Article, Gut Health, Digestion

Gut Health

Optimise your Second Brain
Did you know that your gut has a lot to say in your well-being? And did you also know that our modern lifestyle, especially in Western societies, leads to a number of (gut) health problems by harming our digestive system and the vital microbes (intestinal bacteria) and intestinal mucosa, the physical barrier between the intestinal cells and the intestinal contents, within it (1,2). The intestinal mucosa acts like a selective filter that lets nutrients and immune signals pass through, enabling the body to absorb what it needs and to stay alert to health threats. At the same time, it blocks potentially dangerous substances and microbes from entering the body (3).

The microorganisms (microbes) residing in our gut are important for several critical functions. They facilitate the production of the intestinal mucosa, convert ingested nutrients into useful byproducts, prevent the growth of harmful pathogens, modulate immune system activity, contribute to the synthesis of neurotransmitters, and are involved in the production of crucial nutrients, including vitamin K and various B vitamins. However, our microbiome has deteriorated over time, leading to various health issues, including digestive disorders, psychological conditions like anxiety and depression, and chronic diseases like obesity and diabetes (2,4).

To improve our gut health and overall well-being, it is crucial to adopt dietary and lifestyle changes. To do this, we must feed wanted species and unwanted species must be deprived of nutrition and therefore support (2).

Try the following guideline to improve your own gut health:
  1. Increase Dietary Fiber Intake: High-fiber foods (comprehensive list below) like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables promote bacterial diversity and support the growth of beneficial bacteria. Most prebiotics, nutrient-rich plant components that are consumed and processed by microbes, can be classified as dietary fiber and are therefore included in the list below. (2)
  2. Incorporate Fermented Foods: Fermented foods can enhance gut microbial diversity, contributing to improved gut health and immune function. (2)
  3. Consume Polyphenol-Rich Foods: Polyphenols are a category of compounds naturally found in plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, (green) tea, dark chocolate, and nuts. They have antioxidant properties, helping to protect the body against damage. Foods high in polyphenols are also known to stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria and suppress harmful bacteria. (2, 5)
  4. Limit Processed and High-Fat Foods: Reducing intake of processed foods and those high in saturated fats can prevent the dominance of harmful bacteria associated with chronic disease. More specifically try avoiding sugar, artificial sweeteners, and processed foods with emulsifiers (2). 
  5. Buy Organic Produce: Especially if you regularly eat the peel of fruits and vegetables it is recommended to buy organic produce (2).
  6. Talk to your Physician: Talk to your physician about discontinuing non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, such as Ibuprofen or Diclofenac) and stomach acid blockers and about the need for prescribed antibiotic therapy. (Broad-spectrum) antibiotics also kill beneficial species and thus harmful microbes have less food competition and multiply (2).
  7. Chew more: To optimally support digestion, you should also chew (more) slowly so that the enzymes (amylases) contained in saliva can do their preliminary work of breaking down plant starches into smaller multiple sugars (6). 
  8. Listen to yourself: As studies continue to highlight variability in individual metabolic responses to particular foods, influenced by individual microbiota variations, and various factors, including, but not limited to, age, gender, genetics, exercise, baseline microbiota composition, and habitual dietary patterns, it is all the more important to listen to oneself (4). What food really makes me happy? 
To summarize: we need to change our way of living, so that it mimics a life before the agricultural revolution to improve our own through the health of the many millions of microbes within us (1).

Foods rich in dietary (prebiotic) fibers:
Legumes (kidney beans, black beans, white beans, chickpeas, hummus, lentils, and peas), green bananas and plantains (emphasis is on green, riper bananas are higher in sugar and lower in fiber), potatoes (In their raw state, potatoes are rich in prebiotic fiber), fruits (caution: sugar!), chia seeds and flax seeds, nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts and pistachios), edible mushrooms, shirataki noodles. Low-carbohydrate fiber is found in garlic, leeks and asparagus (2).

Author: Joshua Thaller (OAC)


  1. Carrera-Bastos, Pedro, Maelan Fontes-Villalba, James H O'Keefe, Staffan Lindeberg, and Loren Cordain. “The Western Diet and Lifestyle and Diseases of Civilization.” Research Reports in Clinical Cardiology, 2011, 15.
  2. Dr. med. Davis, William. Neustart für den Darm. München, Bayern: riva Verlag, 2022
  3. Vancamelbeke, M., & Vermeire, S. (2017). The intestinal barrier: a fundamental role in health and disease. Expert review of gastroenterology & hepatology, 11(9), 821–834. 
  4. Berding, K., Vlckova, K., Marx, W., Schellekens, H., Stanton, C., Clarke, G., Jacka, F., Dinan, T. G., & Cryan, J. F. (2021). Diet and the Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis: Sowing the Seeds of Good Mental Health. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.), 12(4), 1239–1285. 
  5. Rowland, Ian, Glenn Gibson, Almut Heinken, Karen Scott, Jonathan Swann, Ines Thiele, and Kieran Tuohy. “Gut Microbiota Functions: Metabolism of Nutrients and Other Food Components.” European Journal of Nutrition 57, no. 1 (2017): 1–24.
  6. Cherpak C. E. (2019). Mindful Eating: A Review Of How The Stress-Digestion-Mindfulness Triad May Modulate And Improve Gastrointestinal And Digestive Function. Integrative medicine (Encinitas, Calif.), 18(4), 48–53.