When it comes to focusing on your gut health, studies are finding that what you do and do not eat can impact your gut health(aka digestive system). Your gut is home to trillions of bacteria, which are often referred to as the human microbiome.

Scientists are studying what food and beverages can impact gut health. While there is still a lot to learn, what is becoming increasingly clear is that having a wide diversity of bacteria in the gut seems to be a good thing, so including foods and beverages that could boost the diversity of good bacteria could benefit your gut health.

For athletes, gut health should be something that is on your radar because the gut plays many important roles in the body, for example: metabolic and immune function. Researchers are examining the potential impact of gut health and athletes including: maintaining proper hydration during exercise to prevention of inflammation. (3) Studies have connected that probiotics may enhance the immune responses of fatigued athletes, which could play a role in keeping you or getting you back into the game. (4)

When it comes to boosting your gut health,there are a couple of different areas to focus on: fiber, prebiotics, and probiotics.

Overall eating plenty fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help to keep your gut healthy. While all fruits, vegetables, and whole grains deliver fiber, it seems that certain types of fiber help the bacteria in our gut thrive. Foods that are high in these specific types of fiber (e.g. inulin and fructooligosaccharides) are considered prebiotics, which feed the probiotics or good bacteria that are in our gut. Foods that are rich in prebiotics include: garlic, leeks, onion, bananas, soy beans, whole-wheat foods, artichokes, and asparagus.Another potential benefit of prebiotics is that they may enhance calcium absorption.(2)

Try working foods that deliver prebiotics into your eating routine like: adding minced garlic to stir-fries, sauces, and soups; topping whole wheat bread with peanut butter and sliced bananas; or makinga yogurt parfait that includes granola and sliced bananas.

Another area to focus on for guthealth isincluding a variety ofprobiotics, whichare often referred to as “good bacteria”. There are many potential benefits being linked between probioticsand health from boosting immunity, to management of allergy symptoms, to reducing symptoms of lactose intolerance. Also as mentioned above, probiotics could help enhance immune responses in fatigued athletes.

Foods that deliver probiotics include: yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, aged cheese(e.g. Cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan, Gouda), kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, and cultured non-dairy yogurt.

To include probiotics into your eating routine: try using buttermilk as a base for homemade dressings,have a slice of Cheddar cheese with an apple, start your meal with miso sou,or have Greek yogurt topped with sliced fruit and nuts for breakfast.

When it comes to boosting your gut health, take a look at your eating routine and ensure that you are including a variety of fiber-rich foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains), prebioticfoods, and probiotic foods and beverages! Boosting your gut health could help with recovery, your immune system, and more.

Tart Cherry Kefir from Drink Your Way to Gut Health
Serves 2 (1 cup each)cherries

Tart cherries are known for their anti-inflammatory impact on the body. Researchers from the Oregon Health & Science University presented a small study of 20 women with inflammatory arthritis (osteoarthritis); it showed that having 8 ounces of tart cherry juice twice a day for 3 weeks led to a reduction in inflammation markers. Similar inflammation reduction has been found among athletes who added tart cherry juice while training for long distance running, and the runners experienced less pain. When shopping for tart cherry juice, opt for 100 percent tart cherry juice to gain the maximum health benefits.

Ingredients:
1 cup frozen dark cherries
1/2 cup plain kefir
1/2 cup 100 percent tart cherry juice
4 or 5 ice cubes

Directions: Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until icy and smooth.Divide between 2 glasses and serve, or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 or 4 days.

Nutrition facts (per serving): 110 calories, 1/2 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 40 mg sodium, 22 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 18 g sugar, 4 g protein, 4% vitamin A, 8% calcium, 10% vitamin C, 4% iron.

References:
1.https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160428151853.htm

2.http://www.eatright.org/resource/food/vitamins-and-supplements/nutrient-rich-foods/prebiotics-and-probiotics-the-dynamic-duo

3.Endurance exercise and gut microbiotahttp://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095254616300163

4.Probiotics and athletic performance: A systematic reviewhttp://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11932-007-0044-5