August 04, 2021 8 min read
Gut inflammation is a common problem in Western society, largely due to our poor Western diet. Many of us will experience it at some stage or another, but that’s no reason to ignore it!
When your gut is inflamed, you may suffer a range of unpleasant symptoms. This usually begins with unpleasant digestive issues such as bloating, gas, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
If these symptoms are not treated, they may progress into systemic issues such as eczema, acne, hormonal imbalances or even autoimmune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or celiac disease.
When the sensitive tissues lining your gut are inflamed, the cells that make up the barrier in this lining begin to deteriorate.
These cells are supposed to be ‘tight junctions’ that keep food and other particles out of your bloodstream. However, when these tight junctions are inflamed and damaged, they begin to separate.
This is often known as Leaky Gut Syndrome or 'intestinal hyperpermeability'.
Particles are then able to escape through the gut lining, setting off an inflammatory reaction as your body’s immune cells think that they are foreign invaders. As a result, more inflammation!
The longer your body remains in this pro-inflammatory cycle, the more likely you are to develop illnesses and chronic inflammatory conditions.
As you know, it’s important to eat a healthy, high-fiber diet is in order to maintain good digestion and regular bowel movements. But did you know that the foods you eat can affect the level of inflammation in your gut wall?
Here are some of the most effective (and delicious) foods for lowering your gut inflammation and improving overall gut health.
Best of all, they’re all easy to source or can be made at home!
Bone broth is one of the most nourishing foods you can possibly eat – especially for an inflamed gut!
The most important thing about this ancient recipe is that it’s rich in an important amino called glutamine. Glutamine plays a major role in ‘sticking’ those loose intestinal cells back together again, so it can really help to heal those damaged tissues.
Bone broth is also an excellent source of vitamin A, calcium, iron, phosphorous, zinc, selenium, magnesium, and much more.
Why is bone broth so rich in nutrients? Well, it’s made of animals – literally every part of the animal!
Traditional recipes included the entire animal carcass, from the bones and marrow to the skin, feet, ligaments and tendons. These were boiled and then simmered over several days.
This simmering allowed the bones and connective tissues to release compounds contained within, such as collagen, proline, glycine and glutamine.
And because we humans are made of the same ‘stuff’ as animals, these compounds are exactly what our bodies need to heal.
A major component of bone broth is gelatin. Gelatin is found to be highly beneficial for restoring the integrity of the gut lining, which in turn helps to reduce inflammation.
This means your gut is better able to keep those food particles out of your bloodstream, and you’ll be less likely to develop food sensitivities or allergies. (1)
Gelatin is also helpful in supporting healthy gut microbiome and maintaining proper balance of gut bacteria. You’ll find that a bowl of bone broth is easy to digest and very soothing to a sore tummy. That’s because it’s easily absorbed by the body and naturally anti-inflammatory. In fact, it could be one of the most functional foods in your diet!
Studies have shown that people with digestive imbalances tend to have lower serum concentrations of collagen. This could be because the tissues lining your colon and entire gastrointestinal tract are made up of collagen.
Bone broth can even help to boost energy levels and support a healthy mood. By supplementing your diet with extra collagen, you’ll be nourishing your entire body!
Making your own bone broth is simple. All you need is high quality bones, such as from a roast chicken.
Place the bones in a large stock pot and pour cool filtered water over them. Add the bones and add a little apple cider vinegar to help release the nutrients in the bones.
You may like to add vegetables such as carrots, onions and parsley for extra flavour and nutrition.
Bring the broth to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until done. Beef broth usually takes around 48 hours, while chicken or poultry broth is around 24 hours. You can then freeze the broth or keep in the fridge for 4-5 days.
The humble cabbage has been a dietary staple for centuries. It’s also a welcome vegetarian addition to the list of gut-healthy foods.
Cabbage’s anti-inflammatory benefits begin with its fiber content. It’s an excellent source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, which are both vital for healthy bowel function.
Insoluble fiber is helpful for promoting regularity and adding ‘bulk’ to your stools. Soluble fiber is a prebiotic that provides the ‘food’ your gut microbiome needs in order to grow, develop and function properly.
There are other benefits from adding cabbage to your diet. Cabbage juice is rich in sulforaphane, an antioxidant that has been shown to inhibit the ulcer-forming pathogen H. pylori. Cabbage also contains powerful phytochemicals that soothe the gut membrane and reduce gut inflammation.
The most nutritious way to enjoy cabbage is in its fermented form, as sauerkraut.
Sauerkraut is made with a special fermentation process that allows nutritious microorganisms to grow within the cabbage leaves which are then delivered to your gut.
Research has shown that the unique fermentation process used to create sauerkraut can help to reduce gut inflammation in numerous ways.
