Stress. We are constantly putting our bodies through it! Some of us work to combat stress; whether through yoga, taking a break from “screen-time,” or simply setting time aside for loved ones. However, have you ever thought of combating stress through your gut?! It might not be as trendy as that hot yoga class, but the gut, often referred to as our “second brain,” plays a vital role in stress. Recently, research has shown how our brain and gut work together to regulate our food intake, metabolism, body weight, immune system and brain health.
How does the food we eat impact our “second brain?” Well, the gut contains 50-100 million nerve cells (Mayer, 2016). Our diet can directly impact these nerve cells, as well as immunity cells, in a positive or negative way. If the gut senses dangerous substances in the food or liquids we ingest, it signals these immune cells to fight off bacteria and protect us from harm (Mayer, 2016). Most importantly, the gut contains the largest amount of serotonin in our body (more than 95 percent)! Serotonin - which is vital to maintaining our mood, sleep cycles, and digestion - makes sure this pathway between the gut and brain stay in constant communication. Because of this communication, that “gut feeling” you get is not just a myth. Information from the gut is actually stored in the brain! This can impact not only decisions around the food we eat but also everyday actions including decisions made in socializing or working(Mayer, 2016).
So how can we make sure this pathway, and our overall health, stays intact? Here are some tips on foods to avoid, and include, as well as a yummy gut-healthy dessert!
Worst foods for gut health:
● Dairy: casein and whey hard to digest, causing gut bacteria to ferment milk sugars.
● Gluten: most people are sensitive to gluten, which creates inflammation. Research shows that going GF helps with inflammation.
● Soy: 90% of soy products are genetically modified, and is known to contain pesticides. Glyphosate (active pesticide ingredient found in soy) shown to cause dysbiosis of gut microbes
● Corn: most corn produced is GMO, causing similar effects as soy.
● Phytates: blocks absorption of essential nutrients ( Ca, Fe, Zn, Mg, Cu)
● Sugar: any form of sugar in excess (even healthier alternatives) can feed bad gut bacteria and may result in candida overgrowth
Best foods for gut health:
● Healthy fats: including olive oil, avocados, and nut butters
● Nuts and seeds
● Low-glycemic fruits (berries)
● Slow-digesting starches/complex carbs like cooked or roasted sweet potatoes, rye bread, oats
● Hypoallergenic protein powders like pea, rice, chia
● Free-range poultry, wild-caught fish, grass fed beef
● Fermented foods like kimchi, saurkraut, and kombucha, kefir
● Dark chocolate
Chang, R. K., et, al. (2017, April 08). Influence of diet on the gut microbiome and implications for human health. Retrieved from https://translational-medicine.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12967-017-1175-y#Sec16
Harmon, K. (2014, March 19). Why is Dark Chocolate Good For You? Thank Your Microbes. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-is-dark-chocolate-good-for-you-thank-your-microbes/
Mayer, E. A. (2016). The mind-gut connection: How the hidden conversation within our bodies impacts our mood, our choices, and our overall health. New York: Harper Wave.
Pedre, V. M. (2017, November 14). Here's EXACTLY What To Eat (And What To Avoid) To Heal Your Gut. Retrieved from https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/the-best-and-worst-foods-for-gut-health
Recipe: Gut healthy ingredients : sweet potatoes, almond butter, chocolate and pea protein
4- Ingredient Flourless Sweet Potato Chocolate Chip Muffins
● 1 cup almond butter
● 2 medium sweet potatoes, cooked with skins removed
● 1 scoop vanilla plant-based protein powder (I used pea)
● ½ cup dark chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 350 and line a muffin pan with silicon baking cups.
2. Puree sweet potatoes in food processor.
3. Add in almond butter and combine.
4. Add in protein powder and combine.
5. Add batter to a bowl and mix in chocolate chips.
6. Divide batter among 9-12 baking cups and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until done.
7. Enjoy! Your gut will thank you :)
Blog post by: Bethany DiCarlo & Taylor Hisek - interns at Pro Lifestyle Nutrition