Swellness Blog


Happy Gut: What To Eat For A Healthier Digestive System

lifestyle nutrition Jul 08, 2024
Happy Gut: What To Eat For A Healthier Digestive System

 Photo by Polina Tankilevitch

Maintaining a happy gut is crucial for overall health and well-being. The digestive system plays a pivotal role in breaking down food, absorbing nutrients, and eliminating waste. A healthy gut can enhance your immune system, improve mood, and contribute to better sleep.

There's a lot to know about your gut health! Here's a comprehensive guide on what to eat for a healthier digestive system. Read on to learn more!

Why is your gut health important?

Gut health contributes to your overall well-being and has far-reaching effects on your body. Here's why:

Digestive efficiency

A healthy gut ensures food is adequately broken down and nutrients are efficiently absorbed. This helps maintain energy levels and supports the body's metabolic processes.

Immune system support

Approximately 70% of the immune system resides in the gut. If it has a solid and healthy microbiome, it can help the body fight infections and diseases by maintaining a strong and balanced immune response.

Mental health and mood regulation

The gut-brain axis is a complex communication network linking the gut and the brain. The gut produces neurotransmitters like serotonin, which play a significant role in mood regulation. Conversely, poor gut health has been linked to mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.

Inflammation control

A balanced gut microbiome helps regulate inflammation throughout the body. Chronic inflammation is associated with numerous health problems, including autoimmune diseases, heart disease, and certain cancers.

Weight management

An imbalanced gut microbiome can contribute to weight gain and obesity by regulating hunger and satiety hormones.

Chronic disease prevention

A healthy gut can help prevent chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and even some cancers. The gut microbiome regulates blood sugar, cholesterol, and overall metabolic health.

Skin health

Gut health is connected to skin conditions like acne, eczema, and psoriasis. A healthy gut promotes healthier skin by reducing inflammation and improving nutrient absorption.

Nutrient production

Certain gut bacteria are involved in synthesizing essential nutrients, such as B vitamins and vitamin K. These nutrients are crucial for energy production, blood clotting, and other bodily functions.

A healthy gut also helps detoxify by efficiently eliminating waste and harmful substances from the body. This prevents the build-up of toxins that can negatively impact health. By prioritizing gut health, you can support your body's functions and enhance your quality of life.

Probiotics: The Good Bacteria

Probiotics are live microorganisms that provide numerous health benefits when properly and regularly consumed. They're primarily known for their positive effects on gut health and overall well-being. These beneficial bacteria and yeasts can be found in various fermented foods and dietary supplements, including:

  • Yogurt: Yogurt is made from milk fermented by probiotic bacteria.
  • Kefir: Kefir is a fermented milk drink containing diverse probiotic bacteria and yeasts.
  • Sauerkraut: Fermented cabbage rich in probiotics. The best time to eat sauerkraut for gut health is during or before a meal.
  • Kimchi: A Korean dish made from fermented vegetables such as cabbage and radishes.
  • Miso: A traditional Japanese seasoning produced by fermenting soybeans with salt and koji.
  • Tempeh: Tempeh is a fermented soybean product.
  • Pickles: Naturally fermented pickles without vinegar are a good source of probiotics.
  • Fermented soy beverages: Soy-based drinks contain probiotic strains.

Probiotics are crucial in maintaining and improving gut health. They help balance the gut microbiota by replenishing good bacteria that may be depleted due to poor diet, stress, antibiotics, and illness. A balanced gut microbiome is paramount to optimal digestive health.

In addition, probiotics help restore the balance of gut flora, enhance digestion and nutrient absorption, and provide many other health benefits. For optimal results, you must consume a variety of probiotic strains and maintain a balanced diet rich in prebiotic fibers that feed these beneficial bacteria.

Prebiotics: Fuel for probiotics

Prebiotics are non-digestible food components that promote positive microorganisms' growth and activity in the gut, mainly probiotics. They're a kind of dietary fiber that serves as food for the live bacteria, which are probiotics.

