Go With Your Gut

Help foster a balanced gut microbiome with these tips and recipes

Ivey Leidy with her Probiotic Smoothie Bowl, Photo by Kent Anderson
Photography by Kent Anderson

As a certified gut health expert, I believe that establishing good gut health is the gateway to achieving overall health. While the main role of our gut is digestion, its health can affect the entire body, including immunity, the heart, and the brain.

The gut is comprised of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and anus. We’ve all experienced the sensation of salivating before a bite. This is the first stage of digestion, when the salivary glands release digestive enzymes. The body then works together with hormones, bacteria, the more than 100 million nerve cells that line the gut, and the digestive organs to break down proteins, fats, and carbohydrates and convert them into nutrients that are small enough to be absorbed. The body uses these nutrients to support vital functions, from waste elimination to toxin release, growth to cell repair, hormone balance to skin health, and immunity to mental health.

Often referred to as “the second brain” or “the gut brain axis,” the gut controls far more than digestion. Research has shown that messages and signals may be sent back and forth from the gut to the brain, affecting emotions and the way we process information.

This intricate system works beautifully when there is a balance between good and bad bacteria. This is known as the gut microbiome, where billions of live bacteria—35,000 strains, both good and bad—live in the gut in perfect harmony.

Probiotic Smoothie Bowl, Photo by Kent Anderson
Probiotic smoothie bowl

When the gut microbiome is imbalanced (a condition known as dysbiosis) it can result in gas, bloating, indigestion, food allergies or sensitivities, skin rashes, joint pain or inflammation, vitamin deficiencies, or acne. Certain dietary habits can lead to dysbiosis, including excessive alcohol consumption and eating refined sugar, processed foods, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, gums, and emulsifiers. Using NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti- inflammatory drugs) or antibiotics for prolonged periods of time can result in imbalances as well. Additional causes include stress, exposure to pesticides and herbicides, and even poor oral health and hygiene.

Luckily, prebiotics and probiotics work wonders to balance the microbiome. Prebiotics are fiber-rich food sources that ferment in the gut, creating compounds that feed the production of good bacteria. Probiotics are supplements or foods (often those pickled with salt and water) that boast beneficial bacteria. In addition, certain foods—such as ginger, turmeric, mangoes, papaya, pineapple, lemon, and raw, unfiltered honey—support healthy digestion, while other herbs, plants, acids, and minerals—including aloe vera juice, slippery elm, and zinc—can help rebuild stomach lining.

Prebiotic Foods

  • Jicama
  • Seaweed
  • Artichokes
  • Jerusalem artichokes (aka sunchokes)
  • Asparagus
  • Leeks
  • Bananas
  • Barley
  • Oats
  • Onions
  • Quinoa
  • Cacao
  • Flax seeds
  • Hemp seeds
  • Chia seeds

Probiotic Foods

  • Miso
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Pickles
  • Olives
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Yogurt
  • Kefir

Miso-glazed halibut, Photo by Kent Anderson

Miso-Glazed Halibut Over Sautéed Asparagus

Serves 2 

Halibut Ingredients

  • 2 halibut filets, 8-10 oz. each, skin off
  • 2 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp. yellow or white miso paste
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • 2 tbsp. coconut aminos
  • 2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. freshly grated ginger

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pat dry halibut filets. Coat a cast-iron skillet with toasted sesame oil and turn heat to medium-high. Add filets and let cook for 4-5 minutes without moving them, until you see a crispy sear. Flip filets in the pan and remove from heat. To make the miso glaze, whisk together miso paste, honey, coconut aminos, rice wine vinegar, and ginger. Using a pastry brush, brush on miso glaze and then transfer filets to oven on medium rack for 2 minutes.

Ivey Leidy cutting asparagus for her miso-glazed halibut with sauteed asparagus Photo by Kent AndersonAsparagus Ingredients

  •  1 lb. asparagus, washed and trimmed
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp. coconut aminos

In a lidded sauté pan, add olive oil and asparagus. Cover and cook over medium heat for
4 minutes. Remove lid and raise heat to medium-high. Add toasted sesame oil and coconut aminos. Sauté while tossing frequently for 1 minute. Transfer to a plate and serve with halibut.

Ivey Leidy topping her Probiotic Smoothie Bowl, Photo by Kent Anderson

Probiotic Smoothie Bowl

Bowl Ingredients

  • 2 frozen bananas
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen mango
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 tsp. raw, unfiltered honey
  • 1 cup kefir


  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1 tbsp. ground flax seed
  • 1 tbsp. chia seed
  • 1 tbsp. flax seed
  • 1 tbsp. cacao nibs

Combine all bowl ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until thick and creamy. Transfer to a bowl and layer toppings. Garnish with a dusting of cinnamon.

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