Managing your weight and looking your most attractive extends beyond simple numbers on the scale. Diet and exercise can promote a taut physique, but a healthy microbiome and digestive system are crucial to stoking the body's fat-burning furnace.

It is well known that increasing exercise and daily activity creates the calorie deficits the body requires to shed excess weight. However, optimizing digestion and strengthening gut health requires making sure your body can assimilate, process and eliminate the foods we eat effectively.

Artificial sweeteners and inflammatory oils can cause conditions such as leaky gut syndrome. Instead, consume foods high in prebiotics and probiotics, which strengthen the gut lining and microflora so that healthy bacteria can thrive.

Foods to Boost Gut Health and Digestion

  • Yogurt: Friendly bacteria, also known as probiotics, are abundant in live yogurt. Try sugar-free varieties and add your own fruit for a tasty and nutritious breakfast.

    Plus, drinking yogurt in beverages like kefir can be a very effective way to get high levels of healthy gut bacteria into your daily routine, far more than you would find in regular semi-soft yogurt. However, be aware that store-bought brands can contain a lot of sugar.

    So, check the ingredients lists and macros to make the choice that aligns most with your dietary plan or health requirements.

  • Kefir: Given its name from a mountainous region between Asia and Europe, as well as Russia and Central Asia, and made from fermented milk, kefir can help prevent a leaky gut. Besides, it also makes a tangy and tasty addition to smoothies and soups—or you can use it as a base for salad dressing (simply add lemon juice, sea salt, and seasonings to taste).

  • Miso: Fermented soya beans, rice, or barley are used to make miso, which contains helpful bacteria and enzymes. Dips, dressings, soups and marinades can utilize this savory paste. This is a staple of Japanese cooking that's suitable for those who avoid dairy.

    While there is uncertainty in the research regarding whether the bacteria in these ingredients reach the gut, in regions where miso is a staple fermented food source, the population has better gut health and less bowel disease than documented in other regions of the world.

  • Sauerkraut: Basically, it is fermented cabbage chopped finely. Probiotics, fiber, and vitamins are all found in this delicious German dish. Eastern and central European versions are also available. Make sure that the product hasn't been pickled in vinegar, as that won't offer the same gut-boosting benefits.

    This selection is delicious served with sausages, and it's cheap and easy to make at home.

  • Kimchi: Fermented vegetables are a Korean specialty, which contain probiotic bacteria, vitamins, and fiber. Serve it with meat, salad, or eggs as a lively side dish.

    Plus, as a fun fact: Koreans say "kimchi" when they have their pictures taken the same way we say "cheese” in America.

  • Bone Broth: Intestinal and digestive health is greatly improved by regularly drinking bone broth.

    Broths may differ in their nutritional profiles depending on the ingredients they contain. However, many include iron, vitamin K, vitamin A, zinc, and more, all of which can benefit gut health and promote healthy hair, skin, and nails, as well.

  • Garlic: The antibacterial and antifungal properties of garlic can help keep "bad" gut bacteria at bay and balance yeast in the gut.

    Use it as a fantastic flavoring for savory dishes: garlic's properties are a fabulous fuel source for healthy bacteria, which helps improve gut function and heal digestive problems.

  • Kombucha: There is no doubt that water is vital to gut health, but what else can you drink? The Kombucha drink, which originated in Manchuria, has probiotic strains of bacteria in it and is an excellent beverage to sip regularly to maintain optimal gut health. It has a sharp, vinegary taste and can be used as a refreshing drink on its own or mixed with fruit and spices. Furthermore, it makes a tasty base for sweet and hard cocktails.

  • Olive Oil: Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) contains bioactive compounds (e.g., polyphenols). Plus, the fatty acid profile of EVOO is rich in oleic acid which provides beneficial health effects as well.

    Moreover, olive oil biophenols, with their high gut concentrations, have a direct antioxidant effect and help to modulate intestinal epithelial homeostasis by positively affecting inflammation and gut microbes.

    Furthermore, extra virgin olive oil may decrease leaky gut by increasing the number of healthy bacteria in the gut, called Bacteroides

  • Fresh Fennel & Seeds: Essential oils from fennel seeds stimulate the release of digestive juices and enzymes. As an antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory, fennel seeds contain anethole, fenchone and estragole. Whether you have constipation, indigestion, or bloating, this supplement will help.

  • Ginger: Ginger helps produce stomach acid and stimulates digestion to keep food moving through the intestinal tract.

    Grate fresh ginger into soups, stews, smoothies, or stir-fries. Or experiment with making a refreshing ginger tea by pouring boiling water over grated ginger and steeping to allow its flavor to fully develop.

