Taking care of your gut is essential in order to preserve the health of your digestive system. Some symptoms that you may experience when there’s an imbalance in your gastrointestinal tract include gas, bloating, acid reflux, diarrhea, and constipation, stomachache, weakened immune system, slow metabolism, and inefficient nutrients absorption. 
So how can you maintain the health of your gut?
Well, diet can be considered to be the main factor that impacts your gastrointestinal tract– both positively and negatively. For that reason, IBS and IBD patients are required to follow strict diets (like FODMAP diet) in order to improve their condition. However, such diets can be restrictive for individuals who don’t suffer from chronic gut diseases and may lead to malnutrition in the long run.
In this article, you will find two food lists:
- Foods that can help you maintain balanced gut microbiota (or gut flora) and maintain a healthy gastrointestinal tract.
- Foods that may negatively affect your stomach and bowels.
Let’s get started!
Foods that may support gut health
For those who don’t know what kefir is: In short, kefir is a lactose-free fermented drink, which is made from dairy milk and kefir grains (live bacteria that cause fermentation.)
You may wonder how this beverage is made from milk but is lactose-free? Well, the bacteria that grow during the fermentation process eat the lactose in the milk and convert it into B complex vitamins and probiotics.
And probiotics are one of the best friends of our gut! Evidence suggests that probiotic foods like kefir may contribute to increasing the number of “good bacteria” in your digestive tract. This may lead to improved intestinal absorption of micronutrients, as well as strengthened barrier function and balanced gut flora. 
Oats can be a great source of soluble and insoluble dietary fiber, which are essential to support a smooth digestion process.
Because of the high soluble fiber content, oats are also rich in prebiotics. Those compounds are specific forms of soluble fiber that support the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut. 
The function of the prebiotics is to stimulate the proper absorption of probiotics and boost their beneficial effect. This way, those compounds may support the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut and prevent lack of balance in the gut flora. 
In addition, evidence suggests that oats may play a role in maintaining balanced blood sugar and triglycerides levels and preventing sharp spikes in blood glucose. This way, the consumption of those wholegrains may help you with weight management, as well as with the prevention of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. 
Legumes (consumed in moderate amounts) can be an excellent food choice for people who want to support their gut health.
According to a 2017 study looking into the effects of legumes on the gastrointestinal tract, those veggies contain bioactive peptides, which may have strong anti-inflammatory, and anti-carcinogenic effects. Besides, the study suggests that legumes may play a role in promoting efficient digestion and nutrient absorption due to their high dietary fiber content. 
However, legumes contain oligosaccharides, which remain undigested until they enter the small intestine. There, they pass through a fermentation process, which may produce gas. Therefore, legumes are not suitable for IBS and IBD patients, as they may worsen the symptoms of those conditions. 
Proper daily hydration is crucial when it comes to taking care of your gut health, simply because you need to balance your fluid intake according to your daily fluid losses.
According to an HYDRAGUT study, drinking enough water may ensure sufficient mucosal hydration, which is essential for maintaining a healthy protective intestinal barrier. 
The recommended daily water intake depends on your age, weight, sex, health condition, diet, and physical activity. However, the overall guidelines for water consumption by CDC suggest that adults should drink around 6-8 glasses of water per day to ensure optimal hydration. 
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Foods to avoid
Several studies have looked into the effect of red meat consumption on the gastrointestinal tract.
Recent evidence suggests that the regular consumption of red meat may have a negative impact on the health of your gut, because it may stimulate the reproduction of “bad bacteria” in the intestines. In the long run, this may lead to inflammations and an increased risk of colon cancer. 
Candy, sweets, cakes and other sugary foods
In the environment, sugar is the main food for yeast and bacteria. The same applies to your inner environment! When you consume foods high in sugar, you “feed” the harmful bacteria in the intestines.
As a result, the overconsumption of sugary foods can break your gut’s bacterial balance and enhance the risk for issues related to inflammation, weakened immune system, and absorption of micronutrients. 
Fried foods usually have high oil content and can be difficult to digest. This may limit the smooth functions of the digestive system, troubling the bowel movement and intestinal absorption of micronutrients. 
If you sometimes experience discomfort, bloating, diarrhea, or constipation, look at your diet. Maybe it doesn’t include gut-friendly meals but instead focuses on foods that feed your taste receptors (not your body).
Keep in mind that the following foods are not recommended for people suffering from IBS, IBD, or another chronic condition affecting the gastrointestinal tract. They may only support the health of the gut, but cannot be used to treat or improve the symptoms of already existing health conditions.
And if you start experiencing frequent gut or digestive issues, it’s important to consult your symptoms with your dietitian or healthcare provider, who can give you tailored advice and support.