A particularly important species of bacteria within sauerkraut is Lactobacillus plantarum, which has been shown to benefit digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
This and other strains help to counter pathogens and toxins that enter the gastrointestinal tract, which helps to counter the inflammatory response. (2)
At the same time, these valuable probiotic bacteria help in digesting the food you’ve eaten and play an important role in moving waste through to your colon.
This improves bowel transit time, reducing the amount of time waste spends sitting in your gut and therefore reducing the associated digestive symptoms such as gas, bloating, cramps and constipation. Better bowel transit time means less irritation and inflammation.
Eating fermented cabbage as part of your daily diet is a great way to keep gut inflammation at bay.
You’ll be supplying your gut with the nutrients it needs to keep the rest of your body in good health, while preventing potential inflammatory reactions caused by invading pathogens.
This regular supply of nutrients will help to regulate your hormone production, which again will keep that inflammation at bay!
To make your own sauerkraut, simply pound a large (preferably organic) cabbage, add water and salt and allow to ferment for 2-4 weeks.
Kefir is gaining popularity in the Western world as a powerful probiotic food. Like other probiotic foods, kefir helps to rebalance your gut flora and promote healthy immune system.
The valuable microorganisms within kefir assist in efficient digestion and in lowering inflammation in the gut.
Best of all, the fermentation process involved in the making of kefir means that it’s been ‘pre-digested’ for you, so it’s easy to absorb those important nutrients.
Kefir is basically fermented milk created with special starter grains. These grains are a combination of bacteria and yeast that break down the proteins in the milk to make a fermented beverage with numerous nutritional benefits.
And because the lactase protein has been broken down, even lactose intolerant people can often drink it!
Kefir’s anti-inflammatory properties are produced by its complex ecology of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts.
Studies suggest that kefir can help to reduce gut inflammation and food sensitivities, particularly those caused by dysbiosis.
They also show that probiotic foods such as kefir milk and/or kefir yogurt can help rebalance the colonies of friendly bacteria in the gut, while also reducing gastrointestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease and ulcers.
Kefir is particularly helpful following a course of antibiotics, which can deplete your natural store of beneficial bacteria.
Kefir may also help change your body’s response to allergens, particularly in those with an over-sensitive immune system. This tendency to develop allergies is often a result of poor gut microbiome and can lead to conditions such as asthma.
In a review of 23 studies involving the use of probiotics, it was found that participants taking probiotics regularly experienced significant improvement in their allergic symptoms and also in their quality of life. (3)
To make milk kefir, you’ll need to buy some starter grains. Add these to fresh milk in a large jar and cover with a coffee filter or muslin cloth. Secure with a rubber band and place the jar in a warm area of around 68°-85°F to develop.
Over the following 24 hours, the milk will become slightly thick and pleasant-smelling. You then need to place the kefir grains in a new batch of milk and store in the refrigerator.
Sardines and other fatty fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel and anchovies are a rich source of protein and important long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.
These omega-3 acids harbor powerful anti inflammatory properties that not only reduce gut inflammation but can also help to heal damaged gut tissues.
Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids have been found to reduce the inflammatory responses in gut disorders such as IBD, possibly due to the way in which they regulate specific inflammatory hormones.
Research has shown that Omega 3 fatty acids may influence the development or course of IBD in a number of ways, including reducing both oxidative stress and the production of proinflammatory cytokines.
Taking omega-3 along with probiotics and a fiber-rich diet has been found to reduce gut inflammation by improving the diversity of the gut microbiome.
A study from King's College London examined the gut microbiome in a group of middle-aged women and found they developed an abundance of 'good' bacteria after taking high-quality omega-3 fatty acids.
The higher the diversity of species in the gut, the lower the risk of gut inflammation, as well as lower risk of diabetes, obesity and inflammatory diseases such colitis or Crohn's.
The researchers explained that our digestive systems are home to trillions of microbes, most of which are vital to digestion, immune function and even metabolism. More importantly, specific bacteria are linked to lower inflammation in people who have a higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids.
Eating oily fish can help boost levels of omega-3 in the blood, which in turn promotes high levels of a compound called N-carbamylglutamate (NCG) in the gut. This compound has been found to reduce oxidative stress in the gut.
The researchers concluded that the beneficial effects of an Omega-3 rich diet may be due to the fact that omega 3 causes gut bacteria to produce this substance. (4)
Another important finding was that patients suffering from inflammatory bowel disorders experience greater pain relief when taking omega-3.
Sardines and other oily fish are readily available and usually very affordable!
Try to include 2-3 servings of these fish in your diet each week. If you really don’t like the taste of fish, try blending it with other foods such as avocado or cottage cheese to make a delicious spread.
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