A healthy gut is vital for your overall well-being. The gut is made up of many structures essential to your body’s health, including the immune system and metabolism.
It’s easy to forget about all of these benefits when so many articles are being published on what we should be eating, what we shouldn’t be eating and so forth.
In this article, we’ll explore nine common foods you should avoid if you want to maintain a healthy gut and some suggestions for how best to do so, such as following a Mediterranean diet meal plan.
Let’s get started!
What is the gut made up of?
Before we get down to the food, it’s probably best you understand your gut and how it works.
The gut has two compartments: the small intestine and the large intestine.
The small intestine – the duodenum, jejunum and ileum – stretches from the stomach to the large intestine. It absorbs most of what we eat. But, in fact, its primary purpose is to absorb nutrients.
The large intestine is located right above the small intestine. It has three sections: ascending, transverse and descending colon. The primary purpose of the large intestine is to absorb water from indigestible matter. At the end of this is your rear, where the stuff your body doesn’t need is eliminated.
The microbiota – or little helpers – in the gut are responsible for nutrient absorption, promoting a healthy immune system and weight loss.
In addition, the microbiome influences glucose metabolism (which can affect the risk of diabetes) and gastrointestinal function.
For example, the healthy bacterium in our gut creates a barrier against pathogens and toxins. However, when this barrier is disrupted (due to stress, antibiotics or other factors such as bad food choices), it can lead to increased intestinal permeability, allowing bacteria to pass through the intestines into other areas of the body (typically lymph nodes). And no one wants that!
The importance of eating for a healthy gut.
By now, you’re probably starting to understand that your gut is a part of your body that is crucial to your overall health. The gut consists of many structures and cells that are important for your well-being.
As you’ve probably heard, there are some foods out there that can do us more harm than good by disrupting this balance between what’s good for us and bad for us.
These foods will affect our gut health because they will either introduce too much sugar and fat into our bodies or because they contain ingredients that can irritate the intestinal lining.
With all the talk these days about superfoods and what’s good for us, it’s easy to forget that some foods will harm our health and disrupt our gut balance.
Let’s explore nine common foods you should avoid if you want to maintain a healthy gut!
The nine common foods to avoid:
- Processed Meats: Processed meats such as bacon, sausages and hot dogs contain nitrates which can disrupt our bacteria balance by killing off helpful probiotic species in our intestines. This has been linked with colon cancer in humans and other gastrointestinal diseases like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
- Sugary Drinks: Drinks like soda and lemonade are packed with sugar that is harmful to the gut. Drinking these drinks too often can cause a fatty liver that causes inflammation of the digestive tract cells. This leads to bloating, constipation and other symptoms associated with poor gut health, such as fatigue, irritability and poor immune function.
- White Flour: Bread, pasta and other goods made from white flour (a refined carbohydrate) lack dietary fiber and ferment quickly in the gut. This can lead to increased gas, bloating and diarrhea and nutrient malabsorption, which can cause fatigue, weakness and mental health problems.
- Artificial Sweeteners: Aspartame, Splenda and other artificial sweeteners have been linked to adverse gut health effects. These include changes in the microbiome and increases in blood glucose levels, as well as inflammatory markers.
- Gluten-Containing Foods: Gluten is found in many common grains such as wheat, rye and barley. It can cause inflammatory changes in the gut that cause gas, bloating and abdominal pain and damage to the lining of the digestive tract, which can contribute to leaky gut syndrome.
- Refined Vegetable Oils: We all know that vegetable oils are not suitable for us, but most of these oils don’t just contain harmful fatty acids like omega- They also contain high levels of erucic acid, which has been linked with gastrointestinal upset.
- Seed Oils: Sunflower, safflower and soybean oils contain very high levels of omega-6 fatty acids which cause intestinal inflammation, increased LDL cholesterol and increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Sugar-Free Foods: There is no such thing as sugar-free. These foods often use artificial sweeteners to replace the sweetness lost from removing sugar, linked with metabolic disturbances in mice that cause obesity and diabetes.
- Alcohol: Drinking alcohol inflicts chemical irritation of the intestinal lining, leading to long-term problems like gastritis and ulcers. It also causes our intestines to get inflamed by increasing permeability. This lets through large particles like bacteria and even food bits that our immune system will get very angry about.
How do you best avoid these foods?
Maintaining a healthy gut is important for your overall well-being.
Your gut flora is essential for immune function, nutrient absorption and digestive health, as well as mental health and well-being. By avoiding these foods, you can improve your gut health as well as create an environment that promotes weight loss and reduces the risk of chronic disease.
If trying to avoid these culprits on your own is a problem, you may want to try and ditch just one or two to begin with. Another option is to start following a meal program, like the Mediterranean diet or the low-FODMAP diet. It’s not always easy to plan smart meal choices, so ordering food that fits within your diet can be a good way to stay on track.
If you’re asking yourself, “What is FODMAP?” or “Why does the Mediterranean have its own diet?” — you’re not alone. Many online resources are available to help fill in the gaps and even things like low-FODMAP meal delivery services to make healthy living easier.
Hippocrates famously said, “All diseases begin in the gut.” Of course, this statement may be a bit too simplified, but what is clear is that our gut health is vital to our physical as well as mental and emotional well-being.