#221 The 3 Secrets to Perfect Gut Health

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The 3 Secrets to Perfect Gut Health

More and more research is pointing to optimal gut health as the secret to a long life free of medical problems.  In this article, I share the 3 secrets to perfect gut health.

Could Gut Health Be the Fountain of Youth?

As most readers know, we have a new book, The Longevity Plan: 7 Life Transforming Lessons from Ancient China.  This book represents five years of research and writing.

In this book, we identified a small village in Southwest China that was cut off from China and the rest of the world.  Here, people often live into their 100s without growing old or getting sick.  These centenarians are still doing everything they want to do and don’t require help from anyone else.

While we identified seven factors that explain this health miracle, other researchers have concluded that the secret is their gut health.  Indeed, one recently published medical study reported that the reason why these people live to 100 and beyond was because of their gut health.  Namely, it was their high fiber diet, natural probiotics, and the absence of gut toxins that accounted for their longevity.

Worry About Your Gut, Not Your Belly

Personally, I’ve never been that concerned with the size of a patient’s body. Certainly, there is a relationship between weight and health, but it’s not a perfectly linear one. We all come in different shapes, and those shapes have less to do with health than a lot of people think.

Instead of worrying about our bellies, we should be worried about our guts. Research shows that having the wrong sorts of bacteria in our digestive tracts can cause everything from weight gain and allergies to autoimmune diseases and heart disease. In fact, gut bacteria might be the absolute best indicator of personal health.

The 3 Secrets to Perfect Gut Health

When it comes to perfect gut health, we really need to learn from China’s longevity village.  They enjoyed great gut health and didn’t have to deal with all of the health challenges that we do.  Here are the 3 secrets to perfect gut health.

1. Get the Right Kind of Fiber

The best fiber comes from real foods.  I have yet to find a study showing that fiber supplements can even come close to competing with the fiber in real food.

To optimize your fiber intake, pile on the vegetables with every meal.  Eat plenty of fruit, especially berries.  Lastly, don’t forget legumes like lentils, peas, and beans which are also loaded with fiber.  Even nuts and seeds can be high in fiber.

Studies show that for every 10 extra grams of fiber you can get in your diet, you can decrease your heart disease risk by 20% and increases your lifespan by about 10%.  Getting 10 extra grams of fiber each day is incredibly easy to do.  For example, just one small cup of great tasting raspberries will almost get you to 10 grams of fiber.

Along with fiber supplements, avoid highly processed high-fiber foods. If you’ve been to the grocery store lately you know exactly what I am talking about.

Basically, avoid anything that has a label advertising its fiber content.  Even if these processed foods are fiber-rich, the impact of the other ingredients can wipe away any advantages the fiber might offer.

Real food doesn’t require a label.  When was the last time you saw a label advertising the fiber content of fresh broccoli, kale, or spinach?

2. Get the Right Fermented Foods

Getting a daily dose of fermented foods can be a great way to replenish your gut flora and keep your immune system working well.  If you are new to fermented foods, build up gradually.

As with fiber, stay away from fermented foods with added ingredients, especially sugar or other sweeteners. For example, kombucha is well established to be a great probiotic, but the drinks popping up in supermarket coolers are loaded with added sugar and other ingredients. Instead, try kombucha, kefir, yogurt, pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh or miso in their most unadulterated form.  Then, season and flavor these foods, if needed, with natural foods.

Personally, I like a heaping spoonful of natto, fermented soy beans, every morning.  As I am asked by so many readers where I buy my natto, here is a link to the company I use.  Alternatively, you could also buy fresh natto from your local Asian food store.

Please be aware I’m about 99% confident that, unlike the Japanese who consider natto a delicacy, you will absolutely hate the taste of natto.  Also, in full disclosure, I have no relationship with this company.  They haven’t even so much as given me a discount on anything I buy from them.

For those who can’t stand the taste of natto, try some miso in your homemade salad dressings.  Miso is proof that probiotics don’t have to taste bad.  For a great tasting salad dressing, try my wife’s miso vinaigrette recipe.

If you would prefer to stick with the tried and true yogurt form of prebiotics, just be sure to buy those brands with live cultures and no added sugars or sweeteners.  To sweeten your yogurt, and get a healthy dose of fiber in the process, be sure to add fresh or frozen berries.

3. Steer Clear of Gut Toxins

If you want the right gut flora to keep you young and free from illnesses, you have to avoid the gut toxins.  The health producing bacteria lining your gastrointestinal system can be easily be wiped out by ingesting the wrong stuff.

Of the various gut toxins, the main culprits are added sugars, processed carbohydrates, antibiotics, and other medications.  While antibiotics and medications, like acid reducing or anti-inflammatory pain medications are sometimes needed, there is absolutely no health reason why you need added sugars or processed carbohydrates.

