I am a world renowned picky eater. I love sweets and I don’t typically eat things remotely healthy. So it only makes sense that my wife, Amy, would be a Registered Dietitian focused on gut health.
Amy Hollenkamp, MS, RD, fills her day teaching those with functional gut disorders how to eat, move, and live to find relief. I thought I would find out how our two worlds connect and what concerns are driving consumer behavior surrounding gut health.
Why Do I – Who Has a ‘Normal Gut’ – Need to Care?
Amy talks about food A LOT with her clients.
IBS sufferers know how disruptive an imbalanced gut can be to their quality of life. They do everything they can to keep their gut healthy; everything from changing stress levels to completely revamping their diets. But what Amy teaches is: even if you have no gut issues, you still need to take actions to keep your gut healthy. Because, your gut health plays a quintessential role in overall health.
Here are some key insights she believes are the key to a healthy gut.
1) Gut Inflammation Leads to Whole-body Inflammation
According to Amy, this is key to it all, “The gut is so important to overall health due it its role in controlling inflammation. If you have an imbalanced and unhealthy gut, your gut will kick off an inflammatory response. This inflammation does not just stay in the gut, but produces a systemic inflammatory response. High levels of inflammation in the body are nearly the root cause of all chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, autoimmunity depression, and more. Therefore, the best way to control inflammation is to establish a healthy and balanced gut. As gut inflammation decreases, whole body inflammation decreases.”
2) PRObiotic and PREbiotic Power
Probiotics and prebiotics are the obvious choice when it comes to modulating the gut environment and restoring balance. Amy would love to see probiotics and prebiotics included as much as possible in functional foods.
The main concern Amy has is the survivability of the strains being chosen, “Most strains found in popular foods and supplements can not survive the acidity of the stomach. Therefore, it is important to try to choose resilient strains that can survive. Although, fermented food products still have benefits from the byproducts of bacterial fermentation even if the probiotics do not survive the transit to the gut.”
According to the Registered Dietitian, she believes prebiotics are more important than probiotics. Prebiotics are compounds that can be found in fiber, that feed gut bacteria. Although consumer awareness around prebiotics is not as strong, “The lack of awareness about prebiotics is a real shame, because I find them to be even more powerful than probiotics at restoring the gut. Probiotics can change the soil, but unless prebiotics go in and feed the soil, positive changes will be very limited.
I would love the food industry to start really added prebiotic fibers to foods. Because the simple truth is that Americans on average get about 15 grams of fiber daily when the recommendation is 25 grams for females and 38 grams for males. That is way too low!”
3) Don’t Skimp on Polyphenols to Lower Inflammation
Polyphenols are plant compounds that have anti-inflammatory effects and Amy believes people with gut issues should increase their intake of these foods. This means increasing dark chocolate, coffee, berries, cherries, grapes, spices, herbs, and green tea intake. Usually foods that are rich blues, purples and reds are high in polyphenols. *That’s not too bad, I can do that!*
If companies could isolate polyphenols and add them to foods, she believes it would be a big win. In her own clinic she uses grapeseed extract due to its high polyphenol content. She also uses polyphenols from green tea to help her clients increase their “good-gut bugs”. These anti-inflammatory juggernauts could be great inclusions in health food products to lower inflammation by way of Akkermansia muciniphila.
4) Turmeric and Ginger are Gut Savers
Ginger and turmeric are two flavors we’re seeing trend in the health and wellness space, no matter the category. I have gotten to know these two flavors as main ingredients to new products hitting the market, but Amy also sanctions them as gut helpers. Ginger offers a sweet and spicy zing to dishes, while turmeric provides a warm and bitter taste with a peppery aroma.
The widely-believed health benefits of consuming ginger and turmeric are: reducing nausea, increasing “good-gut bugs”, decreasing the inflammation of the gut, increasing motility, increasing gastric emptying, and promoting gut tissue repair.
Consumers are starting to understand that every single thing we consume will either have a positive or negative impact on our bodies. If we want to be happy, we need to keep our gut happy. Of course, its OK to indulge and enjoy foods, but I for one, will be thinking twice the next time I say “no thank you” to broccoli.
This blog is not intended to provide medical advice. Information, content and material presented here was created for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of a licensed physician or health care provider regarding a medical condition.
Did Amy just give me permission to eat more dark chocolate? I accept!