Often called our "second brain," our gut or gastrointestinal system, our gut health impacts our immune system, our mental health, and our overall well-being.

When we have a healthy gut, our gastrointestinal tract has a good balance of gut bacteria that can properly digest and absorb nutrients. When there is an imbalance in our gut bacteria, it may trigger unwanted gastrointestinal symptoms, like diarrhea, constipation, bloating,  and more.

However, an unhealthy gut affects more than our digestive health. An unhealthy gut can lead to insomnia or poor sleep, which causes fatigue. When our gut is imbalanced, our body may struggle to absorb nutrients, store fat, and regulate blood sugar. Bacteria overgrowth or lack of nutrients can result in weight loss or weight gain. Some skin conditions like acne, eczema, and psoriasis may be related to gut issues.

There also may be a link between headaches and gut health, especially if you experience nausea or vomiting with migraines. Some gut bacteria may trigger autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid issues, multiple sclerosis, and more. Gut problems and inflammation in the nervous system can also lead to anxiety and depression.

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So what can we do?

If you suspect some of the health conditions you’re experiencing might be due to inflammation within your gut, there are a number of ways you can counteract this. One of the easiest is to eat more fermented foods. Fermentation was used historically as a food preservation process where sugars are broken down by bacteria and yeasts. Fermented foods are a great source of probiotics because they contain live bacteria.

It is suggested that we eat at least one fermented food per day. Here are some of the best.

  • Anshu A/Unsplash
    Anshu A/Unsplash
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    Kefir

    Kefir is a type of cultured dairy product. Studies reveal that kefir has numerous health benefits, from digestion to inflammation to bone health. Kefir was shown to improve lactose digestion in people with lactose intolerance. People with this condition can’t digest the sugars in dairy products, leading to symptoms like cramps, bloating, and diarrhea. Kefir also contains less lactose than milk.

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    Kombucha

    Kombucha is a fermented tea that’s fizzy, tart, and flavorful. It’s made from either green or black tea and offers these drinks’ potent health-promoting properties. Drinking kombucha may help prevent liver toxicity and damage caused by exposure to harmful chemicals Plus, kombucha may help induce cancer cell death and block the spread of cancer cells.

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    Miso

    Miso is a common seasoning in Japanese cuisine. It’s made by fermenting soybeans with salt and koji, a type of fungus. It’s most often found in miso soup, a flavorful dish made of miso paste and stock. Miso soup is traditionally served for breakfast. Miso may also help lower blood pressure and protect heart health.

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    Saurkraut

    Sauerkraut is a popular condiment consisting of shredded cabbage that has been fermented by lactic acid bacteria. It’s low in calories but contains plenty of fiber and vitamins C and K. Like other foods made with leafy green vegetables, it also contains a good amount of lutein and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants help promote eye health and reduce your risk of eye disease. The antioxidant content of sauerkraut also boasts promising effects on cancer prevention.

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    Yogurt

    Yogurt is produced from milk that has been fermented, most commonly with lactic acid bacteria. It’s high in many important nutrients, including calcium, potassium, phosphorus, riboflavin, and vitamin B12. A higher intake of yogurt produces improvements in bone mineral density and physical function in older adults. This creamy dairy product may also help prevent weight gain.

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