Researchers have discovered that roughly 70% of the immune system resides within the gastrointestinal tract (GI), suggesting a connection between gut health and immune function.

The primary role of the gut is to digest and absorb foods and excrete waste.

A healthy gut and digestive system ensure that food is broken down properly, nutrients from the foods are being absorbed, and excess toxins and waste are excreted from the body.

A variety of factors affect the overall health of the gut, including the foods that we eat every day.

Food choices can either support optimal gut health or contribute to ill health and gut-related health concerns, which can range from constipation or diarrhea to autoimmune disease, low mood and mental health issues, and increased skin breakouts.

Kefir is a fermented, sour-tasting milk that has been consumed as a traditional beverage since the 19th century in Russia, Ukraine, and Turkey.

It is rich in probiotics, which help maintain gut health and a favorable composition of the microbiota, especially in individuals with GI issues and those who have received antibiotic, radiation, and immunosuppressive therapies.

Sauerkraut, meaning “sour cabbage” in German, is one of the oldest and most common methods of cabbage preservation, which can be traced back to 400 BC.

Sauerkraut has been a popular traditional food in Germany, Poland, and Russia for hundreds of years.

During the fermentation process, the salt pulls liquid from the cabbage and produces bacteria such as LAB.

These live bacteria are responsible for the primary health benefits obtained from consuming sauerkraut.

Sauerkraut provides anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-oxidant, and anti-carcinogenic properties.

Kimchi is another traditional form of fermented cabbage that originated in Northeastern Asia and is a popular condiment in Korea.

Kimchi undergoes a similar fermentation process as sauerkraut; however, many additional ingredients are added to enhance flavor, taste, and nutritional value.

Kimchi is rich in live bacterial cultures, LAB being found in the highest concentrations following the fermentation process.

Kimchi may prevent and address GI disorders and infections by supporting and balancing the gut microbiome.

Kimchi, again similarly to sauerkraut, contains many vitamins, digestive enzymes, fiber, and minerals.

Kimchi also provides antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, and anti-aging properties.

Miso is a thick, salty-tasting paste made from fermented soybeans that have undergone fermentation with salt and koji, a type of starter fungus known as Aspergillus oryzae.

Miso, used throughout Asia, is a traditional Japanese condiment that can be used in spreads, sauces, and broths.

It contains probiotics and digestive enzymes such as lipase, protease, lactase, and amylase, which assist in the breakdown, digestion, and absorption of foods and nutrients.

When it comes to a thriving and healthy gut, the food we eat really does matter.

Food can either support optimal gut health or contribute to ill health.

Including fermented foods and certain vegetables and fruits can support your gut health and help prevent many GI-related health issues.

If you’re a patient, talk to your integrative healthcare practitioner to find the gut health foods and gut health diet best suited to you.