Gut health is receiving a lot of attention recently, and with good reason. Professor Alessio Fasano is a famous pediatric gastroenterologist. He is well known for saying “What happens in the gut doesn’t stay in the gut”. Problems in your gastrointestinal tract can have far-reaching consequences elsewhere in your body. Gut problems can contribute to or be the sole cause of a number of health problems and symptoms.

Therefore you want good gut health. A lot of things can go wrong in the digestive tract. Too much sugar or alcohol can encourage the growth of harmful gut bugs. Even stress can promote the wrong gut bugs, kill off good bugs and create a leaky gut. Bouts of gastroenteritis (stomach flu) or food poisoning can cause long term problems with gut bugs. Of course, antibiotics can kill off friendly gut bugs and encourage fungal overgrowth.

Sometimes, despite trying to do all the right things, you can end up with some digestive problems that compromise your health. The following foods will help to keep your gut healthy:

Apples

Apples are an excellent source of pectin, which is a non-starch polysaccharide that humans cannot digest. It provides food for colonic bacteria that convert it into beneficial short-chain fatty acids. These acids maintain the health of beneficial gut bugs and the cells lining the colon.

The short chain fatty acids also promote epithelial growth of the cells of the intestines, thereby reducing leaky gut. The breakdown products of pectin also help to normalize intestinal contractions, therefore are good for preventing diarrhea or constipation. People with inflammatory bowel disease or other conditions that cause diarrhea often notice a big improvement when they eat stewed apples. Cooking the apples makes them gentler on the digestive system if the gut is very inflamed. Pectin even binds with and eliminates some heavy metals from your body. For all these reasons, I included pectin in the Gut Cleanse powder, which is a component of my 15 Day Cleanse. It is a 3 step program that combines superfoods, nutrients and detoxifying herbs to cleanse the liver, the gut and strengthen the immune system.

Flaxseeds/linseeds

Flaxseeds are high in a very soothing type of fiber called mucilage. It provides a protective coating over the digestive tract and can help to heal inflammation or irritation of the entire digestive tract. Flaxseeds can even help to prevent bowel cancer. Research conducted at the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, South Dakota State University showed that flaxseeds significantly decreased tumor growth in the small and large intestines of animals. The fiber in flaxseeds helps to clean the walls of the colon and remove toxins in bowel actions.

You will obtain most benefits from flaxseeds if you grind them yourself in a coffee or spice grinder until they become a soft powder. In this way, they can be added to smoothies, cereal, porridge, yoghurt, or just sprinkled over a fruit salad. They have a delicious nutty taste.

Okra

Okra is a vegetable that you may never have heard of. It is commonly found in Indian and Greek cuisine. Okra needs to be cooked before consumption and if you’ve ever eaten it, you would have noticed how slippery and slimy it is. The texture turns a lot of people off but that’s precisely where its benefits lay. Okra is excellent for pain and inflammation in the digestive tract, as well as diarrhea.

Bone broth

Bone broth is also known as homemade stock. If you slowly simmer bones, joints, marrow and cartilage in water for approximately 8 to 12 hours, the jelly-like substance that dissolves into the water has enormous healing powers for the digestive tract. The mucilaginous liquid in the broth also nourishes the immune cells that live within the intestines. Bone broth is an excellent remedy for healing leaky gut. It is extremely inexpensive and delicious. There are many recipes and instructions for making it on the internet. If you lead a busy life, you won’t always get the time to make bone broth. Glutamine powder has very similar benefits to the gut lining and helps to heal a leaky gut.

Fermented foods and drinks

This refers to all foods and beverages that contain beneficial bacteria or yeast. Examples include yoghurt, sauerkraut, kim chi, kombucha and kefir. You can purchase these at a health food store or learn to make them yourself. You can also obtain a potent dose of beneficial bacteria with a probiotic supplement such as Floratone. Probiotics help to support a healthy immune system (most of your immune system lives in your gut), reduce the risk of leaky gut and help to keep bad bugs out of your gut.

For more information about improving gut health, see the books Heal your Gut: an A to Z Guide and Healing Autoimmune Disease: A plan to help your immune system and reduce inflammation.

The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.