Five Foods To Help Heal Your Gut
By Elle Eastwood – Naturopath & Nutritionist BHSc
In my last post, I addressed ‘5 things you need to know about your gut’ so this week we are talking about what foods you can eat that have healing effects on the gut. You probably already have a few in your kitchen!
There is good reason bone broth is touted as one of the most healing and sealing foods for your gut and is the basis for many gut healing diets – because it’s true! Bone broth is an incredibly nutrient dense food. When the bones are simmered, minerals (such as magnesium, calcium and phosphorus) are released in easily absorbable forms, alongside important amino acids such as glycine, proline and glutamine. Bone broth is also a rich source of collagen and gelatin. Gelatin is particularly healing on the gastrointestinal lining by helping maintain the integrity of our gastric mucosa, thereby reducing intestinal permeability (i.e leaky gut) and having a ‘sealing’ effect on the gut.
Probiotic rich yogurt
It is a myth that probiotic supplements are always superior to food sources of probiotics such as yoghurt. In fact, yoghurt can provide a very effective medium for ensuring viable numbers of bacteria reach the small and large intestine intact. Vaalia yoghurt and Activia are both Australian made proven probiotic yoghurts. Vaalia contains 3 probiotic strains including Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG strain. L. rhamnosus GG is a well studied probiotic strain, particularly for its use in reducing antibiotic-related diarrhoea and gut and skin conditions. Many clinical trials have demonstrated the therapeutic effects of using medicinal yoghurts. Best of all, both yoghurts can be purchased at most Australian supermarkets.
Spices such as cinnamon, ginger and turmeric have beautiful anti-inflammatory effects on the body as a whole system, but are also very soothing on the gastrointestinal tract. I recommend liberal uses of these spices in cooking for all my clients, as they are so easy to regularly incorporate into meals. Cinnamon is a carminative and spasmolytic herb, meaning it’s very effective at reducing flatulence and easing symptoms such as nausea and indigestion.
Ginger is well known for it’s anti-nausea effects but also stimulates the flow of saliva, bile and gastric secretions & some research suggests, ginger may also have anti-ulcer activity by inhibiting gastric lesions. Similarly, turmeric wields anti-inflammatory effects on almost every area of the body. In the gut, curcumin is noted for it’s effects on reducing gastrointestinal spasms, abdominal pain and indigestion.
Prebiotic rich foods:
Probiotics are frequently discussed in relation to gut health, but prebiotics play an equally important role. Prebiotics are a non-digestible fibre compound which act as a fertiliser for beneficial bacteria, giving them food to grow. Typically they increase the levels of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria in our guts- aka the good guys. Ensuring adequate levels of these bacteria is important in protecting against gastrointestinal damage, promoting pH balance within the gut and supporting vitamin B production. Prebiotic rich foods include onion, garlic, jerusalem artichoke, legumes, dandelion root, beetroot and pumpkin seeds. Feed the good bugs!
Technically, slippery elm is a herb (ulmus rubra) but it’s consumed in food form as a powder. The inner bark of slippery elm is what’s used medicinally. It is recognised as a mucilage- capable of trapping water, causing it to swell and create a gel like consistency. Slippery elm coats mucous membrane surfaces thereby soothing inflamed and irritated tissue. It’s soothing action and fibre content make it great for the treatment of diarrhoea by slowing down bowel transit time. It’s useful in all gastrointestinal conditions particularly gastric reflux, peptic ulcers, IBS and IBD.
Every single body is different and depending on what symptoms or conditions you are experiencing, healing the gut takes commitment and dedication. Be encouraged that food can be medicine for our gastrointestinal system and we get at least 3 votes a day to harm or heal! Next time, we look at how our gut affects our skin.
Elle Eastwood is a naturopath and nutritionist (BHSc) who first entered the world of complementary medicine after her own childhood journey with ulcerative colitis. Her experience of managing a chronic condition from a young age gave her a first hand insight into navigating an autoimmune disease diagnosis. Elle is committed to providing holistic treatment tailored to each individual’s unique needs. Ultimately, her goal is for patients to walk away from a consultation feeling happier and healthier! Elle is also a kiwi, cheese lover and chronic tea drinker.
Braun, L & Cohen, M 2010, Herbs & Natural Supplements- An Evidence Based Guide 3rd Ed, Elsevier Australia, Chatswood, NSW
Hawrelak, J 2016, The Natural Gastrointestinal Masterclass Two; Prevention and treatment of travellers diarrhoea and gastrointestinal microbiota restoration.
Hawrelak, J 2003, ‘Probiotics: Choosing the right one for your needs’, Journal of the Australian Traditional Medicine Society, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 67-75
The Weston Price Foundation 2003, ‘Why Broth is Beautiful: Essential Roles for Proline, Glycine & Gelatin, <https://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/why-broth-is-beautiful-essential-roles-for-proline-glycine-and-gelatin/>