(09/11/13) - How well are you tending the garden growing in your gut?
Yes, according to one doctor, there is a garden in your belly, and the foods you eat can work like "Miracle Grow".
Chronic intestinal distress, like irritable bowel syndrome, can make life miserable.
"The intestines are not a sewerage system," says Dr. Gregory Plotnikoff, "they're a garden and we need to be good gardeners."
Plotnikoff, and integrative physician at Penny George Institute, says what happens in your stomach can impact your entire body. "Gut health is the foundation for all health. Our gut bacteria regulate our mood, our energy, our immune system, even our metabolism."
Bad gut bacteria, he explains, lead to "gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea. The things that no one wants to talk about."
A gut full of good bacteria, called pro-biotics, can help prevent those problems. Think of them like seeds in your gut garden that flourish with the help of pre-biotics - a special form of dietary fiber.
"These are like miracle-gro for our internal garden. I prescribe foods that are actually going to support the friendly bacteria in our gut," Plotnikoff said.
He says cultured products, like tofu and yogurt, are great for your gut, and so are fermented foods like sauerkraut, "sauerkraut is really healthy for us."
Kimchi, Miso, kefir (fermented milk), and kombucha, are a few other fermented foods that stimulate growth of good bacteria.
Asparagus, artichokes, and carrots are packed with pre-biotics, "apples and oranges as well, very good."
Plotnikoff believes these foods are a low-cost, side-effect free alternative to medications for gut problems, "don't take my word for it. Trust your gut."
While some, like Dr. Plotnikoff, swear by pro-biotics and pre-biotics, others are skeptical about the benefits.
Supplements containing pro-biotics and pre-biotics are not regulated by the FDA.
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