If you want great gut health, there are some foods that should be avoided like the plague. That may mean that you'll have to alter your diet a bit or give up some of your favorite snacks and treats.
No one ever said getting healthy was easy, right?
Acheiving a healthy balance in the gut can lead to a healthy microbiome, way more energy, a more positive mood and outlook on life. So it's definitely worth it!
Keep reading to learn the worst foods for gut health so you know what to avoid.
These days, most people are aware of the harms of sugar — and that includes things like artificial sweeteners and high fructose corn syrup too.
We all know that sugar isn't good for us, but why is it specifically bad for gut health?
The answer has a lot to do with the balance of the microbiome. If you haven't heard of it, the microbiome is the collection of microorganisms in the digestive system. It consists of both good and bad microorganisms that can help or hurt us.
The harmful thing about sugar is that it feeds the bad bacteria in the gut. So when you take in a lot of sugar, the bad bacteria and other microorganisms grow and crowd out the good guys.
This leads to having an imbalanced microbiome, which is called "dysbiosis", and can lead to symptoms such as nausea, upset stomach, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, fatigue and even psychological issues such as anxiety and depression. It can also lead to infection and disease, depending on pathogenic microorganisms in the gut.
If you're serious about improving your gut health, consider cutting out things like soda and other sweets from your diet, and check labels for sugar when you buy things like canned foods. A lot of times sugar is unnecessarily added to food products so look for labels that say "no added sugar".
2. Red Meat
A 2017 study found that men who ate the most red meat were most susceptible to developing diverticulitis, which is a painful inflammatory condition of the colon.
Men who eat the most red meat were 58% more likely to develop the condition than men who ate the least.
Other recent research indicates that TMAO (trimethylamine N-oxide), a gut bacteria byproduct produced during the digestion of red meat, increases the risk of cardiovascular disease including heart attacks and stroke. (1)
Fried foods can be harmful to our health in several ways. Fried foods are high in calories, they're loaded with trans fats, and may increase your risk of disease.
Fried foods are difficult for your body to digest, and they can cause diarrhea, gas, and irritate the stomach.
They're also unhealthy because they may promote the growth of harmful bacteria and other microorganisms.
Another reason to cut back on fried foods is that doing so lowers the risk of liver disease.(2)
4. Processed Foods
Processed foods are foods that have added chemicals to alter their flavor, color, texture, and how long they last before they expire.
Studies have found that eating processed foods leads to a less diverse microbiota.(3)
Processed foods often also lack fiber, which is good for digestion and in the case of prebiotic fiber, it provides a food source for probiotics.
5. Animal Products Containing Antibiotics
Antibiotics are very important for treating bacterial infections and diseases. Their discovery was revolutionary due to their ability to save lives.
However, you don’t want to take antibiotics when they’re not necessary. Antibiotic resistance is becoming a huge issue among the human population worldwide and they have no benefit and are harmful if taken when you don't have a bacterial infection. The reason being is that antibiotics kill all bacteria they encounter so the microbiome is virtually wiped out.
It's great that antibiotics kill harmful bacteria, but the fact that they kill the good bacteria is a negative side effect.
Many animal food products contain antibiotics, unfortunately.
For example, farmed fish are often kept in poor conditions that are unhealthy for them. As a result, producers will feed them antibiotics, which remain in the fish at the time you eat it.
Additionally, they may be fed genetically modified food and given growth hormones, which can also be harmful to gut health. The same can be said for many meat, dairy, and poultry products.
Rather than eating farmed fish and other unnatural animal products, look for wild-caught fish and free-range chicken and beef.
Research has shown that there is a strong correlation with the use of glyphosate (the active ingredient in Monsanto's RoundUp), the consumption of genetically modified plants, and the increase of more than 30 human diseases among the population.
GMOs may be "causing imbalances of the gut bacteria and promoting gastrointestinal diseases including inflammatory bowel disease, chronic diarrhea, colitis and Crohn's disease, as well as cardiovascular diseases, depletion of micronutrients, Alzheimer's, autism, sulphur/sulphate deficiency, depression, Parkinson's Disease, hepatic dysregulation, birth defects, reproductive disorders, aggression, obesity, Vitamin D deficiency, aging, cell signaling disorders, and aberrant protein formation." (4)
GMOs are likely very harmful to your gut health, so why risk it? Buy organic whenever possible and avoid GMOs.
Alcohol has harmful effects on the microbiome and causes dysbiosis.
In one study, researchers found that 27% of study participants who were alcoholics had dysbiosis, whereas none of the non-alcoholics had gut dysbiosis.
Alcohol can also cause inflammation of the gut.
Probiotics may be able to reduce some of the damage caused by alcohol. (5)
If you want to improve your gut health, it's best to avoid these worst foods for gut health as much as possible.
Some other things you can do to improve your gut health include eating more probiotic/prebiotic foods and by taking probiotic and prebiotic supplements.
If you'd like to learn more about improving your digestion and gut health, we have an in-depth article 16 Ways to Improve Your Gut Health here.