  • Turmeric: Turmeric's antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties contribute to healthy digestion—the key reason why the herb is used as a digestive healing agent in Ayurvedic medicine.

    Including the potent element into your daily routine can aid in soothing sore joints and muscles, along with tamping out inflammation throughout the body to aid in establishing better overall balance.

  • Pineapple: This fruit is our only source of dietary bromelain, a digestive enzyme that helps break down proteins.

    Pineapple's bromelain also helps reduce pain and inflammation, including gut inflammation when eaten on an empty stomach. Therefore, it may prevent leaky gut syndrome and promote a healthy gut lining.

    Plus pineapples are completely accessible. Just check the aisles of any grocery store or health food store to pick up this tropical treasure in your area.

  • Chia Seeds: These seeds can serve as a prebiotic that helps your stomach produce healthy bacteria that keep your digestive system functioning properly. Plus, chia seeds can also act as a cleansing agent for the digestive system, as they become a sticky gel-like substance when soaked in water.

  • Winter Squash: Winter squashes like butternut, acorn, and pumpkins are abundant in soluble fiber, which our gut bacteria crave. Filled with fiber, vitamins, and minerals: butternut squash helps keep digestion moving while offering essential nutrients to the body.

    And, of course, being whole plant foods, they're also loaded with water, making them both hydrating and beneficial for boosting microflora in the gut,

  • Coconut Oil: Coconut oil can help to stimulate the metabolism and help to increase the body’s ability to burn fat. Coconut oil can also help to reduce appetite and promote a feeling of fullness to aid in curbing appetite naturally.

    Coconut oil can also support healthy and balanced gut bacteria thanks to its antifungal properties.

  • Lemon: This low-carb fruit adds a welcomed zing or zest to brighten recipes.

    Plus, these yellow gems contain a significant amount of pectin, a type of fiber that acts as food for your friendly gut bugs, encouraging the balance and growth of healthy gut bacterial strains like bifidobacterium.

  • Beets: Beet betalains and phenolics appear to enhance the production of metabolites (a.k.a., short chain fatty acids) by gut microbiota and probiotics, which are associated with various beneficial effects on the digestive system.

  • Papaya: One of the most beneficial fruits you can consume for gut health, papaya contains high amounts of beneficial digestive enzymes. These elements soothe the gut and aid with processing and assimilating amino acids and fats.

    Also, these tropical fruits edge out bad bacteria in the gut and are an excellent source of prebiotics to create the ideal environment for easy and efficient digestion.

  • Apple Cider Vinegar: The variety of antioxidants found in ACV, called polyphenols, help support your “good” gut bacteria. Plus, the acetic acid it contains provides antibacterial and antifungal properties, which explains why people have turned to vinegar to disinfect wounds for centuries.

  • Sourdough Bread: In the wake of the pandemic, baking homemade bread, especially sourdough, has become all the rage. However, this traditional bread is also regaining popularity for good reason: it’s digestible and its energy is released slowly as a result of fermentation. In addition, it makes fantastic toast!

Foods that Disrupt Gut Health and Digestion

The gut is a complex community of beneficial organisms and systems that work together to keep us regular and banish unwanted bloat, but other nefarious gut bugs can wreak havoc in our bodies, leading to digestive disruptions and inflammatory conditions.

The use of artificial sweeteners and inflammatory oils, like canola, can cause conditions such as leaky gut syndrome. In lieu of that, eat foods high in prebiotics and probiotics to nourish your gut lining and microflora and to facilitate the growth of healthy bacteria, and opt for cleaner oils like avocado that’s versatile–even able to take on very high heats when cooking without becoming toxic.

  • Artificial Sweeteners: Artificial sweeteners are frequently used by people who are trying to lose weight. These products may appear harmless and even helpful in curbing calories but they may result in unwanted side effects, as they're associated with a variety of adverse gut outcomes, including detrimental modifications in the composition of the gut microbiome, a surge in glucose intolerance, and an increase in the rates of metabolic diseases.

  • Sugar: Although refined white sugar has a bad reputation, all types of sugar can damage your gut. Hormones are disrupted by sugar, and insulin and glucose levels rise with excessive intake. Consume sugar in moderation so as to avoid spikes and other irregularities linked to overdoing it.

  • Processed Foods: Many of us are aware that processed foods aren't very healthy, but you might be shocked by how they can affect the harmony of your digestive system because highly-processed foods can disturb your gut's microbiota and cause disorders like colitis and other devastating metabolic diseases.