Prebiotics are specialized plant fibers that human enzymes can't digest. Instead, they pass through the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract and stimulate the growth or activity of healthy bacteria in the large intestine. This process helps maintain a healthy gut microbiome.

Prebiotics are found naturally in many plant-based foods, such as:

  • Jerusalem artichoke, garlic, leeks, and chicory root: These items contain high levels of inulin, a prebiotic fiber.
  • Onions: Rich in inulin and fructooligosaccharides.
  • Dandelion greens and asparagus: Both contain inulin and other beneficial fibers.
  • Bananas: Green bananas are especially rich in resistant starch.
  • Whole grains: Oats, barley, and wheat contain multiple prebiotic fibers.
  • Legumes: Beans, lentils, and chickpeas are rich in galactooligosaccharides.

Including various prebiotic-rich foods in your diet is a natural and effective way to support gut health and overall well-being. Furthermore, combining prebiotics with probiotics can create a synergistic effect, further enhancing the benefits for your digestive system.

Fiber: The Gut's Best Friend

Dietary fiber is a crucial component of a balanced diet, particularly for digestive health. Fiber is the indigestible part of plant-based foods that the body can't absorb. Instead, it passes relatively intact through the digestive system, promoting gut health.

There are two main types of dietary fiber: soluble and insoluble, each with unique benefits for the digestive system. Soluble fiber helps lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels by slowing digestion and stabilizing blood sugar. It also aids in softening stools, making them easier to pass. Sources of soluble fiber include oats, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, and peas. Meanwhile, you can also find soluble fiber in fresh produce like apples, citrus fruits, carrots, and psyllium.

Unlike soluble fiber, insoluble fiber doesn't dissolve in water. Instead, it adds bulk to the stool and helps food pass quickly through the stomach and intestines. It promotes regular bowel movements and helps prevent constipation. It also supports the health of the intestines and prevents conditions like diverticulosis.

Whole wheat, brown rice, nuts, beans, and vegetables such as cauliflower, green beans, and potatoes are good sources of insoluble fiber.

Incorporating a variety of fiber-rich foods into your daily meals. Aim for at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Whole fruits are better than fruit juices for fiber content.

Then, you must also replace refined grains with whole grains. Look for products that list whole grains as the first ingredient. As for legumes, beans, lentils, and peas are excellent sources of fiber. Lastly, make nuts and seeds your go-to snack. These are high in fiber and contain healthy fats and other beneficial nutrients.

Hydration: Essential for digestion

Hydration is a fundamental aspect of maintaining a healthy gut and overall well-being. Water is crucial for various bodily functions, including digestion, nutrient absorption, and waste elimination. Staying adequately hydrated ensures that the digestive system operates smoothly and efficiently.

Water helps break down food, making it easier for the body to absorb nutrients. It acts as a solvent for enzymes facilitating digestion and ensures the food is adequately mixed with digestive juices. Moreover, adequate water intake softens the stool and promotes regular bowel movements.

Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water daily to stay adequately hydrated. Also, remember to include water-rich foods in your diet, such as watermelon, strawberries, oranges, cucumbers, lettuce, and celery. These foods provide hydration and essential nutrients.
Hydration will help maintain a healthy gut and ensure your digestive system functions optimally. It prevents constipation, supports nutrient absorption, maintains gut lining integrity, promotes healthy gut flora, and enhances detoxification.

Fermented foods: Natural gut boosters

Fermented foods are like tiny flavor powerhouses that pack a big punch for your gut and overall health!

Not only do they add a tangy twist to your meals, but they're also teeming with probiotics, those friendly bacteria that help keep your gut happy and healthy. And a happy gut means a happier you!

Aside from these, fermented foods are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can boost your immune system, improve digestion, and even help with weight loss. So next time you're looking for a tasty and nutritious snack, reach for some kimchi, sauerkraut, or kombucha!

