If you pay attention to your body, you know that your gut feels a certain way after you eat foods that either benefit or sabotage it. A big burger with fries or several slices of pizza is going to affect your gut differently than a bowl of quinoa, roasted sweet potatoes, and fresh vegetables. This is because certain foods promote the growth of good bacteria, while others cause digestive distress and upset the health of your microbiome.
What Is The Microbiome?
Consisting of trillions of microorganisms, microbiota or microbes, the microbiome is a healthy balance of fungi, parasites, bacteria, and viruses. In a healthy person, these microbes coexist peacefully, and the number of healthy bacteria is greater than unhealthy bacteria. This delicate balance can support immune function, optimal digestion, and more bodily functions. When you eat foods that are not conducive to the health of your microbiome, your overall health begins to suffer, putting you at greater risk for disease.
If you don’t know which foods upset your gut, read on to learn about them. Avoiding these foods may reduce your risk of gut-related health issues.
Artificial sweeteners are similar to sugar alcohols, in that they can cause stomach pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea. Not everyone has these reactions to artificial sweeteners, but eating enough of them can easily upset your microbiome. Artificial sweeteners have the potential to change gut bacteria that influence metabolism, increasing the risk for obesity. To avoid these sweeteners, make sure to read nutritional labels and look for words ending in “-ol,” for example, sorbitol.
In moderation, grass-fed/grass-finished beef will not cause irreparable damage to the gut. Studies confirm that eating a lot of red meat can increase inflammation, especially in the colon, increasing the risk of colon cancer. Statistics are startling as well, with studies revealing that eating excess red and processed meat has caused nearly 18% of lower bowel cancer cases. The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies processed meat as a class 1 carcinogen, meaning it is known to cause cancer in humans.
Gastroenterologists say that fried foods are bad for gut health for several reasons. First off, fried foods commonly trigger gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which occurs when stomach acid regularly goes back into the esophagus. Fried foods also contain high concentrations of saturated fats, which are very difficult to digest and take a long time to break down. That can be a serious problem for anyone, but especially people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Additionally, fried meat can increase gut endotoxins and systemic inflammation by messing with gut microbiome. The consumption of fried foods also creates lower diversity of gut bacteria.
Highly Processed Foods
Pre-made meals and ready-to-eat foods (like frozen pizza or microwavable dinners) are easy to enjoy if you’re pressed for time. Your gut never thanks you for eating these foods, though. Despite their convenience, they are highly inconvenient for the gut. Ultra-processed foods not only increase the risk of IBD, but they also contain ingredients like added sugars, thickeners, flavorings, emulsifiers, and preservatives, all of which harm the gut. Studies indicate that dietary emulsifiers promote colon inflammation by changing gut microbiome and damaging gut lining. Try to limit or completely avoid processed or convenience foods, especially processed meats, frozen meals, and canned soups.
A lot of people love to imbibe on occasion for various reasons. Some want to take the edge off and reduce stress, while others just want to cut loose. Unfortunately, drinking a daily alcoholic beverage can negatively affect your gut. Booze can damage the lining, or mucosa, of the digestive tract. To put it simply, alcohol is a gut toxin and should be one of the first foods/beverages you avoid if you are concerned about gut health.
Lactose intolerance is far more common than most people realize, affecting about 36-40% of Americans. Dairy causes a range of symptoms that result from lactose intolerance, decreased lactase enzyme, and FODMAP intolerance or milk allergy. Some dairy products even contain harmful hormones and antibiotics that can wreck your gut. Antibiotics in dairy products can destroy or damage beneficial bacteria in the gut, which can disrupt the balance of gut flora.