OK, so this topic is not super glamorous but a healthy gut, (gastrointestinal or GI tract), is essential for our overall health and wellness. First a little primer on your large intestine aka the colon, (exciting!), and then we will discuss what to eat and why.
We all know the large intestine is in charge of eliminating “that which is of no use to our bodies,” aka waste or non-digestible food products. The large intestine is also where water and sodium are reabsorbed back into our bloodstream and is the site for synthesis of short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), B-vitamins and vitamin K. These nutrients primarily feed the cells of the GI tract. Well, so what, right? It turns out the cells lining our GI tract serve as the largest immune tissue in our bodies! Even more amazing is recent understanding that the cells of our GI tract secrete enough regulatory hormones to be considered the largest endocrine organ in our body!
If you want to keep those puppies happy – two things – eat fiber and fermented foods.
Fiber is considered a Prebiotic while fermented foods are considered a Probiotic. Both are essential to gut health. Fiber found in whole plant foods (fruits, veggies, grains, nuts, and seeds) is used by the large intestine to influence “transit” time length. Fiber also feeds the gut flora, which are the healthy bacteria that use fiber as a medium to synthesize nutrients like SCFAs, vitamin K, and B-vitamins that are essential for GI cells. Fermented foods such as miso, tempeh, cultured dairy (kefir, yogurt), kombucha tea, kimchi, chutneys and any fruit/vegetable fermented using lactic acid support a healthy intestinal flora. They also provide Lactobacillus acidophilus, a healthy source of bacteria.
So, please, please, please eat MORE fiber and fermented foods. Eat LESS sugar and refined foods. Your ability to fight the common cold AND chronic disease depends on it.
P.S. The aim of this post was to focus on beneficial foods for the large intestine. There are many other factors affecting GI health. Some of these are: malnutrition, toxic agents, amount and type of digestive enzymes, bacterial infection, and nervous system regulation.
Tahirih lives and practices yoga in La Jolla. As a nutritionist, she utilizes food science along with the body’s intuitive knowledge to maximize health, wellness, and joyful living. As a yoga and meditation teacher, she understands the value of daily mindfulness practices in guiding our food and lifestyle choices. When all else fails, she and her kids swim in the ocean and eat straight out of the garden. She is the founder of Salmonberry Consulting where she helps people balance the interplay between food, movement, and spirit. Connect with Tahirih on Facebook as well as Salmonberry’s website.