by Dr. Josh Axe
Your gut’s duties involve so much more than digesting breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
In fact, your gut—comprised of trillions of microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, fungi, yeast, and parasites that live inside the organs of your digestive system—plays an enormous role in many different biological processes.
Perhaps most importantly, the gut microbiome establishes and develops your immune system and protects the integrity of your gut lining. We often jeopardize this fragile system by eating too much junk food, taking antibiotics, or experiencing chronic stress. When this happens, our health starts paying the price—sometimes even triggering certain health problems, such as these autoimmune disease symptoms.
Luckily, as Hippocrates said, food is medicine. Here are just a few surprising food fixes to start repairing (or better protecting) your precious microbiome:
Candida albicans is a common type of yeast infection that can quietly start overpopulating an out-of-balance gut. When this happens, certain toxic byproducts of the yeast and other bacteria start degrading the tight junctions inside the intestinal lining, causing something called leaky gut syndrome.
I call this “Candida Gut.” Triggered by a high-sugar diet, antibiotics, and chronic anxiety, warning signs of this condition include a white coating on the tongue, extreme fatigue, food sensitivities, and chronic sinus and allergy issues, among other things.
Aside from eliminating food triggers and adopting a diet low in sugar and high in probiotics, tea can help. Pau d’arco tea in particular helps support the spleen while helping your body fight candida the natural way.
Nettle and tulsi teas are often beneficial if your gut issues stem from high cortisol, emotional stress, thyroid issues, or adrenal fatigue. For autoimmune issues rooted in the gut, chamomile, fennel, ginger, marshmallow, or mint teas are often beneficial.
Just make sure you aren’t allergic or sensitive to any of the teas. As always, if you’re taking medication or other herbal supplements, make sure these teas don’t interact with your current treatment plan.
Never heard of natto? You’re not alone. But in Japan, it’s a staple.
Natto is a particularly gut-friendly food made from fermented soybeans that contain the extremely powerful probiotic called Bacillus subtilis.
This probiotic greatly enhances digestion of vitamin K2, which aids in building stronger bones. According to a recent animal study published in the Journal of Dairy Science, the Bacillus subtilis in natto may also improve immune function.
3. Bone broth
Simmering the bones of chicken or beef causes the bones and ligaments to release healing compounds like collagen, glycine, and glutamine, which have immune-boosting properties that help heal leaky gut. The collagen and gelatin in bone broth come from healing amino acids that help repair the intestinal lining. It also serves as a powerful fuel for small intestine cells.
It's thought that chicken soup made with homemade bone broth could help improve digestion, allergies, and asthma by improving immune function. (Here’s a great recipe to make your own homemade bone broth.)
4. Coconut kefir
A nice stand‐in for dairy, coconut kefir is a fermented version of coconut water and kefir grains. Coconut kefir contains some of the same gut-friendly probiotic strains you’d find in traditional dairy kefir, but in smaller quantities.
Coconut kefir has a great flavor, especially with a bit of stevia, water, and lime juice. This is an especially important probiotic source for people who eat plant-based diets.
5. Medicinal mushrooms
Medicinal mushrooms, particularly the mycelia—the parts of the mushrooms that grow below the forest ground—help keep your microbiome balanced. They’re also a potent source of prebiotics, which serve as food for beneficial microbes. These mushrooms also help fight viruses and candida that can contribute to digestive problems.
6. Dirty veggies (kind of)
OK, let me elaborate. What I really mean is lightly rinsed veggies from your farmers market or garden. These veggies are often rich in beneficial strains of gut-friendly soil-based organisms. Think about it. Your grandparents probably ate lots of dirt in their day before the food system became so sanitized.
Today, the Environmental Protection Agency says the average toddler consumers about a teaspoon of dirt a day, helping to improve microbe diversity. Root veggies like carrots, potatoes, rutabaga, and turnips grow underground and are loaded with healthy microbes.
This fermented beverage is traditionally made by fermented rye or barley, giving the drink a mild beer flavor (without the alcohol). Kvass enthusiasts are now fermenting the drink using detoxifying, gut-healing beets, too. The fermentation process enhances the benefits of beets, allowing the nutrients to be more readily absorbed in your body.
About the author
Dr. Josh Axe is a doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist, and author of Eat Dirt: Why Leaky Gut May Be the Root Cause of Your Health Problems and 5 Surprising Steps to Cure It.