There has been much written on what to eat to retain or acquire a healthy gut flora. But not much is written on the opposite. So what are the worst foods to eat for gut health – what should you avoid?
Worst Foods for a Healthy Gut
If you want to enjoy all the benefits of a healthy mind and body, there are many good arguments for getting your gut health in order first.
When your gut health suffers, the rest of your body suffers
A wealth of scientific research shows attaining and retaining a well-balanced gut microbiome can provide untold benefits.
There is also plenty of evidence that shows the many unhealthy repercussions of allowing your gut microbiome to become unbalanced.
When your gut health suffers, the rest of your body suffers as well. It can even affect mood and interfere with your mental capabilities – even cause depression.
The food choices you make play a major role in improving your gut health naturally. Certain foods can boost probiotic activity, resulting in extra vigor, improved immune function, and better health in general.
Other options can slow metabolism, encourage weight gain, and cause many other undesirable problems.
So, if you want to reap all the benefits a healthy gut can provide, it’s not just a case of putting certain foods into your body. There are also foods you need to avoid.
What are the worst foods for gut health? Read on to find out. Some of the problem foods may surprise you.
12 of the Worst Foods for Gut Health
1. Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners
If you have a sweet-tooth this may be a bitter pill to swallow but we have to start with this one. Sugar in all its forms has the potential to be very disruptive to your gut microbiome.
Although refined sugar and the products that contain it tend to have the worst reputation, it’s not the only offender.
Other types of sugar can be equally bad. Unfortunately, that goes for artificial sweeteners too.
One of the big problems with sugar is the bad bacteria living in the gut feed on it. When you regularly consume sugar, it can cause bad bacteria levels to become so high they overwhelm the good (probiotic) bacteria that are so essential for good health.
The individuals who took part in one study examining the way sugar affects gut health experienced poorer overall gut function and greater problems with constipation.
After the study, the researchers concluded “The quantity of refined sugar in the diet can significantly influence gut function and the composition of bowel contents.”
Don’t go seeing artificial sweeteners as the lesser of two evils though. Some evidence suggests using products of this nature is only swapping one bad habit for another.
The results of a study published in the journal Gut Microbes (Volume 6, 2015 – Issue 2) show artificial sweeteners can increase appetite, impair insulin response, and increase the likelihood of type 2 diabetes.
Depending on when you were born or how good your memory is, you may remember a time when eggs were deemed to be bad for the heart.
Eating eggs was bad for your cholesterol level, or so the claim went at the time. The notion has since been debunked.
Unfortunately, recent research suggests a specific protein in eggs increases the growth of a bad type of gut bacteria. As with cholesterol, the danger comes from the way it affects the heart.
The bacteria produces a compound that increases the risk of thrombosis, strokes, and heart attacks. Does that mean you should avoid eating eggs? Probably not but it does suggest it may be unwise to eat too many of them too often.
3. Processed Foods
Most people these days are aware eating a lot of processed food is not good.
The problem is, processed foods are often enticingly quick and easy to prepare. They often have a lot going for them in the taste department as well.
A lot of processed foods are high in fat, so they aren’t particularly heart-friendly. However, that’s not the only cause for concern.
Research suggests the emulsifiers many processed foods contain have the potential to disrupt the gut microbiota. Many of the mice that were fed this type of food for the purposes of one study subsequently developed colitis and metabolic disease.
If you are lactose intolerant, avoiding dairy products will already be part of your life. For those of us who do not have this problem, limiting or avoiding dairy products may be an equally good idea.
Some studies show dairy products are one of the worst foods for negatively affecting gut health. Problems arise because consuming dairy products can adversely affect your gut microbiome, allowing bacteria that can cause inflammation and intestinal disease to flourish.
Favored by vegans and other types of vegetarian all over the world, soy is a very versatile source of protein. It’s got a reputation for being healthy and nutritious.
However, the processing methods that are integral to the creation of many soy products interfere with the way it affects the body. More specifically, eating processed soy products may have the potential to send your gut microbiome out of whack.
Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus are generally seen to be the two most beneficial families of probiotic bacteria. Most of the probiotic foods and products you see at the supermarket and elsewhere are formulated to provide these types of bacteria.
Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus are vitally important for good gut health and processed soy products are among the worst foods for causing their levels to deplete.
6. Red Meat
Eating too much red meat too often is one of the worst things you can do if you want to reap the benefits of good gut health. Like sugar and dairy, it can spur the growth of unfriendly types of gut-living bacteria.
Eating a lot of red meat is a good way to help your muscles to grow, but doing so may not help you to feel in the pink. The gut microbiome changes red meat can cause has the potential to impair immune function, cause weight gain, and interfere with your emotional wellbeing.
Some research shows it may increase the danger of heart disease too.
Although most people associate Nightshades with the deadly nightshade plant belladonna, it could be seen as one of the black sheep of the family. Many of its relatives are popular foods.
Potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant—they all belong to the nightshades family. However, although all these options are nutritious and safe to eat, nightshades have the potential to cause unpleasant gut issues for certain individuals.
Nightshades can be an especially poor option for people who intestinal problems like “leaky gut syndrome.”
The alkaloids these popular food options provide may further aggravate the intestinal lining, causing additional discomfort and increasing the chances of disease.
The worries regarding nightshades are the result of research involving mice, so further study is necessary. However, if your personal experience suggests such food options are hard on your gut, you now know the reason why.
Many people have tolerance issues that force them to avoid gluten. However, although individuals who have Celiac disease are particularly susceptible to negative issues if they consume gluten, research shows an association between gluten and stomach pain and bloating.
9. Genetically-Modified Organisms (GMOs)
GMO food—a lot of people hate it and avoid it like the plague. Far more don’t give it a second thought but it’s another one of the worst foods for gut health.
The modifications that make the GMO food crops like wheat and soy resistant to pests and disease can do bad things to your gut microbiome. There’s a lot to be said for going organic.
10. Farmed Fish
If the fish you eat comes from the sea or a stream, you should be okay. However, eating fish from fish farms doesn’t do your gut any favors.
The fish raised at fish farms are treated with antibiotics that can remain in their flesh after cooking.
Antibiotics are often a necessary evil when you are fighting severe infections. They can be a lifesaver, but you need to avoid them the rest of the time. Especially if you care about your gut microbiome.
Antibiotics assassinate the bacteria in your gut and it’s not just the bad kind they target. All your good probiotic bacteria are in the firing line as well.
Alcohol isn’t food. You drink it instead of eat it but let’s not quibble. It enters the body via the mouth and your digestive organs process it.
Alcohol can damage the protective coating that lines the intestines. This makes it easier for harmful bacteria to breach the barrier and enter the blood.
The problems with alcohol don’t end there. Alcoholic drinks also nourish the bad bacteria present in the gut, helping it to overpower your probiotic defenders and gain a victory that could cost you dear.
12. Tap Water
We all need to stay hydrated so drinking plenty of water is good. Unfortunately, water that comes from the faucet is bad for your gut health. It generally contains various chemicals, most notably chlorine.
Many people have raised concerns about chlorine’s ability to interfere with the gut microbiota. Some, but not all, experts argue this is not so.
However, why take the risk? Using a water filter or switching to bottled water could be a move your probiotic bacteria will thank you for.