3 Foods to Optimize Your Gut

You just heard this riveting presentation about how awesome xyz supplement is for your gut health. You’re so convinced by what was said, going “Yep that sounds like all the symptoms I have! I need this supplement!” You spend over $100 for, maybe, a two month supply, and are left wondering after 2 weeks if the supplement is actually working (or if you got your money’s worth). Little do you realize, for that same $100, you could have purchased 2 months worth of gut restorative FOOD.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan and experimenter of supplements, but they are exactly what they say they are, A SUPPLEMENT. I believe for one’s health, a food first approach should be taken. Here are 3 foods that can be incorporated into your ‘gut health’ diet:

1. Eggs

I feel like no other food, on the planet, has been a more staple breakfast food, than eggs. We eat them scrambled, sunny side up, over medium, and, if you’re a little crazy like me, raw! Now, I want to be clear that I’m talking about the whole egg here, and preferably just the yolk if we’re getting down to the real nitty gritty. Egg yolks are very rich in a compound called choline.

Choline is a highly beneficial compound for nervous system health, as it serves as a precursor for the neurotransmitter Acetylcholine. That’s one of the more popularized functions of choline, however, the one I’m talking about is its role in gallbladder function. The gallbladder is a tiny, sac-like organ that sits behind our liver, storing compounds that help us digest food (particularly fat). In order for these compounds (Bile) to flow and work properly throughout our digestive tract, choline is needed. Specifically, Choline also helps thin the bile, preventing us from getting gallstones (oh how painful).

Our bodies produce only a small amount of choline, so most of it is required from our diet. Scary to think that only 10% of the population is eating proper amounts of Choline (Wallace et al, 2018). Choline deficient diets have the potential to lead to Fatty Liver Disease and neurological abnormalities in the developing fetus. Since Choline is found mostly in animal foods (eggs, liver, red meat), vegans and vegetarians may stand to benefit from supplementation. At least 1–2 whole eggs per day is enough to meet adequate intake for Choline.

2. Liver

If there was one actual superfood on this planet, it’s liver. I like to refer to it as ‘Nature’s Multivitamin’, rich in nearly all the B vitamins, choline, copper, manganese, Vitamin A, and for our gut supporting purposes, the amino acids Glycine and Glutamine.

Amino acids are said to be the building blocks of protein (i.e. you need amino acids to make proteins), and there are 20 amino acids that our body uses. There are 20 of these, 9 of which the body can’t make on its own, so they are termed essential amino acids. Glutamine and Glycine are both considered non-essential (we can make them), however, just because we can make them doesn’t mean we will make enough of them, hence eating foods with these amino acids.

Glycine and Glutamine are both needed to make Glutathione, one of our body’s master antioxidants that works to get rid of free radicals from pathogens, too much stress, and poor diet. So eating foods rich in these amino acids (Liver) can provide our bodies more of the building blocks to make this power molecule.

These amino acids also serve unique functions on their own: Glutamine has been shown to lead to improvements in rat models of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Liu et al, 2017). Glycine also shows improvements in markers of intestinal health in animal models. These are only animal models, so hopefully in the future we will have more human data regarding these specific amino acids on gut function.

3. Sardines

Yes, I know you all probably turned away at this point, saying to yourself, “Self, there’s no way I could ever eat sardines, they smell gosh awful!” I found myself saying that early on as well, but when I found out that 2 cans of sardines can give me 3 grams of Omega-3’s (more than a typical serving from an Omega-3/Fish Oil supplement) I got used to the smell very easily. Not to mention they are also high in protein, and trace minerals such as selenium and zinc.

Omega-3’s have been a popular supplement for the past several decades, and for good reason. Their main, touted function, is being anti-inflammatory. The digestive tract can be just as prone as any other part of the body to inflammation. Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) have seen great benefit with adding a source of Omega 3’s. Dosages ranging from 1 grams-2 grams (still less than 2 cans of sardines) reduced markers of inflammation in IBD patients (Marton et al, 2019). Studies also revealed that higher intake of Omega-3’s was associated with less incidence of IBD. Omega-3’s also produce compounds that help repair the gut lining (Resolvins & Protectins, isn’t science great when the names make sense).

Now I don’t expect everyone to go out and make themselves a nice, delicious meal of eggs, sardines and liver (something I have quite often), but more so wanted to build awareness around foods that could be impactful on your gut. If you’d like more information on gut specific supplements, such as probiotics, check out my article called Why Kombucha isn’t Fixing Your Gut Health. If you’re someone who’s already eating these foods regularly and still struggling with gut issues, I’d recommend you seek out a Functional Medicine Provider who will help get to the root cause of your symptoms.

As always, trust in Your Gut.

Disclaimer: This is not meant to convey medical advice, if you’re looking for such, please consult a qualified medical practitioner.

References

Liu, Y., Wang, X., et Hu, C. Therapeutic Potential of Amino Acids in Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Nutrients, 2017, 9(9): 1–18.

Marton, L., Goulart, R., Carvalho, A., Barbalho, S. Omega fatty acids and inflammatory bowel disease: An overview. Int Journal of Mol Sci, 2019, 20(19): 1–16

Wallace, T., Blusztajn, J., Caudill, M., Klatt, K., Natker, E., .. et Zelman, K. Choline: The Underconsumed and Underappreciated Essential Nutrient. Nut Today, 2018, 53(6): 240–253.

--

--

I help those with IBS & Hashimoto's regain confidence in their gut. Functional Medicine Practitioner. Insta: @dr.nickbelden. Podcast Host: Gut Check Radio

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Nick Belden, DC

I help those with IBS & Hashimoto's regain confidence in their gut. Functional Medicine Practitioner. Insta: @dr.nickbelden. Podcast Host: Gut Check Radio