Imagine your gut is like a garden: Every garden has a mix of flowers and weeds, but its overall health depends on the balance of the two. Like a garden, your gut contains elements that help it thrive (good bacteria) and elements you’d like to have less of (bad bacteria).
These bugs – the bacteria, fungi and other microbes that reside in your gut – are collectively known as the microbiome, and they serve numerous important functions. They impact your immune system, control inflammation, affect digestion, create neurotransmitters that influence mood and help make certain vitamins. Research has shown that a healthy microbiome is linked to protection from diseases including type 2 diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome and many autoimmune conditions.
When the ratio of good bacteria to bad bacteria is off, called dysbiosis, disruptions to certain gut bacteria communities occur. Some of the causes of this imbalance include antibiotic usage, chronic stress and gastrointestinal infections. According to a 2015 study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, dysbiosis can lead to chronic diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), obesity and cancer. Just like maintaining a healthy garden, to maintain a balanced microbiome and ward off disease, you have to give it the right kind of nourishment. A gut-healthy diet includes fiber- rich foods (vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes), plenty of polyphenols (coffee, tea, red wine, dark chocolate) and lots of water. The weeds (bad bacteria) love processed grains and sugar, so a gut-healthy diet will help keep them in check. This one-week meal plan is tailored specifically to provide your gut with the nourishment it needs to thrive – and none of what it doesn’t.