If you are trying to improve (or at least take care of) your gut health, your daily diet will play an important role.
Some foods help nourish the gut and promote the growth of good bacteria, while others can cause digestive distress and interfere with the health of your microbiome – or bacterial environment in the gut.
Here, experts determine which foods you may want to avoid or limit to reduce the likelihood of bowel problems.
“Fried foods are harmful to intestinal health on many levels,” says gastroenterologist Elena A. Ivanina, DO.
First, fried foods are one of the most common causes of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition that occurs when stomach acid often returns to the esophagus (the tube that connects the mouth and stomach), says Dr. Ivanina.
Fried foods also have high amounts of saturated fat. Not only do saturated fats contribute to heart disease, but excessive amounts are harder to digest and will take longer to break down, which can be a problem for people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN , author ofRead it before you eat it – I take you from label to table.
It makes things worse, “especially fried meat increases intestinal endotoxins and systemic inflammation by affecting the intestinal microbiome,” says Dr. Ivanina.
In fact, the consumption of fried foods is associated with lower diversity [of gut bacteria] while foods such as raw vegetables are associated with greater variety, “she added.
That’s why it matters: the less diverse microbiome is linked to various chronic health problems such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, according to a January 2019 article.Aging
Drinking a daily cocktail can have serious consequences for your gut. This is because alcohol can damage the lining or lining of the digestive tract, says Taub-Dix.
Dr. Ivanina says it clearly: “Alcohol is a direct intestinal toxin and should be one of the first things you should rule out if you are concerned about gut health.”
This is because “alcohol damages the barrier function of the gut (causing ‘gut leakage’), allowing bacterial toxins to travel in your system,” explains Dr. Ivanina. This can even contribute to inflammation in other organs such as the liver.
Eating too much red meat can confuse your gut.
“Studies show that eating a lot of red meat contributes to inflammation, especially in the colon, where it can lead to colon cancer,” says Taub-Dix.
And the statistics are staggering: “Eating too much red and processed meat is estimated to cause 18 percent of bowel cancers,” said Dr. Ivanina. “In particular, processed meat is classified as a Class 1 carcinogen by the World Health Organization (WHO), which means that it is known to cause cancer in humans.
There is a mechanism behind the link to red meat cancer: “Red meat contains heme iron, which is broken down in the gut to form N-nitroso compounds, which can damage the lining of the gut and lead to cancer,” explains Dr. Ivanina. .
4. Foods / Drinks with high sugar content
Eating and drinking too many sugary foods can be especially harmful to gut health.
“Foods high in sugar and sugary drinks are associated with inflammation that can irritate the gut and kill beneficial bacteria,” says Taub-Dix.
And this impairment starts earlier than you think – childhood dietary patterns lay the foundation for gut health later in life.
“Too much sugar, especially in the early stages of development, alters the gut microbiome, causing ‘dysbiosis’ or bacterial imbalance,” says Dr. Ivanina. And this dysbiosis can affect other organs such as the brain (think: impaired memory function), she added.
Replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners may also not be a smart strategy.
“Artificial sweeteners, such as sugar alcohols, can cause bloating, stomach pain, gas and diarrhea,” says Taub-Dix. “Not everyone has these reactions, but if consumed in large quantities, sugary foods can upset your gut.”
Moreover, “artificial sweeteners can potentially alter the intestinal bacteria that are responsible for metabolism, leading to obesity and diabetes,” says Dr. Ivanina.
Studies have found that artificial sweeteners can be harmful to intestinal bacteria, according to a September 2018 document.Molecules,.
To avoid artificial sweeteners, check your food labels. “Look for words that end in ‘-ol’ to identify sugar alcohols as sorbitol,” says Taub-Dix.
6. Highly processed foods
There is no denying that pre-prepared meals and ready-to-eat foods (consider: frozen pizza and microwave dinners) are easy to prepare. But gut health can pay a heavy price for the convenience of processed foods.
Unfortunately, “ultra-processed foods are associated with an increased risk of IBD,” says Dr. Ivanina.
To help preserve food and make it taste good, ultra-processed foods contain artificial ingredients such as added sweeteners, preservatives, emulsifiers, thickeners and flavors that can be harmful to gut health.
“For example, dietary emulsifiers have been shown to promote inflammation of the colon by altering the microbiome and damaging the lining of the gut,” says Dr. Ivanina.
That said, you don’t have to write off every processed food. “When it comes to healthy or unhealthy foods, it’s not just about how they are processed, it’s about their list of ingredients,” says Taub-Dix.
You should limit or avoid most processed foods, but there are also many nutritious foods. For example, canned beans, canned fish and frozen vegetables are technically “processed” foods, but the list of ingredients usually consists of three simple ingredients or less, making them a dietary choice.
For some, dairy products can be harmful to gut health.
“Dairy products usually cause symptoms through a number of mechanisms, including lactose intolerance, reduced lactase enzyme, FODMAP intolerance or milk allergy,” says Dr. Ivanina. Some dairy products also contain potentially harmful hormones and antibiotics.
“While they are important, and sometimes essential, in killing bad bacteria, antibiotics can also damage or destroy good bacteria,” says Taub-Dix. This means that they can upset the balance of friendly flora in your gut.
Right now, you might be thinking,should I give up all these cold turkey foods?
Taub-Dix assures us that there is room for all foods in your diet plan. “None of the above foods should be ‘avoided’ if your diet is basically well-balanced and consists of a variety of wholesome foods,” she says. “How often you have them can be a bigger problem.”
Dr. Ivanina agrees that moderation is key: “The risk increases the more someone eats harmful food. Eating red meat in a steakhouse on your birthday will not lead to cancer, but regularly, it is certainly a risk.