It hits tens of millions of people right in the gut, literally. Chronic intestinal distress, like irritable bowel syndrome, can make life miserable, but one doctor said food, instead of pharmaceuticals, could help tame your tummy.

"The intestines are not a sewerage system. They’re a garden and we need to be good gardeners," said Dr. Gregory Plotnikoff, integrative medicine physician, Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.

Plotnikoff said what happens in your stomach can impact your entire body.

"Gut health is the foundation for all health. Our gut bacteria regulate our mood, our energy, our immune system, and even our metabolism," Plotnikoff explained.

Bad gut bacteria leads to "gas, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. The things that no one wants to talk about," Plotnikoff said.

A gut full of good bacteria, called probiotics, can help prevent those problems.

The doctor said they’re like seeds in your gut garden that flourish with the help of prebiotics, a special form of dietary fiber.

"These are like Miracle-Gro for our internal garden. I prescribe foods that are actually going to support the friendly bacteria in our gut," Plotnikoff said.

He said cultured products, like tofu and yogurt, are great for your gut, and so are fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, kefir (fermented milk), and kombucha. Asparagus, artichokes, and carrots are packed with prebiotics.

"Apples and organs are also very good," said Plotnikoff, who believes the foods are a low-cost, side effect-free alternative to medications for gut problems. "Don’t take my word for it. Trust your gut."

While some, like Plotnikoff, swear by probiotics and prebiotics, others are skeptical about the benefits. Supplements containing probiotics and prebiotics are not regulated by the FDA.

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