Everyone seems to be on a health kick these days. Good gut health vs. bad gut health, as well as the foods that aid in digestion, appear to be all the rage on social media and Google searches. So how does one determine whether something is the latest fad or is actually based on truth?
The digestive system is the key to good health and longevity. We are a society surrounded by stress, toxic environment, fast food, with an increase in viral infections and the use of antibiotics. None of these are conducive to good digestive health. Millions of dollars are spent each year trying to avoid bloating and constipation in the antacids, laxatives, enzymes, and fiber we purchase. You can improve gut health and digestion by making simple diet changes. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to add lacto-fermented foods to your diet.
WHY LACTO-FERMENTED FOODS?
To improve digestion, one must find a balance between the beneficial bacteria and the disease-causing bacteria that naturally occur in your gut. Adding fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, sourdough bread, kombucha, and milk or water kefir increases lactic acid-producing bacteria (common in probiotic supplements), creating an environment that promotes the growth of healthy bacteria. The four top benefits of adding lacto-fermented foods to your diet are:
1. Balance the production of stomach acid: Fermented foods ease digestion by regulating stomach acid in the gut.
2. Help the body produce acetylcholine: Acetylcholine increases the movement of the bowel and aids in the reduction of constipation. Increasing the production of acetylcholine improves digestion.
3. Beneficial to diabetics: Carbohydrates in lactic acid-fermented foods are broken down, which decreases the burden on the pancreas and improves its function.
4. Produces compounds that destroy and inhibit disease-causing bacteria: Many disease-causing bacteria are sensitive to an acidic environment. By increasing lactic acid bacteria in the gut, like those found in sourdough bread, scientists have discovered that it kills disease-causing microbes. Current research suggests that it also eliminates the super-bugs that are resistant to most antibiotics.
TYPES OF LACTO-FERMENTED FOODS
a) Sauerkraut and kimchi: Contains natural probiotics which improve the immune system and aids in digestion. Has many beneficial enzymes and a high amount of vitamin C. Often touted as a superfood.
b) Sourdough bread: Contains a culture of beneficial bacteria and yeasts that naturally occur in bread. Requires hours of fermentation, which increases the lactic acid bacteria that promotes the healthy bacteria in the gut.
c) Kombucha tea: A naturally fermented probiotic beverage rich in living colonies of good bacteria and yeast. Improves digestion. Research indicates that it fights candida overgrowth. Kombucha contains antioxidants, which boost the immune system.
d) Milk and water kefir: Rich in Lactobacillus, probiotics, vitamins, minerals, and micro-and macronutrients, making it one of the most powerful foods in the world. Promotes bowel movements and bile production, improving liver and gallbladder function. Improves digestion which regulates metabolism. As with kombucha, it eliminates harmful bacteria, rids the body of pathogens, and has anti-fungal properties.
Drinking enough water and eating the right foods go a long way in improving digestion and promoting good gut health. Adding lacto-fermented foods to your diet will reduce abdominal bloating and discomfort, belching, and other symptoms caused by a stressed digestive system. These foods will also eliminate the need for over the counter medicines that we have come to rely on to treat the symptoms we have created.
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