Having gut problems like bloating and gas can seriously derail a whole day, but did you know it’s not just your stomach causing you trouble? Our gut extends through more of our body than we might realize, and the lack of awareness can get in the way of feeling better. To combat this, Jada Pinkett Smith invited some experts to her hit Facebook Watch show Red Table Talk, and the advice they gave on having better gut health was so informative.
Jada was joined by her mom Adrienne, who goes by the loving nickname Gammy, and her son Jaden, whom she shares with husband Will Smith. The trio talked to gastroenterologist Dr. Fola May and dietitian Nancee Jaffee to get some answers about their ongoing gut problems.
“People hear the word gut and they think of their stomach,” Dr. May said in the show. “But the reality is that the digestive system is a large series of organs that starts at the mouth and it goes all the way down to our anus. So when you eat, food travels through the esophagus, though the stomach, through the small bowel, and then into the colon. All of that is considered the gut.”
That means that to have a healthy gut, you have to think about all the different ways these come together to digest the food we eat. And that food will also have an effect on so many other parts of life. “I think that a lot of people don’t realize that what you put in your body matters,” May said. “It’s gonna affect, your mood, your level of stress, your sleep even, how much energy you have. Not to mention your weight and your likelihood of getting severe medical problems in the future.”
What’s the difference between prebiotics and probiotics?
To get better guidance on what exactly we have to do to crack the “gut code” and start feeling better, May and Jaffee explained how our gut is full of bacteria. This bacteria, called the gut microbiome, has both good and bad properties that affect how we feel. They explained how research has shown that the microbiome has a direct effect on our health, and ways to manipulate it are being studied in order to make people feel better. That’s where probiotics come from — and eating the right kind can really make a difference. Pair those with prebiotics and your gut will thank you.
“When we talk about probiotics, we’re talking about foods that actually contain good bacteria,” Jaffee said. “Prebiotics are fuel for that good bacteria. So basically, prebiotics feed the probiotics. They’ve actually shown in research studies you need as little as a quarter of a cup a day of some of these foods, and that is enough to start causing some benefit in the gut.”
What kinds of foods are good for gut health?
Jaffee recommends incorporating food with good bacteria into our diet, and it’s actually delicious! Fruits like green bananas and berries and a grain like oats can really make a positive difference. Jaffee said olive oil is also great for better gut health and can help with constipation.
Dairy products like yogurt and aged cheese are also great to eat — even if you’re lactose intolerant. Since lactose is a type sugar, Jaffee recommends looking at the cheese or yogurt label to see if there’s any sugar content. If you see “0g” then it doesn’t have any lactose, so it’s safe to consume.
But the most important part of eating these foods is staying consistent, since that’s how Jaffee says you’ll start seeing a change. “Research has shown that if you make consistent diet changes — so you have to be eating these foods nearly every single day — that’s when you can play a role in what your gut microbiome looks like,” she says.
“Which is why finding foods you like … that you don’t get symptoms with, that you wanna have on a daily basis, that’s when you can make some change,” Jaffee explains.
If you find a way to incorporate any of these foods into your regular diet, you’ll end up with better gut health — and much happier!