The health of your gut significantly impacts your overall health, not to mention your training efficacy, energy availability and recovery rate. Your diet directly influences your gut, so here are good and bad food choices for a healthy gut
A healthy gut – why does it matter?
The gut is home to trillions of bacteria which work to keep your entire body functioning optimally. Dr David Perlmutter was spot on when he said, “a healthy microbiome translates into a healthy human”.
The bacteria in your gut influences:
- How you store fat
- Your hormone levels
- Blood sugar levels
- Your mood
- Your immune system
The last of these is the most important: immune system.
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80% of immune system cells reside in the gut, so the health of your gut directly impacts immunity. A compromised immune system equals greater susceptibility to illness, slower recovery and reduced ability to reap training adaptations.
Gut health should be up there as a primary focus for athletes. After all, being a healthy human is handy if you want to get the best from yourself.
Good foods for gut health
No factor influences the happiness of your gut more than your diet. A study published by The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society states:
“Diet, especially high intake of fermentable fibres and plant polyphenols, regulates microbial activities within the gut, supporting regulatory guidelines encouraging increased consumption of whole-plant foods (fruit, vegetables and whole-grain cereals)”.
Gut health and endurance – remove GI distress by creating a healthy biome with your body
Most central to this is fibre - specifically prebiotics - which feeds the good bacteria needed to thrive for optimal bodily functions.
Healthy gut foods include:
- Good fats – nuts and seeds such as flaxseed and chia are all winners
- High fibre – asparagus, broccoli, seaweed and spirulina
- Slow-burning carbohydrates - sweet potato, squash and oats
- Plant-proteins – pea, sunflower and rice, all of which are found in our Premium Protein
- Fruit – bananas (also in our Premium Protein) and apples
- Other ingredients – onion, garlic, turmeric
As New York Times columnist Jane Brody puts it: “People interested in fostering a health-promoting array of gut microorganisms should consider shifting from a diet heavily based on meats and processed foods to one that emphasizes plants”.
Bad foods for gut health
At the opposite end of the spectrum, you’ll wreak havoc on your gut by consuming:
Sugar: the gut’s great enemy
- Sugar - the gut’s greatest enemy. Refined sugar in kills good gut bacteria and causes inflammation, the precursor of many chronic diseases
- Dairy - casein and whey are hard to digest due to many of us having insufficient lactase (the enzyme which breaks down lactose in milk)
- GM foods – genetically modified foods are treated with a tonne of pesticides that kill good gut bacteria
- Eggs - the GM corn and soy chickens are fed trickles down to their eggs and into your body
- Caffeine - gastroenterologist Dr Shawn Khodadadian states: “Because of coffee’s acidity, it can adversely affect the lining of your stomach and intestines. If you drink a lot of coffee over an extended period, it will worsen any existing conditions you may have”
Good and bad foods for gut health - conclusion
The diversity of your diet matters. Regardless whether you are plant-based, an occasional meat eater or a low-carb athlete, consuming a diverse range of foods will improve gut health.
As far as possible, avoid foods which destroy good bacteria and you’ll see an increase in health and athletic performance.
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