carrots, sliced
-5 cloves garlic, minced
-1/2 cup onion, diced
-1/2 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
-grass-fed butter or coconut oil
Sautee carrots and onions in oil until softened. Add mushrooms and garlic to saute for 2-3 more minutes. Add to a warm pot of bone broth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
6. Grass-fed meat
High in omega-3-fatty-acids, grass-fed meat comes from cows raised on open pastures in humane conditions vs. those in feedlots where GMO-grain is the only source of food.
The health of the animal you are eating meat from is extremely important when considering what you buy.
Omega-3s serve to restore and heal the gut by reducing inflammation throughout the entire body.
Grass-fed Avocado Burger
-1 lb grass-fed beef, made into 4 patties (season with salt, pepper, onion powder, worchestire, and garlic powder)
-Saute veggies: shiitake mushrooms, onions, jalapenos
-Other toppings: avocado, aged cheese, raw sauerkraut and spinach
Cook patties to medium-well. Top with sauteed veggies, cheese, avocado, sauerkraut, and spinach.
7. Wild-caught, cold-water fish (see complete list here of highest omega-3 options)
Nothing beats out cold-water fish in terms of providing brain-boosting omega-3s.
The omegas reduce inflammation, particularly in the nervous system, boosting overall mood, behavior, memory, and more. This effect is directly tied to the gut-boosting benefits provided by a good amount of omega-3-fatty acids in the diet.
Simple Grilled Salmon
-wild-caught salmon patty (we buy ours frozen in bulk from Costco)
-avocado oil, salt, garlic salt, and pepper
Drizzle salmon with oil and spices to taste. Grilled for 3-4 minutes per side.
8. Cooked Leafy Greens
Leafy greens, and other fibrous vegetables, have a way of pulling out toxins from the body via their fiber content.
Cooking veggies helps break down the parts of the plant that would otherwise be difficult to digest for many people.
If you often get bloating, gas, etc from vegetables, make sure you saute or steam them and add healthy fats as this helps the body assimilate them better.
Here's a simply recipe to add your leafy greens of choice to:
Ground Beef Veggie Hash with Sweet Potatoes and Smoked Ham
9. Raw or cooked onions
Onions are a prebiotic food and can be eaten in just about anything.
From omelets to burgers to soups, their immune boosting properties can be easily taken advantage of as they improve the flavor of so many dishes.
How we eat them: I pre-chop onions on Sundays and usually saute them with greens, jalapenos, and mushrooms to put on just about everything!
10. Fermented vegetables (sauerkraut, carrots, radishes, tomatoes, etc)
With up to 40% more nutritional value after being fermented, these vegetables pack loads of nutritional value to aid in healing the gut.
If you're just starting off with fermented foods, try 1-2 T to start to give the gut time to adjust to the influx of good bacteria being provided.
Fermented foods have an amazing ability to cut sugar cravings down too as they provide that "neutral" sour taste that balances the body rather then a really sweet food that makes us crave salty, and vise versa.
How we eat it: add to morning potatoes, eggs, omelets, burgers, grass-fed hot dogs, beef dishes, tacos, and more!