As a supplement to Dr. Stork’s informative article in the January/February 2018 issue of HLMS  here is some more helpful information about maintaining a healthy gut biome!

Why is gut health so important?

The three major chronic health conditions in our country are cancer, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. We all know that there are simple diet and exercises changes we can make to significantly lower our risks of developing these diseases, and one of them does seem to be taking better care of our gut microbes, or as I like to call them, our Little Buddies. There is still a lot we are leaning about gut health and its relationship with chronic disease, but scientists are finding dramatic links between microbial imbalance and health.

You’ve mentioned the importance of including fermented foods in a gut-healthy diet. Are there any foods that are best avoided?

The foods I recommend people avoid or minimize are highly processed foods as well as refined grains: white bread, white pasta, white rice and white flour. Unlike whole grains, refined grains have had their nutrient-rich bran and germ removed.

What beverages fit into a plan for a healthy gut?

Water! We are made up of 60% water, so staying hydrated is the first step. I often sweeten water with real fruit slices. Naturally carbonated waters are OK, too, but sodas, including diet sodas, really need to be minimized. Opt for whole fruit or blended fruit smoothies versus juices — fruits and vegetables are jam-packed with nutrients and loaded with great fiber that is good for your Little Buddies and fills you up. Those nutrients and fiber are lost in the juicing process and you are left with higher concentrations of sugar. I love my coffee as well as black and green tea (kombucha, which I mentioned in the original article, is fermented tea). And, if you are asking about alcoholic beverages — there are studies that have implied gut health benefits with moderate red wine consumption. Always drink in moderation and, of course, check with your primary care physician if there are other health issues that may be in play.

How can I talk to my primary care physician about adopting a gut-healthy diet?

Traditionally, doctors have received very little training on diet and nutrition but times are changing, and I would hope that in this day and age any primary care physician would know the benefits and importance of reducing processed foods and highly sweetened foods in your diet. If your physician is unfamiliar with diet recommendations and the role of “food as medicine,” then a nutritionist can be a helpful resource.

Will switching to a diet that is good for my gut make it difficult to eat out or easily find foods I can eat? Do I have to go gluten-free?

The only reason to go “gluten-free” is if you have an allergy or sensitivity to gluten. There are so many healthy food options available now, more than ever before, so switching or amending your diet to feed your Little Buddies shouldn’t be limiting at all. My book The Lose Your Belly Diet gives great tips and suggestions on how to maneuver through the grocery store and even salad bars. And when eating out, I recommend basic guidelines in the book to make it easy to enjoy your meal while choosing wisely.

A few simple changes include choosing healthy oils and fats, including olive, nut, canola, grape seed, avocado or coconut oils. And always choose whole grains over refined grains: whole-grain breads, cereals and pastas.

I don’t have a lot of time to prepare or cook complicated recipes — what are some simple, easy changes I can make?

The Lose Your Belly Diet is chock full of recipes, from soup to nuts, literally and figuratively! I don’t believe making healthy, tasty food should take a lot of time and that’s why I pride myself on providing simple and easy swaps to meals that add no time to meal prep.

To learn more about gut health/belly diet check out Dr. Stork’s book The Lose Your Belly Diet with bonus chapter/ exclusive content for Sam’s Club members.

Tweet @TheDoctors and let Dr. Stork know you enjoyed his #SamsClubMag Ask The Doctors feature article and additional Q&A

Travis Stork, M.D., is a board-certified emergency room physician and the host of the Emmy Award-winning TV series The Doctors, The New York Times best-selling author of The Doctor’s Diet, and The Doctor’s Diet Cookbook. Visit thedoctorstv.com for more information.