  • GMO Soy: Many blue zones, with the largest number of people living over the age of 100, rely on soy as a part of a healthy and sustainable diet. Plus, soy-based foods have been associated with a flourishing gut microbiota as it’s one of the few plant-based foods to contain all nine essential amino acids.

  • Dairy: Dairy foods may not be the right approach for your stomach even if you are not lactose intolerant. According to studies, dairy consumption changes the bacterial composition of your gut within days, encouraging the growth of strains linked to intestinal disorders and inflammation.

  • Red Meat: Red meat overindulgence can affect gut microbiota and promote the development of heart disease, as the chemical L-carnitine, which is found in significant quantities in red meat and several energy drinks, alters the composition of the gut flora, increasing the risk of heart disease.

  • Gluten: This protein causes significant health concerns in individuals with an intolerance or sensitivity and can promote intestinal permeability, aka, leaky gut syndrome, in people with Celiac Disease, Crohn's Disease, and possibly IBS.

  • Genetically-Modified Organisms (GMOs): These engineered toxic ingredients and foods are confirmed as a carcinogenic compound and poison that can result in long-term adverse effects on gut health which are still undetermined. Digestive enzymes may be impaired after consuming GMO foods, leading to hampered digestion, and damaging microvilli in the intestinal tract similar to Celiac disease, especially when the GMO compound glyphosate is present.

  • Corn: In and of itself, organic, non-GMO corn can work well in a healthy diet. However, too much of anything can impede digestion. Accordingly, corn in significant amounts, especially the GMO variety, can lead to an adverse gastrointestinal symptoms due to its high cellulose content which the human digestive tract cannot break down and properly assimilate.

  • Farmed Fish: Cultivating fish in an aquafarming environment provides an opportunity to control many factors like what said fish eat and the water quality of their tanks, but unfortunately many farmed fish are fed an unnatural diet of corn, causing the fish to contain higher levels of inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids, also potentially containing more harmful contaminants than wild salmon.

  • Nightshades: Some find it difficult to digest potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant (aka, nightshade vegetables), and those with such an intolerance likely suffer with food sensitivities, allergies, autoimmune disease, inflammatory bowel disease or leaky gut syndrome, and will benefit from avoiding the aforementioned veggies opting for dark leafy greens instead.

  • Tap Water: Deciding to drink tap water regularly leaves you open to a higher amount of bacteria present in most cities and states, linked to antibiotic resistance in the mouse gut microbiota as compared to spring or distilled water. However, a more recent survey is needed to assess the present day effect of drinking water on human gut and oral microbiota.

  • Too Much Saturated Fat: Consuming excessive amounts of meat and high-fat dairy—fatty meats like bacon, ribs, salami, and pork rinds, and cheeses, et al., can alter the microbes in your gut and cause inflammation, creating an environment perfect for the proliferation of rouge bacteria to offset an otherwise healthy microbiome. Furthermore, those who consume larger amounts of animal products are more likely to trigger the development of Bilophila, or microbes that work with bile in the body to metabolize the larger amounts of fat in a person’s diet, which may lead to digestive imbalances.

  • Fried Foods: It’s long been established that there’s very little health upside to frequently consuming fried foods. But emerging information points to the food preparation process also contributing to worsening of microbiota diversity, even potentially promoting irregular glucose and inflammation levels. Support elevated microflora, gut health, and heart health by limiting fried meat and other fare, like chicken-fried steak; french fries; corn dogs; doughnuts and other fried desserts.

  • Alcohol: Consuming too much alcohol can lead to a landmine of issues from wicked hangovers, to dysbiosis and bacterial overgrowth, promoting an increase in the release of endotoxins. As a result, the body’s level of bacteria that cause inflammation increases and irritates the gut microbiome while reducing and suppressing the potency of the good bacteria that facilitate digestion.

  • Caffeine: We may love its wake-me-up effects in our morning brew, but it’s still wise to remember that caffeine can cause adverse irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)-like symptoms, like diarrhea and stomach discomfort as a result of it accelerating gut motility. Pace yourself and sip with this information in mind.

  • High FODMAP Foods: FODMAP stands for: Fermentable, Oligosaccharide, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, Polyols. Food containing simple sugars, sugar alcohols and some fermented foods may irritate the stomach and hinder digestion and elimination. You might want to reconsider the following foods if you’re experiencing sensitivities:

    The following are some common high FODMAP foods:

    • Processed foods containing high fructose corn syrup, sorbitol, and other artificial sweeteners

    • Fruit juices

    • Agave, honey, and many other sweeteners

    • Condiments, such as jam, relish, and hummus

  • Refined Grains: Our bodies rely on protein to build, repair, and maintain muscle. However, like gluten, another type of protein in the form of lectins found in grains and especially wheat can cause increased inflammation and bruise the gut wall, damaging the intestinal lining, which can increase your risk for other inflammatory conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes.

