This past weekend the stomach flu went through our household. Let me tell you, that was an awful experience. It had been several years since I have had the flu and I had forgotten how terrible it is to be sick. I had to day time off of work, because I didn't want to spread the illness to the medical staff or babies in the hospital. It was the best choice to stay home and rest up.
This recent illness had me thinking about overall health and how your health impacts your body overcoming an acute illness. More and more research is being done on our GI tract microbiome that is showing how our health really impacts our quality of life. The food that you eat each day has an impact on the types of bacteria that live and grow in your GI tract. They have found that depending on your diet (healthy vs unhealthy) will prompt the growth of certain types of bacteria. These bacteria living in your GI tract are known as your gut microbiome. This bacteria helps to digest the food you eat. Sometimes our guts get colonized with a "bad bug" like a with the flu virus and that can lead to unattractive side effects (vomiting, diarrhea, gas, etc). Often if you get put on an antibiotic, these drugs kill/destroy the bacteria (good and bad) in your gut and it can take awhile to repopulate that good bacteria. After having an illness, like the stomach flu, making sure that you consume healthy foods will help to promote the grow of the "good" bacteria in your gut. We don't want to promote the growth of "bad" bacteria that will not help boost your immune system in the future.
What are good foods for gut health?
- Choosing foods that are high in fiber is great for gut health. These fibrous foods also serve as great food for the "good" bacteria living in your GI tract. Aim for more fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
- Fermented foods can survive your GI tract and serve as food for the "good" bacteria. Eating foods like yogurt contain live/active bacteria cultures that can help repopulate your GI tract after an illness. There are some other foods out there that are gaining popularity - like Kefir (fermented yogurt drink), kombucha (fermented) tea, tempeh (fermented soybean cake) and fermented vegetables (like sauerkraut and pickles).
- Gut diversity. It is important to make sure that you are eating a variety of foods and this will help ensure that the microbiome in your gut is balanced. Reaching for colorful produce, whole grains and various forms of protein will help build a healthy GI tract.
Hopefully you have avoid getting any stomach bugs and have a healthy winter this year. Remember to take care of your gut and eating a healthy, varied diet will help accomplish that! I am excited that spring is arriving and hopefully we will all be healthy and back to normal here soon!