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I often get asked to identify what foods I recommend for optimal digestive health.
This article is going to emphasize foods that I recommend based on their fiber and prebiotic content. I want to highlight the importance of feeding the bacteria in your digestive system – particularly your colonic bacteria.
Based on the thousands of stool tests I have conducted over the years, one thing is clear: people in the Western world are not eating enough fiber. I’m seeing more parasites than ever. I’m seeing more harmful bacteria. But what I’m seeing the most is lower levels of beneficial bacteria, especially the bifidobacterial and the Lactobacillus species, the two main groups of beneficial bacteria. These findings stem from the fact that people aren’t eating enough gut-healthy foods.
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I just read a study showing that the average American will be lucky to eat 14 grams of fiber in their diet per day, and maybe one to three grams of prebiotic sugars in their diet through the foods that they eat. In contrast, people in underdeveloped countries, eat up to 10 to 15 grams of these prebiotic sugars like inulin, fructooligosaccharide (FOS), and galactooligosaccharide (GOS). They are also eating up to six or seven times as much fiber as the average American.
In my opinion, it is crucial to eat high fiber, prebiotic containing foods regularly. To be clear, I’m not talking about cultured or fermented foods because they are an entirely different ball game. There is too much emphasis today on kefir, kombucha, kimchi, and yogurt. I’ve seen lots of people get side effects from putting kefir in their diet when their gut is dysfunctional.
If you have a dysfunctional digestive system, and you are drinking kefir every day, you can create a bigger problem than you are trying to solve. So, in my opinion, kefir is not a good drink when you have very bad irritable bowel, SIBO, or Candida overgrowth. I’m finding the same with kombucha. I consider yogurt to be a lot less problematic for people. Yogurt is especially tolerable if it’s a natural, sour Greek yogurt, sourced from grass-fed cows, and made with full-fat milk. Yogurt tends to be much less aggravating for the gut than kefir that you make at home.
The following is a list of just some of the foods I recommend routinely eating due to their fiber and prebiotic content:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Pecan nuts
- Good quality rolled oats cooked in plain water
- Legumes such as adzuki beans, pinto beans, navy beans, lima beans
- Brassica vegetables including cauliflower, broccoli, Brussel sprouts and kale
- Chinese vegetables like bok choy
- Green bananas and plantain bananas
- Raw cacao
- 70% cocoa products
- Vegetables like artichokes, beets, asparagus and green beans
- Alliums including onions, chives, and leeks
- Jerusalem artichokes, burdock, dandelion roots, chicory root
When you start regularly putting these foods into your diet, you’re going to build excellent colonic health. You will notice that you will have better bowel movements.
Once your gut is very high functioning, you can start thinking differently and put kefir into the diet and put kimchi into the diet. These foods will keep your digestive system in great shape.
I also want to caution you about the use of prebiotics in dietary supplements. Many people take FOS, GOS, inulin and other prebiotics, in combination with a probiotic. The assumption is that a supplement that continues both a prebiotic and probiotic is good for gut health. We stopped using that combination in our clinic about four or five years ago. We had noticed and increasing numbers of emails and phone calls from people suffering from gas, bloating and feeling sick when using probiotics with synthetic prebiotics. We stopped doing it.
I think the problems is particularly with FOS because it feeds bacteria like Klebsiella in your gut.
Klebsiella is normally found in your gut, but if you build up large numbers, it’s going cause symptoms– just like Candida. When I started to regularly see stool reports with very high Klebsiella counts, I discovered to my horror that many of these people were taking two to three probiotics every day along with chemically manufactured prebiotics. Once I got them off that combination, we were able to return the Klebsiella to normal levels.
That is why I would be very cautious about taking a supplement that contains prebiotic sugars. If you look at my CanXida Restore, it includes no prebiotics for precisely this reason. The best source of prebiotics is the whole foods found in your diet, not a laboratory.