Fill your belly with foods that provide good bacteria, like Omega 3 fatty acids, enzymes and whole-food sources of nutrients. By now you know how important it is to consume a diet based on natural or whole foods for optimal gut health. But this way of eating is nothing new.

In fact, did you know that the food of our ancestors, including fermented foods, contained several thousand times more bacteria, mainly the good probiotic bacteria, than our food does today? It’s true, and part of the shortfall is due to our modernized way of eating that often excludes fermented foods. This lack of good bacteria in our food can decrease optimal digestion and assimilation of nutrition for gastrointestinal and overall health.

Dr. Joseph Brasco, a board-certified gastroenterologist who serves as a medical consultant with Garden of Life, suggests adding the following foods to your diet to support digestive health:

Meats: Eat organically raised cattle, sheep, goats, buffalo, and venison that graze on nature’s bountiful grasses. Grass-fed meat is leaner and is lower in calories than grain-fed beef. Organic and grass-fed beef is higher in gut-friendly omega-3 fatty acids and important vitamins like B12 and vitamin E. They're also way better for you than assembly-line cuts of flank steak from hormone-injected cattle eating pesticide-sprayed feed laced with antibiotics. See Beyond Organic's Green-Fed Beef.

Fish caught in the wild like salmon, tuna, or sea bass are lean sources of protein and provide essential Omega 3 amino acids in abundance. Watch out for farm-raised fish as they can have more pesticides due to water run-off from commercial farms, farm-raised are not as high in Omega 3's due to their food sources. Supermarkets are stocking more wild types of foods in greater quantities these days, and of course they are found in natural food stores, fish markets, and specialty stores.

Avoid certain meats like breakfast links, bacon, lunchmeats, ham, hot dogs, bratwurst, and other sausages due to the questionable ingredients and nitrates. Crustaceans such as lobster, crabs, shrimp, and clams and fish without fins and scales are “bottom feeders,” content to sustain themselves on excrement from other fish—so they’re out, too.

Cultured dairy products from goats, cows, and sheep: One benefit of eating cultured dairy is the beneficial microorganisms they contain. These living organisms contain something called “probiotics,” which, by definition, are living, direct-fed microbials (DFMs) that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestines. The normal human gastrointestinal tract contains hundreds of different species of harmless or even friendly bacteria, otherwise known as intestinal flora. When an unbalance of these bacteria occurs, however, the result is often digestive unrest.

One of the best ways to introduce probiotics to your diet is through cultured dairy products like Beyond Organic Amasi, a fermented kefir from Beyond Organic cows that does not contain Beta A1 casein, making it much easier to digest, less allergenic, and assimilate than traditional dairy. Dairy products derived from goat’s milk and sheep’s milk can also be easier on stomachs than those from traditional dairy cows, although dairy products from organic, grass-fed cows can be excellent as well. Goat’s milk is less allergenic because it does not contain the same complex proteins found in cow’s milk.

And while we are on the subject of dairy…you may want to avoid consuming fluid dairy products, such as milk and ice cream, since they contain the milk sugar lactose. Instead, eat fermented dairy products such as yogurt, kefir, hard cheeses like Beyond Organic Raw Cheese, cultured cream cheese, cottage cheese, and cultured cream. Why? Fermented dairy products contain little or no residual lactose, which is the type of sugar in milk that many find hard to digest.

Cultured and fermented vegetables: Raw cultured or fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut, pickled carrots, beets, or cucumbers supply the body with probiotics as well. Although these fermented vegetables are often greeted with upturned noses at the dinner table, these foods help reestablish natural balance to your digestive system.
Cultured vegetables like sauerkraut are brimming with vitamins, such as vitamin C, and contain almost four times the nutrients as unfermented cabbage. The lactobacilli in fermented vegetables contain digestive enzymes that help break down food and increase its digestibility. So, try some sauerkraut or pickled beets, which are readily available in health food stores.

Fruits: Raw fruit is quite healthy but may cause digestive disturbances, so you may want to eat fruit cautiously. Fruit on its own has high sugar content, so consume fruits with fats and proteins, which will slow down the absorption of sugar. Limit your consumption to two or three fresh fruits daily, which can be consumed during snack time.
Try blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and grapes—fully ripened. And choose organic so that you avoid pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Try to eat fruits and vegetables in season, but you can also use frozen produce, since that often represents the best option for healthy fruits and veggies out of season. In the case of berries and certain fruits, the difference between fresh and frozen is minimal.

So, there you have it — foods that could help you avoid “a pain in the gut,” says Brasco. Start eating better today and feel the difference. Your gut will thank you.

For more in-depth information on the best foods for your optimal gut and overall health, I suggest reading the Live Beyond Organic book by Jordan Rubin and the Restoring Your Digestive Health book by Dr. Joseph Brasco and Jordan Rubin.

Author's Bio: 

Jordan Rubin N.D. is one of the natural health industry leaders in whole-food supplemental nutrition. He is the founder and formulator of the Garden of Life whole food supplements, author of several health and diet books, including the N.Y. Times Best Seller Maker's Diet, the Restoring Your Digestive Health book, and the Live Beyond Organic book.

Christine Dreher, CCN, CCH is a Nutritionist, Herbalist, Author of “The "Cleanse Cookbook" and President & Founder of Christine's Cleanse Corner, Inc., (a nutritional company that specializes in nutritional & health education & Whole Food Vitamin Supplements. Christine is the Editor & Publisher of the free, online "Transform Your Health" Nutrition and Health E-Newsletter. She is also a Health/Nutritional Speaker & Teacher, & a Nutritional, Diet & Internal Cleanse Consultant, and a Live Beyond Organic Mission Marketer.

Christine is also the Official Self Growth Guide for Dietary Supplements. For more information about New Chapter, Garden of Life or Vitamin Code and other Whole Food Vitamin supplements and herbs, visit Christine on the web at: or call Christine's office at 858-673-0224.