So, what’s the deal with gut health? Our digestive system or “gut” is one of the most important systems in our body! It does so much for us, allowing us to digest our food and absorb its nutrients. Our gut is the home of many bacteria, and what we put in our body can heavily influence the balance of good and bad bacteria in our microbiome.
What are some common causes of gut imbalances?
- Lack of proper nutrients and prebiotics:
Healthy gut flora is diverse, and for optimal diversity it’s important to eat a range of foods, including fruits and vegetables which are a great source of fiber. Prebiotics, or the compounds in our food that support the growth and activity of bacteria, are also important to have. Some sources of prebiotics include chickpeas, oats, garlic, leeks, onion, bananas, and asparagus. Processed and inflammatory foods can create inflammation in our gut, which inhibits digestion and the absorption of nutrients. Alcohol can also wipe out the good bacteria, so limiting your intake is beneficial for improving gut health.
If you want to add more prebiotic fiber into your routine or you find it difficult to consume enough through your diet alone, there are some great supplement options. Our favorite is the Metagenics UltraGI Replenish.
Antibiotics are incredibly helpful when used to treat bacterial infections and diseases, but in terms of gut health, antibiotics get rid of the bad bacteria and the good bacteria. Because of this, it’s important to re-establish the good bacteria in the gut if you take antibiotics, and for this reason we recommend taking a good probiotic once your medication is finished (at least 6 hours later). If you have any questions about which probiotic is right for you, we’d be happy to help you with recommendations!
We’re constantly told that stress is bad for us, but how does it affect our gut? Our gut is connected to our nervous system which means that when we are stressed, our sympathetic nervous system becomes activated. This triggers a fight or flight response in the body and releases the stress hormone, cortisol. At this point, proper digestion is inhibited, and the stomach produces more acid causing indigestion. In more serious cases, stress can cause a decrease of blood flow to the stomach which can lead to inflammation and imbalance of gut bacteria.
If you want to improve your gut health, managing stress (especially while eating) is important. Set some time aside for yourself and have gratitude for what your digestive system does for you. Relax while you eat. Focus on chewing properly to break down your food into pieces that are easier to digest. Even if you’re on the go, try to set aside a few minutes to eat mindfully.
What Can You Do to Support Gut Flora?
Nourish Your Gut with Nutrients:
Nourish your gut by eating the rainbow in fruits and vegetables and be sure to include lots of omega 3 foods to help strengthen membranes and reduce inflammation. As we discussed above, probiotics are great for establishing healthy gut flora; they replenish good bacteria, boost immunity, and keep our bowels “regular”. Fermented foods are another great source of the good bacteria and enzymes that benefit our digestive system.
Because of its amazing health benefits, the last food we want to highlight is bone broth! Not only is it chock full of easily digestible vitamins and minerals, the high glutamine content in bone broth helps to protect and maintain our intestinal lining. It’s a great base for many recipes and can be used in more than just soups! If you’re unable to make your own at home, we love Borderland Food Bone Broth as they are local to Calgary and produce great quality broths. They have many options like grass-fed bison, grass-fed chicken, grass-fed beef, and a bone broth smoothie base!
Gut Rejuvenating Squash Soup
This recipe is inspired by gut-nourishing food with a yummy bone broth base. It’s an easy-to-digest meal that is tasty and beneficial to our microbiome. Enjoy!
– 1 Butternut Squash (medium to large)
– 2 Onions (small to medium)
– 2 Cups of Bone broth (Homemade or Borderland)
– 1 Small Can of Pumpkin Puree
– 2 Red Apples (your choice)
– 2 Cups Unsweetened Cashew Milk (or coconut milk)
– 1 tbsp Kosher Salt
– ½ tsp Black Pepper
– ½ tsp Ground Garlic
– ⅛ tsp Turmeric
– ⅛ tsp Chili Powder
– ⅛ tsp Cumin
– Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
– Hemp hearts
– Light Sprinkle of Cinnamon
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Get a large baking sheet and line with parchment paper. Cut the butternut squash in half and make sure to remove the seeds. Lightly salt the squash and place on the baking sheet with the inside facing down.
- Cut the onion into quarters and place on the baking sheet.
- Cut the apples into small- to medium-sized pieces and make sure the core is removed. Place on the baking sheet and lightly salt along with onions.
- Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake until the squash is tender (easily poked with utensil). Remove from the oven and let cool for 8-10 minutes.
- Scoop out the squash into a big pot and add the onions, apples, pumpkin puree, bone broth, cashew milk, and all spices.
- If you have an immersion blender, blend in the pot until the soup mixture is smooth. A food processor will work as well. We’re looking for a nice smooth texture where all ingredients are combined well.
- Place the pot over medium heat and heat the soup through.
- Serve and add toppings if desired!
By Natalie Ovics, CHN
Papillon Medical & Dermatology