I was at a conference a little while ago with some colleagues, many of whom I’ve known for 20 years. Knowing that I am now a Health Coach, one of them asked me about a gassy, rumbly, sometimes bloated gut that she’s had for some time.
It’s not my business to diagnose things. On the other hand, I know that a gassy, rumbly gut is not a happy gut. I’ve had some experience with similar symptoms myself in recent years, and am happy to say that I am on the other side of that experience with a gut that is quite happy.
So this friend and I had a little chat. What we eat can have a big impact on the health of our gut. For one thing, it can cause changes in the balance of bacteria or microbiome, and thus cause weight gain. We are quick to blame a high-fat diet for unwanted weight gain and for gut dis-ease, and surely, some fats should be avoided.
Refined omega-6 rich vegetable oils fall into the “bad fats” category.
Polyunsaturated fats from soybean, canola, and other seed oils are inflammatory. Avoid them if you want to be healthier.
Throughout history, humans consumed a much higher ratio of omega 3 fats to omega 6 fats than we do today. Wild foods like grass-fed beef and wild-caught fish provide a great source of omega 3s, but these foods are not a big part of our modern diet. The factory-farmed animals that do make up much of our modern diet have almost zero omega 3 fats.
And here’s what happens. When the ratio of omega 6s is too high, an easy thing to have happen while eating a standard American diet (SAD), is that we become much more susceptible to heart disease, diabesity, and cancer, to name a few illnesses. When the the omega 6s are too high, inflammation increases in the body, which has been linked to depression, suicide, and other major health problems.
One way to reverse this trend, and create optimum health, is to have more healthy oils like coconut oil, avocados, and extra-virgin olive oil.
These oils actually promote healthier gut bugs, and increased weight loss.
The human gut is a huge chemical factory that helps us to digest food, produce vitamins, regulate hormones, excrete toxins, produce healing compounds, and keep the gut healthy and well-able to perform its many chores for our good. It is like a separate ecosystem, requiring lots of balancing, just like the ecosystem of a rain forest.
There is no question that optimal gut balance begins with the diet, which directly affects that balance. Lots of fiber, healthy protein, not necessarily animal protein, and a generous amount of healthy fats from fruits and nuts will improve healthy gut flora, while foods containing inflammatory fats, like omega 6 vegetable oils, promote the growth of bugs that are not friends of our guts.
We return to the weight loss issue. Even obesity has been linked to changes in our gut ecosystem, resulting from an intake of inflammatory omega 6s and not enough anti-inflammatory omega 3s.
Additionally, lack of sleep and chronic stress also contribute to gut imbalance. Gut flora listens to and is influenced by thoughts and feelings. Hence – the importance of 7 to 8 hours of quality sleep, and the practice of daily stress reduction activities.
7 Ways to Optimize Gut Flora
1. Eat whole, unprocessed, unrefined foods. Cutting out sugar and refined carbs like bread and pasta is one of the best ways to maintain gut health, and eating more fiber rich (raw) fruits and vegetables will promote gut health.
2. Make 75% of your plate be vegetables and plant-based foods. Guts really love these high fiber plant foods, especially when the fiber is not compromised by cooking.
3. Eat good fats, the omega 3 varieties – those derived from fruit (olive, avocado, etc.), and nuts (almond, sesame, walnut, etc.)
4. Add more coconut. It contains medium chain triglyceride (or MCT oil), which are fabulous at fat-burning.
5. Remove inflammatory fats. Cut our bad omega 6 oils, like vegetable oils.
6. Add more raw nuts and seeds to your diet. They contain a special fiber called glucomannan, which feeds our healthy bacteria.
7. Add fermented foods. Have some, not a large amount, necessarily, every day. Include any or all of these: sauerkraut, (make sure to get the uncooked kind. The cooked varieties have already had their valuable pro-biotic material destroyed), kimchi, tempeh, and miso. They all contain good amounts of probiotics which encourage the healthy gut bugs to be fruitful and multiply.
Inflammatory fats will definitely damage your gut bacteria. The right fats, however, including omega 3s and extra-virgin olive oil combined with a whole, real food diet can actually repair your gut and even increase good bacteria.
Here’s to your very best gut health, the beginning point for all good health!