But what if you don't enjoy the taste of fermented food? That's fine! Fermented foods can have a strong, tangy, sometimes funky flavor that you might take time getting accustomed to. The key is not to give up on them on your first few tries! Here are a few tips to make them more palatable:

  • Start small: Don't dive headfirst into a vat of sauerkraut! Begin with small amounts mixed into dishes you already enjoy. For example, add a spoonful of kimchi to your stir-fry or a dollop of yogurt to your curry.
  • Combine flavors: Some find it challenging to overcome the tanginess of fermented foods. However, it can be balanced with other flavors to make it less overwhelming and even more enjoyable! Pair sauerkraut with sausages and apples, or add a drizzle of honey to your kombucha.
  • Explore different varieties: The world of fermented foods is vast! There are so many options beyond sauerkraut and kimchi. Try miso, kefir, tempeh, or pickled vegetables for different flavor profiles.
  • DIY it: If you're feeling adventurous, try fermenting your foods. This gives you control over the flavor profile and allows you to experiment with different combinations of vegetables, spices, and herbs.
  • Be patient: Your taste buds can change over time! The more you expose yourself to fermented foods, the more likely you will develop a taste for them. Start slow, be open-minded, and don't be afraid to experiment.

Remember, the health benefits of fermented foods are worth exploring. So, even if you don't love them initially, keep trying – you might be surprised at how your taste buds evolve!

Habits to avoid for protecting gut health

Maintaining gut health is essential for overall well-being, and certain habits can negatively impact the balance and function of the digestive system. Here are some habits to avoid to protect your gut health:

Poor diet choices

High sugar intake, especially from processed foods and sugary beverages, can disrupt gut-bacteria balance. Harmful bacteria and yeast thrive on sugar, leading to an imbalance in the gut microbiome. Meanwhile, consuming many processed foods, which often contain additives, preservatives, and unhealthy fats, can negatively impact gut health. Lastly, excessive alcohol consumption can irritate the digestive tract, leading to inflammation and an imbalance in gut bacteria. It can also increase the risk of gastrointestinal diseases.

Overuse of antibiotics

While antibiotics are necessary for treating bacterial infections, overusing them can kill beneficial and harmful bacteria in the gut. This disruption can lead to an imbalance in the gut microbiome, making it more susceptible to infections and diseases.

Chronic stress

Stress can significantly affect gut health by altering the gut-brain axis. Chronic stress can lead to digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome, leaky gut syndrome, and changes in gut microbiota composition.

Lack of sleep

Poor sleep quality and insufficient sleep can negatively impact gut health. Sleep is essential for the body's repair processes, including maintaining a healthy gut lining and balanced gut microbiome.

Sedentary lifestyle

A lack of physical activity can slow digestion and contribute to issues such as constipation and bloating. Regular exercise promotes healthy digestion and supports a balanced gut microbiome.


Smoking can harm the digestive system by reducing blood flow to the intestines, causing inflammation, and increasing the risk of gastrointestinal diseases such as Crohn's disease and peptic ulcers.

Skipping meals or eating irregularly

Follow a steady meal schedule to avoid disrupting the digestive system's natural rhythms, leading to indigestion and irregular bowel movements.

Eating too quickly

Eating too quickly can lead to overeating, poor digestion, and an increased risk of digestive discomfort such as bloating and gas. Take time to chew your food thoroughly for better digestion and nutrient absorption.

Excessive caffeine intake

While moderate caffeine consumption is generally safe, excessive intake can irritate the digestive tract and lead to issues such as acid reflux and heartburn. It can also have a diuretic effect, potentially leading to dehydration.

Protecting gut health involves making mindful choices and avoiding habits that can disrupt the balance and function of the digestive system. Prioritizing the positive habits discussed above can lead to long-term benefits for your digestive health and overall quality of life.


Having a happy gut involves consuming probiotics, prebiotics, and fiber, staying hydrated, and avoiding harmful foods. In addition to the nutritional aspect, you'll also need to make positive lifestyle changes that support gut health. Including these elements in your diet can help a healthier digestive system and boost overall health. Start making these changes today for a happier, healthier you!