Healthy Gut

By Dr. Alyssa Musgrove

Countless research studies have shown a healthy digestive system, commonly
referred to as your “gut,” may positively influence your immune system, sleep,
mood, and the activity of hundreds of your genes, while reducing the risk for
sickness and disease.

Our gut bacteria help metabolize the food we eat and assist in digestion. The perfect
balance should be approximately 85% good bacteria and 15% bad bacteria. If this
ratio gets out of balance, it affects the body in a negative way. By consuming certain
types of foods, called prebiotics and probiotics, you can help bring these ratios back
into balance.

Prebiotics – Reach for the Fiber
Scientific literature indicates that increasing prebiotic fiber intake supports bone
density, bowel movement regularity, weight management, immunity, brain health
and digestive health.

Prebiotics are a type of non-digestible fiber compound found in fiber-rich foods.
These prebiotic compounds go through the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract
undigested since the human body cannot fully break them down. Once they pass
through the small intestine, they reach the colon where they are fermented by the
gut microflora. The fermentation process feeds beneficial bacteria colonies
(including probiotic bacteria) and helps to increase the number of desirable bacteria
in our digestive system.

The best prebiotic fiber is found in raw, whole foods. The following foods help add
prebiotic fiber to your diet and improve your overall health:
 Raw or cooked onions
 Raw garlic
 Raw leeks
 Raw asparagus
 Green peas
 Snow peas
 Chickpeas
 Lentils
 Red kidney beans
 Yams
 Nectarines
 Persimmon
 Grapefruit
 Under-ripe bananas
 Couscous

 Raw jicama
 Raw cashews
 Raw pistachios
 Seaweed
 Raw dandelion greens
 Chicory root

There are many ways to begin incorporating these foods into your diet. Bananas
that are not yet fully ripe (still green) are not soft and sweet tasting, but work well
in smoothies or warmed up as a dessert. Raw asparagus or jicama can be thinly
sliced and thrown in a salad for added crunch. Try using raw garlic in dips,
homemade salsa, spreads and tomato salads.

In general, women should be getting 25 grams of fiber per day and men should be
getting 35 grams per day. Most people, unfortunately, are only getting about 15
grams per day.

It is not always possible to eat enough foods rich in prebiotic fiber to nourish your
beneficial bacteria. If you are looking for a healthy way to supplement or add to your
fiber intake beyond whole foods, organic whole-husk psyllium is a simple, cost-
effective way to do it. (Be careful not to increase fiber intake too rapidly, as it can
cause bloating, constipation and gas.)

Probiotics – The Beneficial Bacteria
Probiotics are live beneficial bacteria that are naturally created by the process of
fermentation in foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and yogurt. Probiotics are most
commonly consumed in pill form yet are also available as an added ingredient in
health drinks, such as kombucha, and some foods, such as miso soup.

Probiotics are most commonly recommended by health professionals in supplement
form to patients on antibiotics in an attempt to repopulate the colon with desirable
bacteria after the course of antibiotics has wiped out both beneficial and
undesirable bacteria. Besides antibiotics, your gut bacteria are also very sensitive to
chlorinated water, antibacterial soap, alcohol (except red wine), smoking, poor sleep
habits, emotional stress, sugar consumption, environmental pollution and
agricultural chemicals.

Fermented foods are the best way to consume probiotics and achieve optimal
digestive health — two tablespoons per day is ideal. Apple cider vinegar is a great
source of healthy acids that support the function of probiotics and can easily be
added to salad dressing or beverages. You can also reach for traditionally-made
fermented foods including various pickled fermentations of cabbage, turnips,
eggplant, cucumbers, carrots and okra. If you choose to drink kombucha or kefir, be
sure to choose a version without high amounts of added sugar.

If you regularly eat fermented foods that have not been pasteurized (pasteurization
kills naturally occurring probiotics), your gut bacteria will thrive. If you do not eat
fermented foods or drinks, taking a high quality probiotic supplement is
recommended. But, keep in mind, supplement quality counts. The bacteria in
probiotic supplements are only effective if they are alive. Probiotic supplements will
be ineffective if the bacteria are killed by time, heat or stomach acid.

Pathways to Healing specializes in holistic chiropractic care. Dr. Alyssa Musgrove
draws on a variety of techniques, including chiropractic, kinesiology, nutrition, food
allergy testing and lifestyle counseling to assist clients in achieving optimal health and
wellness in one setting. Pathways to Healing is located at 1022 Founders Row, Lake
Oconee Village, Greensboro. The office can be reached at 706-454-2040.

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