Want in on an unfortunate secret?
Eating a plant-based diet may not be enough when it comes to your gut health.
And this matters because a healthy gut microbiome is linked to everything from immunity and mood to brain function, energy, and feeling your best.
(Check out Part 1 of our interview with Matt Tullman for more on the connection between gut and long-term health.)
As Registered Dietitian Nutritionists who specialize in gut health, nearly every day we hear from patients confused or frustrated that their fiber-rich, plant-centered diet isn't giving them the results they expected.
So what gives?
At the center of a healthy gut is always going to be whole plant foods.
Plants are rich in healthy insoluble fiber, which passes through your digestive tract, acting as a prebiotic by feeding the good gut microbes.
But — and here's the kicker — there are a number of things that could derail this process.
We go into all the details in Part 2 of our interview with Matt, which you can watch, here:
Notes from the Interview:
5 Reasons Why Your You Might Have Gut Health Issues
1) You don't eat enough plant variety.
Just because it's a plant food doesn't make it good for your gut.
That's why we label everything as a Good Gut Food — like whole greens, veggies, beans, and whole grains — or a Sometimes Foods like fried foods, processed foods, etc.
Even with a healthy dose of Good Gut Foods, diversity is critical for a healthy gut microbiome, with The American Gut Project recommending you consume at least 30 different plant foods each week for improved gut health.
2) You don't get enough sleep.
Sleep allows your gut microbiome to rest, repair, and rejuvenate each day so they can continue working and functioning properly.
3) You're not exercising enough.
Moderate exercise can decrease constipation and bloating by supporting gut movement and motility.
4) You drink too much coffee, tea, or alcohol.
As with anything, context matters. Organic, whole-leaf matcha, green teas, and even coffee can be beneficial. Alcohol, while not a health food, can also be an enjoyable treat. But if they're causing you digestive issues or stress like they do for many people, all three may be contributing to an imbalance in your gut.
5) You're stressed.
Stress can take a major toll on good gut bacteria, with studies showing that 40-60% of those diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) have also been diagnosed with anxiety.
There's a lot here, and reading through this list may sound a bit disheartening.
The good news is that eating plant foods are and always will be the foundation for gut health...
And if you can optimize the rest of your lifestyle, you'll begin to unlock incredible short-term comfort and long-term health benefits.