    Furthermore, eating wheat and grains broadens permeability of the gut barrier due to the aforementioned increased inflammatory response evidenced by spiked markers in the blood and also by damaging the cells that line the gut—possibly promoting or worsening a host of digestive conditions.

Eating a high-fiber diet is another natural way to support healthy digestion, with soluble fiber absorbing water and forming a gel that’s consumed by gut bacteria and aids in removing waste from the intestines.

Stick to the following foods to boost good bacteria and aid in eased digestion and regular elimination:

  • Beans, dried peas and lentils - An abundance of filling fiber that aids in feelings of fullness while acting as a slow-digesting complex carbohydrate found in these foods can aid in managing weight and curbing the appetite.

  • Dried fruits, such as prunes and raisins - Proper digestion and waste elimination is aided by fiber-filled fare like prunes and raisins. Plus, they add a touch of sweetness and depth of flavor to recipes that’s a welcomed and dynamic addition.

  • Whole grains, such as barley, quinoa, bulgur and brown rice - While many may be curbing carbs, it’s wise to remember that carbs with a high-fiber content may facilitate abdominal weight loss when worked into a balanced diet.

  • Fresh fruits, especially apples with skin, pears with skin, oranges, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries - Along with providing loads of antioxidants and phytonutrients, the fiber and hydration in these fruits assist in improving digestion and waste elimination.

  • Nuts - A handful of protein-rich nuts can quickly quell a craving and keep a voracious appetite in check with muscle-building amino acids and fiber that helps support digestion and fat-burning.

  • Seeds - Sunflower, hemp, flax, and chia are all delicious seeds that are packed with protein and fiber and all aid improving digestion while keeping hunger at bay for hours, and banishing gas and bloating.

  • Vegetables, particularly artichokes, broccoli, green peas, winter squash, and white and sweet potatoes with skin - Incorporating colorful and fibrous veggies into your meal plan can help add interest to dishes, while delivering loads of slow-digesting fiber-filled selections to keep your intestinal tract clean and pristine.

  • Asparagus - These hearty stalks are divine when roasted aside a filet of seared salmon—a wonder food when it comes to torching body fat, toning up and slimming down. Asparagus contains the chemical asparagine, an alkaloid that directly impacts cells’ ability to efficiently assimilate and break down fat.

  • Onions: A person can lose weight by eating onions, which have soluble fiber that keeps them full for longer periods of time and contains fewer calories.

    Plus, the flavonoid quercetin contained in onions is known to promote accelerated metabolism and prevent fat accumulation.

  • Organic Soybeans: There is no doubt that soybeans are an excellent source of plant-based protein and fat.

    Moreover, their high-fiber content boosts gut health. Moreover, soybeans, soy milk, tofu, and soy nuts improve cholesterol levels more significantly than processed soy products containing genetically modified soy and fit perfectly in any fat-burning, weight-loss plan you may be following.


Our food choices, along with environment and other lifestyle choices directly impact the state of our gut microbiome. And that’s good news, because it means we’re the masters of the central system that supports all our body’s functions and helps us thrive day to day.

Comprise your diet of fiber and water-rich foods to aid in daily detox and eased digestion. Plus, keeping a close eye on hydration can also boost digestive health and elimination without having to make too many drastic changes to your daily routine–just down some additional fluid ounces a day and you’ll further aid in maintaining a healthy gut and optimal digestion.

Plus, comprising your diet with nutrient-dense, fat-burning foods that help your body release rather than store fat will act as your secret weapon to remain slim and trim while boosting gut health to sustain overall health and well-being.


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  • Sanz, Y. (2015). Microbiome and gluten. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 67(Suppl. 2), 27–42.

  • Floch, M. H., & Kim, A. (2014). Probiotics, prebiotics and Gut Health. Clinical Insights: Probiotics, Prebiotics and Gut Health, 2–6.

  • The microbiome and gut inflammatory disorders. (2021). Gut Feelings.

  • Dou, N., Sun, R., Su, C., Ma, Y., Zhang, X., Wu, M., & Hou, J. (2022). Soybean oil bodies as a milk fat substitute improves the quality, antioxidant and digestive properties of yogurt. Foods, 11(14), 2088.

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This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Sam MD/MPH nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.