8 Foods and Drinks That Promote Gut Health
Because April is National IBS Awareness Month, it’s only fitting that we provide a list of some awesome foods and drinks that promote gut health. Add these or their supplemental form to your diet in April and see if you notice a difference.
1. Brassica vegetables
These are also referred to as cruciferous vegetables and by their common names: broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, kale, collard greens, and turnips. This genus of plants is in the mustard family and its members are packed with benefits for the gut microbiome.
Broccoli, the star of the group, is packed with fiber and antioxidants.
It also contains an organic compound called indole glucosinolate, which is converted in the stomach to other beneficial compounds, including indolocarbazole (ICZ).
ICZ then binds to receptors in the gut lining and improves gut barrier function, supports immune function, and helps maintain a healthy balance of gut flora.1
Cruciferous vegetables are loaded with compounds that support many aspects of health, like Indole-3-carbinol for reproductive health support and sulforaphane glucosinolate (SGS), which provides cells with long-lasting protection from free radical damage and supports liver detoxification.*
You’ll see this drink in the refrigerated section of your local health food store. It’s a fermented tea – usually black or green tea.
During fermentation, a large amount of probiotic bacteria is produced, along with acetic acid, which has antimicrobial activity.2
It’s naturally carbonated from the gas produced during fermentation and can sometimes contain a very small amount of alcohol (about 0.5 percent), as well as 10-25 mg of caffeine from the tea source.
Kombucha is an easy make-at-home beverage because the only ingredients are tea, bacteria, yeast, and on average 2-8 grams of sugar per eight ounces.
This is a condiment traditionally made from fermented soybeans – so it’s vegan and vegetarian-friendly. Research has linked a probiotic yeast isolated from miso with an anti-inflammatory effect3 that could benefit individuals with inflammatory bowel disease.
The fermentation process also reduces the anti-nutrients in soybeans, the natural compounds in soybeans that bind to nutrients in the gut and reduce their absorption.4
Not all yogurts are created equal, so look for yogurt products that have the “LAC” seal, which stands for “live and active cultures.”
Yogurt is made by fermenting milk, and it’s the “friendly” or beneficial bacteria that provide the gut health benefits found in LAC yogurts, like Lactobacillus casei and Bifidobacterium lactis.
In some instances, you might need more than one serving of yogurt for a beneficial amount of the gut-friendly biotics, so consider a Thorne probiotic supplement to support your healthy gut flora levels.* Not sure which is for you? Try taking our probiotic product quiz.
5. Lambic Beer
The traditional brewing process for Belgian Lambic beers includes a spontaneous fermentation process where the wort is exposed to air during the cooling stage. This allows for natural yeast and bacteria from the surrounding area to inoculate the liquid mix, which is then bottled.
Throughout its fermentation and maturation, five species of bacteria are typically present, including acetic-acid producing strains, Saccharomyces and Brettanomyces yeast species, and lactic acid-producing bacteria like Pediococcus and Lactobacillus.
The yeast and bacteria are considered probiotics and offer flavor and aroma to each beverage. A similar process can occur with wines and liquors, although higher alcohol content usually kills the active species.
6. Guar Gum
A galactomannan polysaccharide extracted from guar beans, a partially hydrolyzed guar gum like Sunfiber® is a great source of dietary fiber. Although some fibers prevent the absorption of minerals like calcium or magnesium, Sunfiber enhances the rate of absorption of these and other important nutrients.*
It also supports regular and more consistent bowel movements and helps move food, indigenous bacteria, and waste through the GI tract.*
To add guar gum to your daily routine, mix Thorne’s FiberMend®, a blend of flavor-neutral soluble fibers, into water or your favorite beverage.
This delicious tropical fruit grows painfully slowly (sometimes taking three years to mature), but it is naturally packed with water, fiber, and enzymes that support healthy digestion.
Bromelain is a proteolytic digestive enzyme found in the juice, stem, and fruit that helps digest proteins, so the proteins can be better metabolized, absorbed, and utilized.*
This attribute is why pineapple is often used as a meat tenderizer, and also why Thorne adds bromelain to its Whey Protein Isolate. Bromelain also supports normal inflammatory processes and can reduce swelling, making pineapple or its extracts perfect for post-workout recovery.*
Nuts are a rich source of L-glutamine, an amino acid that supports a healthy gastrointestinal lining. Your GI lining contains enterocytes – cells that prefer glutamine as a fuel source, and therefore fail to thrive without sufficient glutamine from your diet or supplements. Glutamine is also used as a fuel source during exercise.
In times when glucose is low, like during endurance exercise, glutamine is converted into glucose to help support energy levels.
Different types of nuts, whether raw or roasted, also provide prebiotics, fiber, protein, fats, and other necessary nutrients for a healthy digestive tract.
1. Hubbard T, Murray I, Nichols R, et al. Dietary broccoli impacts microbial community structure and attenuates chemically induced colitis in mice in an Ah receptor dependent manner. J Funct Foods 2017;37:685-698.