I’m an RD, and These Are the 3 Most Common Questions I Get Asked About Gut Health

Photo: Stocksy/Alita Long
With the increasing amount of evidence linking your microbiome (the bacteria that call your body home) to your overall health and well-being, it's safe to say that many people are now listening to their gut, so to speak, when making their food choices. And with that percolating interest in all things gut-health, questions have also bubbled up—lots of 'em. Just ask the registered dietitians who answer them daily.

Oh wait, we did that for you. Here, three RDs let us in on the gut-health FAQs they get from patients.

1. How does fiber help gut health?

When it comes to keeping your gut in tip-top shape, getting enough fiber is key. According to Amy Gorin, RDN, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in New York, the two types—soluble and insoluble fiber—are necessary for maintaining good gut health. "Insoluble fiber is found in foods such as whole grains and veggies. It helps get things moving through your digestive system and also helps bulk up your stool, helping it to pass," she says. "Soluble fiber is found in oat bran, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, and some fruits, and veggies. It soaks up water as it moves through your body. This helps bulk up your stool and prevent constipation. It’s best to include sources of fiber in each eating occasion."

2. Should I be taking probiotics?

"Probiotics are living microorganisms that can provide many health benefits [when consumed]," says Tony Castillo, RDN, LDN, and nutrition consultant for RSP Nutrition. They play a role in your mooddigestive health (they help your body to more easily break down nutrients), and immune system (by staving off harmful bacteria).

While supplements might be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of probiotics—and there are many different supplements available—Castillo recommends getting your probiotics from whole foods whenever possible. Great sources include yogurt, kefir, and fermented foods like kimchi, tempeh, and sauerkraut.

Here's what to know about fermentation for gut health:

3. Will cutting out gluten improve my gut health?

Should you or shouldn't you eat gluten—that is the question. Many people choose to go gluten-free, but Whitney English Tabaie, MS, RDN, co-founder of Plant-Based Juniors, says there's no research that shows healthy individuals benefit from doing so. "In fact, it's quite the opposite. Diets rich in whole grains—the main source of gluten—are associated with lower rates of numerous chronic diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes," she says. "A very small percentage of people—about 6 percent of the population—may suffer from non-celiac gluten sensitivity. However, this is not the case for most people who think they are gluten-sensitive." So before giving up gluten (and missing out on some major health benefits!), check in with an expert first.

These are the 10 most surprising facts about gut health we learned this year. Then check out 5 things that can impact your gut health that have nothing to do with food.

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