Optimizing Nutrition for Intestinal Wellness

The prevalence of intestinal issues and digestive complications globally is quite common these days, affecting millions each year. In fact, irritable bowel syndrome affects about 11% of the global population.

Several types of intestinal conditions exist, including celiac disease, diverticulitis, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), Crohn’s disease, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Further, research suggests that those who suffer from a dysfunctional gut microbiome are at greater risk of developing other diseases and health conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. This points to the need for a solution for this issue, and thankfully, there is continued, promising research going on in this area.

In what follows, we’ll summarize some intestinal conditions and their characteristics. Further, we’ll define optimal intestinal wellness and the nutritional suggestions to reach such status. More specifically, we’ll discuss the optimal foods and diets for the gut microbiome and some healthy dietary habits that should be implemented. 

Intestinal Wellness

Intestinal conditions are ailments that result in digestive complications that can affect the entire digestive system, including the stomach and intestines.

Some of the potential known causes of GI conditions are lifestyle factors, overuse of medications, intestinal injury, intestinal vascular issues, and genetics. Yet, many of the causes are idiopathic.

Intestinal wellness is defined by the normal transit of food through the gut with no issues of constipation, malabsorption, or other digestive issues.

Though there is not yet a cure for many of the prevalent GI conditions noted earlier, steps can be taken to help prevent or manage their associated symptoms. Since the gut microbiome is dictated by the foods we consume and how we consume them, steps toward optimal intestinal wellness involve a centered focus on diet and nutrition.

Healthy Habits for Intestinal Wellness

For those already suffering from certain gastrointestinal issues, such as Crohn’s disease, additional interventions will likely be required, such as certain medications and, in severe cases, surgical treatment.

Yet, in many cases, some simpler lifestyle interventions can help significantly in optimizing intestinal wellness. Moreover, these interventions are appropriate for both the prevention and management of such symptoms.

Thoroughly Chew Food

While the notion of chewing food thoroughly is one that is often taught at a young age, it is easily forgotten, and many individuals get into the habit of eating fast even if they aren’t very hungry. However, adequately chewing food aids tremendously in both the digestion of food itself and the absorption of its nutrients.

Though the number of chews it takes to optimize its digestion and absorption differs based on texture, tenderness, and size of the food, the average expert recommendation is 32-40 chews.

Supplement with Probiotics

Probiotics have bacterial organisms that are very beneficial to the health of the brain, the gut, and beyond.

Probiotic use has shown the benefits of improved mood, better digestion, and improved overall gut health. It’s also been suggested through research that regular probiotic supplementation can aid in the prevention of chronic illness and act as a treatment for several intestinal symptoms.

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

It’s no secret that hydration is key to optimizing health and wellness. However, it’s easily overlooked by individuals who have developed the habit of not paying attention to drinking hydrating liquids.

Ensuring optimal hydration also provides the smooth transit of food through the digestive system, thus leading to optimal intestinal wellness. According to the National Academy of Medicine, adequate daily amounts of hydrating fluid intake are 9-13 cups depending on an individual’s sex, size, and activity level.

The Best Diet for a Healthy Gut Biome

While you might have heard the adage “the best diet is the one you’re going to stick to,”  when discussing the gut microbiome, greater specificity is required. Since everyone has a unique gut microbiome makeup, the requirements for individual gut optimization can differ from person to person.

There are, however, certain precursors to healthy microbiota that everyone should consider implementing into their regular dietary regimen. The following are several foods to include in a gut-healthy diet.

High Fiber Foods

Fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and beans are all excellent sources of fiber and other dietary nutrients that optimize the gut microbiome. Some examples include berries, bananas, spinach, broccoli, lentils, and black beans.

Fermented Foods

Foods that have undergone fermentation are also optimal for the gut microbiome since they have lactobacilli, a good bacteria that can replace bad bacteria, such as Enterobacteriaceae. Some examples include kimchi, yogurt, and sauerkraut.

Polyphenol-rich Foods

Polyphenols offer several health benefits, such as reducing oxidative stress, gut stress, and inflammation. Some examples include grapes, dark chocolate, and green tea.

The primary takeaway to curating a gut-healthy diet is diversity. Eating a wide range of foods increase the likelihood of having a diverse microbiome abundant in all nutrients and bacteria, thus optimizing intestinal wellness.

Final Thoughts

Diet and nutrition play a major role in the health of the gut microbiome and intestinal wellness. Therefore, learning about the best dietary components of a healthy gut will be extremely helpful in improving wellness.

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