6 Easy Ways To Improve Gut Health With Your Diet

Photo: getty
How To Improve Gut Health With Your Diet

Simple changes in your diet can improve your gut health.

If you're tired of feeling fatigued, depressed, or just not 100 percent your best, then it's time you looked to an unlikely place: Your gut health.

Believe it or not, knowing how to improve your gut health can lead to a host of improvements not just in your body, but also in your mental health.

Choosing a good "gut health diet" is imperative for giving your body and your mind the energy and nutrients you need to operate at your best every day.

RELATED: 15 Best Brain-Boosting Foods You Should Be Eating Daily

If you look at life today, it's busy, and not in a good way. You barely have time to meal prep on Sundays, never mind have a home-cooked dinner ready for the whole family every evening.

Eating is frequently where you run into a dilemma. Society has you glorifying the busy lifestyle, which makes you choose the quicker, more convenient option.

And although business can make it feel impossible to prepare adequate meals every day, it's important to remember that small changes will be less overwhelming and are more likely to be a permanent change in your eating habits.

If you want to build healthier eating habits and boost your physical and mental health, take a look at what fuel you're putting into your body every day.

Here are 7 ways you can improve your gut health by changing your diet.

1. Eat the "rainbow."

What color is your plate? I'm not talking about your China set. Most people don't eat enough colors. When they describe their dinner, it's beige potatoes, beige chicken, and yellow corn.

You need to be eating colors!

Orange and purple carrots give you beta-carotene, green avocados give you healthy fats, and blueberries give you strong antioxidants. The coloring is supposed to attract the human eye to seem desirable. You can't out-supplement a bad diet. 

Starting with variety is key! Don't become overwhelmed with making every plate colorful. Adding one colorful thing to every meal is way easier than cutting something out.

I am a huge fan of overnight oats for breakfast. Add some blueberries to that, and boom! There's your fiber and color.

2. Cut out empty calories.

I hate to break it to you, but that venti caramel frappe is just spiking your blood sugar and causing you to gain weight. Do I love me some blended goodness? Of course, but not every day.

All of the coffee benefits are negated when you put that much dairy and sugar into it. This is the same for the 32-ounce Big Gulp soda and the bag of chips.

If you're putting something into your mouth, it will either help you heal or speed up your death. I don't mean to be dramatic, but if you make the same food choices day in and day out, that's a lot of empty calories that aren't contributing to your health.

3. Organic is best.

That doesn't mean you need to buy all organic produce. That can get expensive, plus produce goes bad quickly if you don't eat it right away.

There are so many studies linking the pesticides to cancer and IBD/S and endocrine disruption. A good rule to follow is: If the people applying the pesticides aren't allowed to come in contact with it, why should you be allowed to ingest it?

Some foods absorb more pesticides than others. The "dirty dozen" is a list of the foods that absorb the most pesticides. It is updated yearly with the newest information on which foods should always be organic to avoid the most exposure.

RELATED: 6 Ways To Boost Your Immune System: What You Need To Stay Strong & Healthy

4. Be aware of your bathroom schedule.

If you aren't having a bowel movement every day, you have a problem. I'm not talking about the post-coffee poo, either. Your bowel movements should not be dependent on your caffeine intake.

If you're eating the same lunch at work every day and you have explosive diarrhea every day, you might want to pay attention. This is a flashing neon sign from your body that something's going on, and it isn't good. Listen to your body!

This is not a normal reaction to food. The food is literally touching the lining of your gut, so if you have an issue with your gut, you need to modify what's going down that pathway.

5. Learn what foods are inflammatory.

If you have gut irritation, you're more than likely reacting to one of a few specific foods. This isn't a list of foods causing anaphylactic reactions, like peanuts, but rather a list of foods it's tough for your body to break down.

If you're eating them frequently, your body will show signs of distress.

Dairy

This includes milk, creamers, ice cream, sour cream, eggs, and cheese. Dairy takes a while to completely detox out, but once you do, you'll notice a world of difference.

Sugar

This ingredient does nothing but taste good and light up the inflammatory pathways in your body.

Gluten

Even if you don't have celiac disease, you may not realize you're reacting negatively to gluten, be it the pesticides, over-processing, or something else that's inflaming your intestines.

Corn

Another overly-processed food is corn. The corn of today wasn't around years ago. It's been cross-bred so many times, it has new genes!

One of these genes targets the shikimate pathway in bugs so they can't eat the plant. While you don't have that pathway in your physiology and it should be safe to consume, the bacteria that lives in your gut definitely does.

Soy

This can be the hardest to avoid. When you look at a label, there's always a soy ingredient added as a preservative.

Not all soy is bad! Tempeh, for example, is a good protein substitute.

For most people, there are certain conditions that I would advise no soy exposure. But you should always consult your doctor before making diet changes. This list is by no means exhaustive.

6. Fresh, frozen, or canned?

Whenever possible, eat fresh produce. If you only go grocery shopping once a week, half of your produce might spoil by then. And if you're making a smoothie in the fall, fresh berries are hard to find.

So if you're meal prepping for the week, or know your kids will eat six bananas in two days, then, by all means, get fresh!

The next-best option is frozen. They're packaged at the peak of freshness, so no matter when you cook them, you're getting nutrients. Canned is still good, however!

It's better to have canned green beans than none at all. Do consider the lining of the cans, I'm sure you've heard about BPA, so try to avoid that as much as possible.

The bottom line is, everyone has a different lifestyle. If you have the time and the means to grocery shop twice a week and only have fresh produce, more power to you!

However, don't feel shame around food choices — you're doing the best you know how. Veggies are veggies, and as long as you're offering it to your family and consuming it, that's what's important.

In a world of beige plates, get color any way possible!

Taking control of your gut health can affect every aspect of your health. When you have healthy building blocks, you can properly make hormones and proteins to build a stronger body from the inside out.

If you take a pill once a day and expect it to change your health, why wouldn't you control what you put in your mouth three to five times a day? That has equal if not more of an effect on your health.

RELATED: 7 Ways To Stop Emotional Eating & Be Mindful Of Your Diet

Sign Up for the YourTango Newsletter

Let's make this a regular thing!

Dr. Kelly Winnett is a naturopathic doctor who specializes in diabetes, fertility issues, and other health and wellness problems in Arizona. For more information on how she can help you, visit her website here.

Author
Expert