What 3 Foods Are Bad For Your Gut?
While we all want our gut to be healthy and fully-functioning, it can be difficult to know what foods improve our gut health and what foods we ought to ditch completely.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the three foods you should definitely ditch for a healthy gut to help you get your digestive system on the right track.
When we say the “gut”, we’re talking about the gut microbiome, a term that refers to the hundreds of different bacteria that live in your gut. Some of these bacteria are harmful and can cause illness or infection, but others are beneficial, such as probiotics, and allow your body to properly digest food and convert nutrients into material your body can use.
The key to a healthy gut is finding a bacterial equilibrium wherein there are enough good bacteria to fight off any potentially harmful effects of the bad bacteria.
Although for a long time the digestive system was thought to be relatively simple, it’s actually incredibly complex and delicate. In fact, the health of your gut directly correlates to the health of your heart, kidneys, and brain. For this reason, it’s important to maintain a diet that allows for a proper bacterial balance in your gut.
The best way to maintain a bacterial equilibrium is through your diet. Later in this article, we’ll take a look at three foods to cut out of your diet to improve gut health and a few to incorporate.
How Do I Know If My Gut is Healthy?
There’s several different causes of an unhealthy gut, from high stress to antibiotic intake, but there are a few key ways to gauge your gut health.
One of the most noticeable, and perhaps most obvious, signs of an unhealthy gut is an upset stomach. Any kind of excessive gas, constipation, or diarrhea can be a sign of an unhealthy gut. When the gut microbiome is healthy it can process food and eliminate waste with ease, therefore no stomach disturbance should occur.
Other signs of an unhealthy gut include fatigue, skin irritation, and fluctuation in weight. When your gut is not functioning properly, it cannot adequately absorb nutrients, store fat, and maintain a balanced blood sugar level. This can lead to both unhealthy weight loss and weight gain.
3 Foods to Ditch
Now that we have an overview of the gut microbiome, let’s take a look at three foods to ditch to maintain a healthy gut. Given that a nutritious, balanced diet is the best way to ensure a healthy gut, it’s important to know what foods to avoid.
Although some sugar is impossible to avoid, such as the natural sugars found in fruit, it’s a good idea to cut artificial sweeteners out of your diet. Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose offer no nutritional value. Given that these sweeteners pass through the body without being digested, they enter the gut microbiome in their pure form and disturb the bacteria balance.
Oftentimes, consumption of artificial sweeteners can lead to increased constipation and other stomach disturbances that can be uncomfortable and, in some cases, painful. Given that the delicate balance of bacteria in your gut is crucial to proper functioning, it’s a good idea to eliminate artificial sweeteners, which are known to negatively alter the bacterial population, from your diet.
Instead of artificial sweeteners, it’s better to use small amounts of real sugar, such as turbinado sugar, to sweeten your favorite drinks and dishes. That being said, all sugar feeds the bad bacteria in your gut so it’s a good idea to limit sugar intake as much as possible.
Alongside artificial sweeteners, highly processed foods are another food to ditch to promote your gut health. Although the term “processed food” is an umbrella term for a large category of snacks and meals, in general it is categorized as food with little fiber diversity and high levels of sugar, salt, and preservatives. Examples of this type of food are instant ramen, frozen dinners, microwave popcorn, some types of granola bars, and soda.
Given that your gut microbiome thrives on a diverse array of fibrous foods and polyphenols, the lack of diversity in processed foods can negatively impact your gut functioning. Additionally, the emulsifiers used in highly processed foods can potentially harm the good bacteria in your gut so much that metabolic diseases can result from their consumption.
While red meat has some nutritional value, many studies have shown that it can negatively impact gut health. There’s a specific compound in red meat called carnitine that mixes and interacts with the bacteria in the gut to make trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO). High levels of TMAO have been linked to cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis (accumulation of plaque in the arteries) and early death.
For this reason, the link between red meat and heart disease is a result of how it interacts with gut bacteria and not just due to the saturated fat and sodium present in red meat as was previously thought.
Foods To Favor For a Healthy Gut
While there are a few foods that you ought to cut out to improve your gut health, luckily there are several delicious foods you can incorporate into your diet to give your gut a boost.
Some of the best foods to eat for a healthy gut are those that are rich in probiotics. In order to get the most benefit from your probiotic-rich foods, it’s recommended that you eat these foods at cool or room temperature to ensure that the healthy bacteria in the foods stays alive.
Some popular probiotic-rich foods are kefir, a yogurt-like drink that has both lactic acid bacteria and active yeasts. Yogurt, tempeh, and sauerkraut are other examples of foods with high levels of probiotics that will boost your gut functioning. Several drinks made from fermented foods such as our own tepache, a traditional Mexican drink made from fermented pineapple, are also full of probiotics that help maintain a healthy bacterial balance in your gut.
Although they’re less talked about, it’s important to also incorporate prebiotics into your diet alongside probiotics because prebiotics are food for the good bacteria found in probiotic-rich foods. Oftentimes, prebiotics are fibers such as fructans, inulin, etc. The best way to incorporate prebiotics into your diet is to look for foods that are high in fiber.
Whole oats are a great source of prebiotics because they pass through the small intestine and ferment in the large intestine where they provide food for the gut bacteria. Other high-fiber foods include garlic, apples, and beans.
Summing It Up
Your gut microbiome is a delicate, complex system that allows you to process and digest food. When the bacterial balance in your gut is not at a healthy equilibrium, you can experience stomach disturbances, skin irritation, weight fluctuation, etc.
The best way to help your gut maintain the necessary equilibrium is through a healthy diet.
There are three foods to ditch for a healthy gut: artificial sweeteners, processed foods, and red meat. While that might account for a lot of your favorite snacks and drinks, there are several nutritious foods and beverages that have prebiotics and probiotics that will give your gut a boost.
Some of these include whole oats, kefir, and tepache -- did we mention our tepache variety pack?
Overall, maintaining a nutritious, balanced diet is the best way to ensure that your gut is fully functioning.