The Pros and “Pre”s of Gut Health

We all know by now that we should be eating probiotics to improve our digestion and overall gut health.  Many of us are eating yogurt, sauerkraut and kefir, and drinking Kombucha at times.  We may even be taking probiotics as a supplement on a daily basis.

Consuming probiotics is a good health habit to have, but there is also a lesser-known habit that benefits the probiotic activity we are trying to encourage in our gut: eating PREBIOTICS.  Prebiotics are a category of dietary fiber that we eat that mainly passes through the small intestine and is then utilized in the large intestine to improve our gut health and feed the probiotic “good” bacteria.  

It is important to note, that while there are many supplement options out there for pre- and probiotics, our body best utilizes these compounds from the foods that we eat.  This makes it essential to make some menu changes to our daily routine and include these foods.  Belly up to these foods!

The best and most practical prebiotic foods are:

  • Onions – raw or cooked, these are a great and tasty addition to everything we eat
  • Garlic – while raw is best and can be used in hummus or veggie salads, lightly cooking it in our recipes will also give benefits: add it at the end  of a recipe instead of sautéing first, as this will keep it more raw. 
  • Asparagus – we don’t often think of eating this raw, but it is a great addition to the veggie tray, and packs the best prebiotic punch, but lightly sautéed works, too
  • Jicama – best eaten raw, jicama sticks are readily available in the grocery store
  • Leeks – in the onion family, but with a milder, sweeter flavor, great on salads
  • Dandelion greens – chop some up in your next salad
  • Under-ripe bananas – the greener the better for prebiotic properties and more resistant starch

The best and most practical Probiotic foods are:

  • Yogurt – watch the sugar, try to eat the plain variety
  • Kefir – also watch the sugar, plain is better
  • Sauerkraut – the fermentation creates all that good probiotic bacteria we need
  • Kombucha – ditto on the fermentation benefits, and readily available bottled in several flavors
  • Apple cider vinegar – before you make a sour face, how about using it in a delicious salad dressing with healthy olive oil.

Planning to add these foods into our meals and snacks provides the factors that keep our digestion working at it’s best.

Honey Dijon dressing

1 clove garlic, minced
1 T Dijon mustard
¼ cup raw apple cider vinegar
2 T fresh lemon juice
1-2 T raw honey
½ cup extra virgin olive
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Herb Vinaigrette dressing

1 clove garlic, minced
¼ cup raw apple cider vinegar
2 T fresh lemon juice
½ cup extra virgin olive
½ tsp basil, parsley and/or oregano
Sea salt and pepper to taste

For either recipe: Place everything in a Mason jar and shake
Let stand for several hours before serving for flavors to blend


Happily Hydrated

We all know that we should drink water during the day and that water is good for us…but do we really know the vast benefits to drinking water and staying hydrated?

Our bodies are made up of about 70% water.  Every organ, tissue and cell in our body is dependent on water to function properly.  If we do not drink enough water we compromise the functions in our body and our cells and organs cannot do what they need to do properly to keep us healthy.

Water keeps our muscles, bones, tissues and organs functioning properly. Our body pulls water into the organ or tissue and flushes toxins out.  An easier way to understand this is to think of what we do when we need to rinse down a sink; we need water to move things away and down the drain.

Our body functions in exactly glass of waterthe same way, we need to take in water, which goes in through our digestive system and is then distributed through our blood to every part of our body.  This carries with it the good nutrients that we need and delivers them where they are beneficial and then carries away the toxins that result from our body processes.  If our blood is low on water, it makes that distribution and elimination very inefficient.

Our digestive tract is also dependent on water in the same way.  The water we drink mixes with the food in our digestive tract and works with the fibers in our foods to move those toxins out of our body.  When we are constipated, we are allowing the toxins and byproducts of our body processes to sit in our digestive tract.  Our body is designed to eliminate certain things, and plenty of water, along with a high-fiber, plant-based diet will do just that.

So how much water is enough?  Well the rule of thumb is that whatever we weigh in pounds, we should take that number and divide it in half.  This number is the ounces of water we need daily at a minimum:

For example: 140 pounds / 2 = 70 oz. of water; 70 oz. / 8 oz. = 8.75 glasses per day (8 oz. glasses)

Having a plan for consuming our necessary ounces of water will help us get what we need.  Keeping a refillable container with us, and knowing how many of those we need to drink in a day to meet our ounce requirements will simplify the calculation. When we are participating in activities such as swimming, tennis, walking running or golf, we will need to increase our hydration requirement to replenish whatever we lose to sweating.  Sports drinks should be reserved for use only when we have a very strenuous output of energy and sweat that would require some electrolytes. Otherwise, for most of us, plain water is the best along with a healthy snack after our activity to replenish nutrients and electrolytes.

Our water should be purified to remove toxins that are either found in our water, or added to our water when it is purified at the source.  Chlorine is added to our water to kill bacteria, but it is not good for drinking.  Fluoride has also been added for years to drinking water based on the thoughts that it would help reduce cavities in teeth.  What fluoride actually does is throw off the balance of other nutrients that are essential to our health, especially iodine.

Reverse Osmosis is the best way to purify our water for drinking and removing impurities and additives.

Lemon in our water actually helps alkalize our body and helps keep our digestive system moving.  I start my day with a large glass of water with fresh organic lemon squeezed in. The rest of the day, plain water is fine… if you have the opportunity to add lemon… great!

Stay hydrated, everyone!