As leading digestive health experts, we at the Taymount Clinic are often asked: ‘What are the best foods to help keep our guts in tip top shape.’
Of course, the best place to start is with a diverse, unprocessed, wholefoods diet and this can go a long way to keeping the gut healthy and happy. But if this isn’t doing the trick, or if you just want to optimise your gut health, there are many particularly therapeutic foods which you can try incorporating into your diet.
Below is a list of our top 6 (in no particular order).
Whilst some of these will be more familiar to you than others, all of them are fairly easy to get hold, either online or from your local health food shop.
Flaxseed and Chia Seeds
Both of these seeds form a thick gel called mucilage when mixed with water. This gel coats the lining of the gut, soothing and protecting it. These seeds are also high in soluble fibre, which feeds beneficial bacteria. The gel and soluble fibre they contain absorbs water, which improves stool consistency in both constipation and diarrhoea.
Foods High in Resistant Starch: Cold Potatoes, Oats, Plantain, Green Bananas
Resistant starch is a type of starch which is not absorbed into the body, reaching the large intestine where it is fermented by gut flora. Of all dietary fibre, resistant starch is particularly good at increasing the production of butyrate, a short chain fatty acid, which is the preferred food of the cells which make up the gut lining. It also has anti-inflammatory properties among other health benefits.
Fermented foods: Yoghurt, Kefir, Kombucha, Sauerkraut, Kimchi
Fermented foods are packed with beneficial bacteria, which help maintain the diversity of your gut flora which is central to healthy digestion. Those with digestive issues may find they do not tolerate fermented foods well. If this is the case, don’t give up, just start with a very small serving (as little as 1/4 tsp) and gradually increase to let your body adjust.
These are the proper old fashioned stocks that granny used to make, simmered for hours and sometimes days. They are rich in the conditionally essential amino acids glycine and glutamine, which are essential to maintaining a healthy gut lining.
Peppermint has antispasmodic properties, which means that it helps to relax the muscle in the gut. It can be taken in the form of tea, or as peppermint oil capsules. The latter may be more effective – peppermint oil capsules have been shown to relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome in some people.
Ginger is another herb/spice which can sooth digestive upset and has been used traditionally for this purpose for thousands of years. There are many ways to incorporate ginger into your diet, but we find it can be particularly soothing when made into fresh ginger tea.
We hope you feel the benefits of incorporating these foods into your lifestyle. Digestive health is so important and while dependent on a wide range of factors, many yet to be discovered, diet is a great place to start.