Gut health” describes the function and balance of bacteria of the many parts of the gastrointestinal tract. Ideally, organs such as the esophagus, stomach and intestines work together to allow us to eat/digest food without discomfort. But that’s not the case for an estimated 70 million people in the U.S. with digestive diseases. Hence, the over-flowing shelves of Prilosec, Nexium, Prevacid, Xantac and all PPI’s (proton pump inhibitor drugs) that lead to gut dysbiosis; i.e: the imbalance of the gut microbiome bacteria, if taken too long. These gut microbes affect the way we store fat, how we balance levels of glucose in our blood, and how we respond to hormones that make us feel hungry or satiated.

The wrong internal mix can set the stage for obesity and other health issues later in life.

A healthy gut consists of different bacteria for different people, and this diversity maintains wellness. A shift away from “normal” gut flora diversity is called dysbiosis, and dysbiosis may contribute to disease. Thus, the microbiome has become the focus of much research attention as a new way of understanding autoimmune, gastrointestinal, and even brain disorders.

Scientists have found that gut bacteria produce neurotransmitters that regulate your mood including serotonin, dopamine, and GABA. Researchers have also discovered that a nervous system in your gut (known as the “second brain”), the enteric nervous system (ENS), is a complex system of about 100 million nerves found in the lining of the gut. The ENS communicates with the brain in your head. It also plays a role in certain diseases and in mental health. The gut is no longer seen as an entity with the sole purpose of helping with all aspects of digestion. It’s also being considered as a key player in regulating inflammation and immunity.

In other words, the wellness of both your body and your brain depends on your gut health.

The gut-brain connection is no joke; it can link anxiety to stomach problems and vice versa. Have you ever had a “gut-wrenching” experience? Do certain situations make you “feel nauseous”? We use these expressions for a reason. The gastrointestinal tract is sensitive to emotion. Anger, anxiety, sadness, elation — all of these feelings (and others) can trigger symptoms in the gut.

So how can you keep your digestive system feeling good and functioning optimally? What are the best foods for gut health? Think fiber, fermentation,  and nutrient-dense foods. When it comes to maintaining your microbiome at its healthiest level, nothing is more important than what you eat and drink. The internal environment of your gut is dictated by what you put in your mouth — so the foods you choose to eat are a crucial component of maintaining gut health. The good news is, even a lifetime of bad eating is fixable — at least as far as your microbes are concerned. Amazingly, your body can create a new microbiome in as little as 24 hours — just by changing what you eat. What you eat determines which bacteria thrive in your gut. And research tells us that the good “gut bugs” get stronger when fed colorful, plant-based foods. A 2014 study published in the journal The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society found that vegetables, grains, and beans fed a positive gut environment. But meat, junk food, dairy, and eggs fed a negative gut environment.

Two terms — probiotics and prebiotics — are becoming more widely known. Probiotics are beneficial good gut bugs. And prebiotics are food for these bacteria. You can get both probiotics and prebiotics by eating the right foods. Probiotics are found in fermented foods, as well as in some supplements. And prebiotics are found in certain fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The most essential prebiotic of all is fiber.

Approximately 97% of Americans get at least the recommended amount of protein. But only about 3% of Americans get the recommended 40 grams of fiber they need per day — and fiber is the most crucial ingredient for gut health. Fiber feeds the good bacteria we’ve been talking about, so it’s vital to eat fiber-rich foods as often as possible. Our microbes extract the fiber’s energy, nutrients, and vitamins, including short-chain fatty acids, which can improve immune function, decrease inflammation, and protect against obesity.

Here are a few probiotic-rich foods you may want to incorporate into your daily meal plan to support the health of your gut: 

  1. Kimchi
  2. Sauerkraut
  3. Yogurt
  4. Kefir
  5. Kombucha
  6. Miso
  7. Tempeh
  8. Fermented AKA “Pickled” Vegetables
  9. Apple Cider Vinegar

Prebiotic Rich foods include: 

  1. Asparagus 
  2. Chickpeas 
  3. Onions 
  4. Almonds and Nuts 
  5. Fresh Fruits (Raspberries, apples, blueberries, blackberries, etc.) 
  6. Quinoa and Other Whole Grains 
  7. Sweet Potatoes 
  8. Artichokes 
  9. Broccoli and Cruciferous Vegetables
  10. Bananas 

One delicious, excellent gut health dish is a warm bowl of grain goodness or salad.

Gut Health Salad Bowl


  • Kale
  • Chickpeas
  • Broccoli Microgreens
  • Fermented Cabbage & Beets
  • Blueberries
  • Pistachios
  • Olive Oil
  • Garlic
  • Lemon juice
  • Quinoa or brown rice
  • Any greens

Other Gut Healthy Ingredients

  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Yogurt (make sure the label says it has “live cultures)
  • Miso
  • Almonds
  • Peas
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Ginger
  • Raspberries & Blackberries
Courtney Daylong is a Carnegie Mellon University alum and holds a Masters in Public Management with a focus in Strategic Planning. She has spent over a decade in executive leadership as a District Manager and Regional Vice President in education and with American Honda Motor Co. throughout the Midwest and Los Angeles. She also has completed doctoral studies from the University of Southern California in Public Policy as well as a BA in education. After having three boys, she co-founded a global nutrition business, Totally Fit Mama with her celebrity client. She now teaches at the Gelfend Center - Carnegie Mellon University and works with private clients. Living on platinum status at hotels, the reality of eating well and making healthy food choices on the road can prove to be challenging.... This was Courtney's life as a corporate District Manager and Vice President until she began taking "green drinks" and healthy snacks on her travels while her colleagues watched as her energy soared and their interest piqued. She became the "go to" person for healthy insight about living well and eating healthy on the road. (Prior to her corporate life, Courtney was in the modeling industry and battled anorexia, her earliest time facing questions of food choices). After having her first child, she was exclusively breastfeeding and learned he was milk/soy protein intolerant (MSPI). She chose to eliminate all dairy and soy from her diet and saw a vast difference in her baby. This began her formal interest in nutrition and her decision to leave the corporate world. She had her second child , also needing to eliminate dairy and soy for approximately one year. Both boys grew out of their intolerance around the age of one, but Courtney's interest in quality nutrition for her family was soon met by studying at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. IIN teaches hundreds of dietary theory's from Paleo to Vegan to the cabbage soup diet, with no one right way for everyone. One persons food is another's poison, as they say, and Courtney appreciates the teaching of bio individuality, practicing it with her clients today. Holding a Masters in Public Management from Carnegie Mellon University, a Bachelor of Arts from Point Park University and doctoral coursework in risk mgmt from the University of Southern California, she now works with individuals, companies and schools to better help their overall health, quality of life and nutrition knowledge for improved choices. As a sought after celebrity health and nutrition coach, she is known for her ability to really listen to her clients needs while creating empowering plans for their "health revolution". She is also an accredited breastfeeding counselor with a focus on maternal and infant nutrition, helping mamas, babies and toddlers get the right nutrition foundation leading to making long term healthy food choices. Courtney also teaches at The Gelfand Center-Carnegie Mellon University.