A sound gut is the bedrock of a sound physique. A balanced and diverse gut microbiome can do wonders for overall well-being. However, since every person has a unique microbiome profile, the optimal balance is not one-size-fits-all and is influenced by several factors, with “DIET” being the foremost.
So, it’s best not to disrupt the intricate balance of your gut flora with bad eating habits.
Now, let’s explore which foods to steer clear of for a flourishing gut.
Seven foods to avoid for a healthy gut
Sugar doesn’t taste sweet to your intestines as it does to your taste buds. It nourishes the harmful gut bacteria while depriving the beneficial bacteria that thrive on low-sugar plant fibers, thus creating an imbalance in your gut microbiome. This imbalance can manifest in gut inflammation, bloating, and brain fog. It can even lead to chronic inflammatory diseases like obesity, and diabetes.
Bid farewell to high sugary foods and drinks to soothe inflammation in your gut.
- REFINED CARBS
The comfort foods that you crave, such as white bread, pizza dough, pasta, white flour, sweet dessert, and breakfast cereals are not so comfortable to your gut.
These refined carbs are processed to the point where all the goodness of bran, fiber, and nutrients has been stripped away. This leads to a quicker breakdown in your body, resulting in a sudden rise in blood glucose levels – similar to the aftermath of consuming simple sugars. These empty carbs not only provoke inflammation in your gut but can also pile up those pounds and trigger diabetes.
Your gut is not a big fan of refined carbs. Instead, it craves the goodness of whole grains and plant fibers.
- ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS
Artificial sweeteners have gained widespread popularity as a non-caloric alternative to sweeten various foods and beverages. But are they worth the hype? Studies have shown opposing results. A recent research conducted in 2021, revealed that these sweeteners could cause pathological changes in the gut microbiota’s composition and function. As a result, harmful gut bacteria produce numerous pro-inflammatory mediators that could lead to not only gut inflammation but also metabolic disorders such as diabetes and obesity.
From now on, scrutinize food and beverage labels for artificial sweeteners, such as saccharin, sucralose, and aspartame, and steer clear of them.
- FRIED FOODS
Who doesn’t like fried stuff like churros, french fries, chicken nuggets, fish and chips, and deep-fried soft crab?
Unfortunately, these savory treats are rich in saturated and trans fats and are already on the list of worst foods for cardiovascular health. In addition, a study conducted in 2019 revealed that consuming fried foods can lower the variety of healthy gut bacteria. Furthermore, the saturated and trans fats present in them can irritate the digestive system, leading to indigestion, gas, and bloating.
If you put a brake on fried foods, your gut will thank you.
- SATURATED AND TRANS FATS
According to research, consuming a high-fat diet, especially saturated and trans fats can alter the composition of gut microbiota. Dietary fats take longer to digest than other nutrients and require a lot of digestive fluids especially bile to break down the fats. Such a bile-rich gut environment favors the abundance of bad bacteria like Bilophila which increase gut inflammation.
Saturated fats are found in butter, ghee, cake, cured meats, sausages, cream, and pastries. Fried foods and fast foods are good examples of trans fats.
Swap saturated fats with healthy unsaturated fats like olives, avocado, and oily fish like salmon.
- PROCESSED MEATS
Processed meats, such as sausage, bacon, ham, hotdogs, corned beef, chicken nuggets, lunch meat, and canned meats, should be avoided at all costs due to their high fat and sodium content. The negative effects of these foods are not limited to just cardiovascular disease. The use of nitrates in their processing is a major concern as this chemical is a known carcinogen and has been linked to colon cancer.
According to the World Health Organization, consuming just 50 grams of processed meat per day can increase the risk of colon cancer by 18%.
Cutting processed meats from your diet is an effective way to lower your risk of colorectal cancer.
- TOO MUCH ALCOHOL
Excessive and persistent alcohol consumption is a frequently cited culprit in causing gastritis, stomach ulcers, and liver damage. However, recent studies suggest that alcohol can also harm the cells lining the gut, upset the delicate balance of the gut microbiome, and promote the growth of harmful bacteria, all of which increase the risk of leaky gut syndrome. This condition can cause not only digestive problems like gas and bloating, but also persistent fatigue, brain fog, and mood changes.
Since too much alcohol is gut-endangering, keep it low and moderate to keep your gut happy and healthy.
Best foods to heal your gut
There might be times when you feel guilty after enjoying your cupcakes, sodas, ice creams, chips, and pizza, knowing that these are not gut-healthy. So, how do you do? The good news is you still have a bunch of gut-healing foods. Incorporating them into your daily diet will restore the balance of the gut microbiome and detox your gut.
- Fermented foods
They are also referred to as probiotic foods. Through the fermentation process, naturally fermented foods produce beneficial bacteria or probiotics. Probiotics help to maintain the balance of healthy gut microbiota while also improving digestion, reducing gut inflammation, preventing leaky gut, and even supporting immunological and cognitive function.
Yogurt, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut, miso, cottage cheese, and sourdough bread are among the greatest fermented foods.
Eating probiotics or fermented foods in small quantities alongside a larger meal is a smart way to keep your gut healthy.
- Fiber-rich foods
That could be any fruit or vegetable. Whole grains, nuts, and seeds are also good sources. Fiber is a prebiotic which means that it is food for your beneficial gut bacteria called probiotics.
They promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut microbiome. When probiotic bacteria feed on prebiotic fibers, they produce short-chain fatty acids which are an essential nutrient source for your gut lining cells and thus help reduce the risk of a leaky gut. Moreover, the high fiber content will promote satiety and discourage unhealthy snacking habits. Additionally, these plant-based foods are also known as anti-inflammatory foods since they boost a wealth of antioxidants.
Eating prebiotic foods will give your gut microbiota the fuel it needs to heal your gut.
Have you ever considered water to be food? Water is one of the most important factors in boosting gut health and enhancing digestion. It helps to regulate bowel movements, prevents constipation, and breaks down foods in combination with stomach acids and enzymes. Drinking enough water will help you eliminate toxins from the body.
To keep hydrated, consume 8-10 glasses of water per day. Eat your water by consuming hydrating foods such as watermelon, cucumber, and strawberries.
Drink up! Your gut health depends on getting enough water every day.
Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food
In line with this Hippocrates’ philosophy, we are currently witnessing the therapeutic potential of lifestyle interventions and the impact of diet on the transition from health to disease.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
According to research, alterations in the gut microbiota which is, of course, impacted by diet, is one of the pathological mechanisms of IBS. A special diet called the low-FODMAP diet can significantly reduce abdominal pain, flatulence, and diarrhea in IBS patients.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
As the name implies, IBD is characterized by chronic inflammation in the small or large bowel or both. According to studies, high fiber consumption has been linked with a lower risk of IBD due to its ability to promote the proliferation of good bacteria that prevent dysbiosis and mucosal inflammation. On the other hand, a diet rich in animal fats promotes dysbiosis and intestinal inflammation, with the consequent predisposition to IBD.
One’s diet affects the management and even the progression of chronic gastrointestinal diseases.
Revamp your diet and beat the ailments
Have you ever heard the saying ‘YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT’? This adage is the notion that to be healthy you need to eat good food.
Taking the initiative to gradually replace gut-aggravating foods with healthier alternatives constitutes the primary measure towards cultivating a healthy gut microbiome and, consequently, enhancing your overall well-being.
And, it is never too late to modify your eating habits.
So, why not take a peek inside your refrigerator and begin to revamp your dietary habits? Your gut, brain, skin, and every other body part will undoubtedly express their gratitude.