What Can I Eat for Gut Health?
Can dairy help keep your digestive system healthy? Depending on the type of dairy foods you eat, the answer is yes.
Gut health is a term people use to describe a variety of digestive issues—from gluten intolerance or constipation to lactose intolerance or an upset stomach. In science and health, we tend to talk about things like the microbiome and maintaining gut integrity.
Eating a variety of foods, including enough fiber each day from whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables is a great way to improve your gut health. You also want to include fermented foods with live and active cultures because they interact with the microbiota and the intestinal cells. In addition to eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight can support gut health too.
There’s good scientific evidence on how fermented dairy foods like yogurt with live cultures, and kefir can benefit gut health. Fermented dairy foods help maintain gut barrier function, and they have unique bioactives due to the fermentation process that may also improve health. Eating fermented foods like yogurt and kimchi can help bolster the microbiota.
For people with lactose intolerance, yogurt and hard cheeses can often be tolerated because there is less lactose in hard cheeses and for yogurt the live cultures help digest the lactose.
Think about it like this: Our gut is like a large protective tube running throughout our body. What’s inside our intestine, including our microbiome, is outside our body. Our intestines are the gatekeeper, letting the nutrition into our body and keeping the pathogens out.
The intestinal tract contains the largest number of immune cells in the body so we want to make sure we keep it healthy. The gut is essential for nutrient absorption. It’s critical for ensuring that the foods we eat get properly absorbed.
It’s hard to pinpoint why dairy foods help our gut. One reason is likely due to fermentation, which has been part of human culture for thousands of years because of the unique health, flavor and preservation properties it provides. Transforming milk into yogurt and cheese brings with it bioactives and living organisms that help our body. This really is an example of when the sum is more than its parts.