If you must take a medication, like an antibiotic, talk with your doctor about boosting your fiber and fermented food intake while you are on the antibiotic.  This way you can kill off the bad bacteria with antibiotics while still giving your good bacteria a chance to survive.

Take Home Message

To enjoy perfect gut health, make sure you get enough fiber and fermented foods while at the same time avoiding gut toxins. Those are the keys to keeping the bacteria in your gut happy. And when the bacteria in your gut are happy, the rest of your body will be happy, too.

If you can add at least one high-fiber menu item to each meal and one fermented food each day, you’ll soon realize that when you start worrying about your gut, your belly will take care of itself.

What has helped you to keep your gut happy?  Please leave your thoughts and questions below.

Disclaimer

Of course, when it comes to gut health please be sure to speak with your physician.  For some people, like those with serious gastrointestinal issues or a weakened immune system, fiber and fermented foods could cause harm.  Also, never stop a medication without first speaking with your physician.  Everything I have shared in this article should be considered as general information not medical advice.

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Disclaimer Policy: This website is intended to give general information and does not provide medical advice. This website does not create a doctor-patient relationship between you and Dr. John Day. If you have a medical problem, immediately contact your healthcare provider. Information on this website is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Dr. John Day is not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your medical decisions.

7 Comments
  1. A lot of legumes, nuts and seeds are high in lectins which many people say cause leaky gut. What are your thoughts on this?

    • Hi Tania,

      Thanks for reading and commenting! You bring up a good point.

      Yes, the lectins in legumes and grains can in some people cause intestinal permeability (“leaky gut”). One classic example is Celiac Disease from wheat. It is also important to realize that lectins are in other foods like dairy.

      However, countless studies of large groups of people report that legumes and intact grains (not ground up into flour or otherwise stripped of nutrients) are associated with less cardiovascular disease and increased longevity.

      To make sense of these seemingly contradictory data, there are some people who simply don’t do well with legumes or grains of any form. For these people, it is best to avoid them. For most people though, legumes and intact grains are fine and may even have health benefits.

      For those people who want the best of both worlds, less lectins and not sacrificing the health benefits of these plant-based foods, then consider sprouting, soaking, cooking, or fermenting foods higher in lectin. The sprouting soaking, cooking, or fermenting process almost eliminates all lectins from legumes and intact grains.

      Hope this helps!

      John

        • Hi Tania,

          Yes, dairy is also high in lectins. And for that matter, almost all foods have lectins to some degree.

          Interestingly, if you do an internet search you will find that most “health sites” promote grass fed dairy as having little to no lectins. Unfortunately, I could find no scientific evidence supporting this belief. Until a credible study is done on this, I suspect grass fed dairy also has lectins.

          Hope this helps!

          John

      • Thank you, that’s very interesting. You’ve raised a good point on the intact grains. I often blend seeds into my smoothies. I used to soak them but got out of the habit. I’m thinking that grinding the nuts and seeds in the blender may not be as good as munching while seeds. Or do they get ground anyway by our teeth?

        I have no idea if lectins affect me however I have coeliac disease so it’s definitely something to consider. Thank you

  2. Thank you John. I would like some suggestions on fiber. My dietary restrictions rule out many of your choices. I have a brain injury so I have to follow a very strict keto diet. I concentrate on leafy greens, carnifious(sp?) veggies, such as broccoli, and also I have sauerkraut, and Kombucha as my carbs. I also have one avacado each day along with macadamia nuts. My intake per day is approximately 18 grams of carbs, 60 grams of protein, and 100 grams of fat. My health is very good on this diet and I haven’t had any need to visit my neurosurgeon since I have adopted this diet. One thing, my bowels could be 25 percent better. That is my only symptom that is outside most functional docs and practioners guidelines as I only have one or less movements per day. Another reason the keto diet is so important is that I have already lost most of my relatives and even most of my siblings to cancer so I do not want to increase my carbs as most of them feed cancer.

    • Hi Glen,

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting. You bring up several good points.

      1. At the end of the day, you need to eat the way that works best for you. There is no “one size fits all” approach to healthy eating. For example, people with the ApoE2 gene seem to do much better with a high fat, ketogenic diet. In contrast, people with the ApoE4 gene do best with a low fat diet.

      2. It is important to distinguish good carbs from bad carbs. Basically, the bad carbs include any form of sugar or carbs that have been processed (like flour) or robbed of their nutrients. The bad carbs have been associated with cancer in studies.

      However, the good carbs, like broccoli, kale, or cauliflower are the unprocessed carbs that, in study after study, seem to prevent heart disease, cancer, and just about every other chronic medical condition. Interestingly, when it comes to cancer preventing foods, the cruciferous family of vegetables (good carbs) seem to be the most effective.

      Thanks again for reading and commenting!

      Warm regards,

      John