Five Damaging Foods for Gut Health
When you hear about gut health, you might think of your food being digested by the chemicals in your stomach. Ugh… that’s not exactly an appetizing mental picture.
Truth is, your gut is operating every step of the digestive process—from chewing and swallowing to absorbing nutrients to an inevitable bathroom trip.
The gut microbiome is a culture of bacteria found in your intestines. These absorb key nutrients from the food you eat, defend against invasive bacteria, and regulate your mood and sleep through a direct link to your brain.
Sometimes the bacteria in your gut become overwhelmed or imbalanced, often due to damaging foods consumed on a regular basis.
If you’re unsure if your gut is healthy, we recommend taking a look at your nutrition. If you’re consuming these five damaging gut health foods, you may want to do further investigation to make sure your gut is healthy and thriving.
Why Gut Health Matters
With poor gut health comes a variety of health conditions If your gut isn’t up to snuff, you may experience these uncomfortable symptoms:
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Gas and/or bloating
- Weight gain or loss
- Food allergies or sensitivities
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Anxiety or depression
- Mood swings
- Difficulty sleeping
As functional medicine practitioners, gut health is one of the first aspects we dig into when helping our patients. We often help our patients by evaluating their current eating habits and making changes to eliminate damaging gut health foods and boost their gut flora.
Five Damaging Gut Health Foods to Avoid
1. Processed Food
When foods are processed, many of the raw ingredients are stripped of their natural nutrients. Extra additives, preservatives, and sweeteners are often added to increase shelf life and make the food more enjoyable. For example, white bread is stripped of natural fiber content and replaced with sugar and preservatives.
As a result, our bodies aren’t receiving enough nutrients. Instead, they get a bunch of extra substances that stop good gut bacteria from thriving and feed unwanted bacteria.
2. Fried Food
If you’ve ever consumed a meal or two chock-full of greasy food, you probably don’t feel great later on. These greasy, processed foods are deep-fried in certain oils that upset our stomachs and stop healthy gut bacteria from multiplying. When making food choices, it’s best to literally “trust your gut” in this case!
Don’t worry—we’re not saying you need to adopt a prohibition mindset here! However, it’s important to be aware of the effects of alcohol on your gut bacteria.
Consuming certain types of alcohol—especially alcohol with additives and extra sugar—throw your gut bacteria out of balance. Drinking too much alcohol, no matter what type, damages your health in many ways, including killing off your gut bacteria.
4. Wheat & Dairy
Some people are sensitive to certain proteins found in both wheat and dairy. Casein, a protein found in dairy, and gluten, a wheat protein, cause inflammation and food allergies for many people.
However, it’s important to note that high-quality sources of dairy contain bacteria that benefit your gut. Kefir and yogurt are two sources of dairy that can boost gut bacteria. In general, it’s a good idea to make note of your body’s possible food sensitivities and choose high-quality sources of grain and dairy.
5. Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs)
Many foods have been genetically modified by food scientists to promote growth and prevent disease or pests. Corn, soybeans, and wheat are the top foods that have been genetically modified.
However, research shows that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) lower the good bacteria in your gut. If these foods are damaging to other living creatures, they’re likely damaging to your gut health!
How to Heal Your Gut Bacteria
1. Eat More Whole Foods
Most of us are consuming primarily processed foods that are damaging to gut health. Instead, focus on incorporating gut health foods that boost your healthy gut bacteria.
Start by adding the following into your diet:
- Whole grains
- Lean protein
- Healthy fats
- Leafy greens
- Certain fruits
- Fermented foods
We’ve created a guide for 8 High-Probiotic Foods to get you started.
2. Improve Lifestyle Habits
Your body is a complex, interconnected system, so it makes sense to evaluate all of your lifestyle habits. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you getting enough sleep?
- Are you highly stressed or anxious?
- How are your relationships with others in your life?
- Is your body getting enough movement and exercise?
- Are you drinking enough water?
By improving your lifestyle habits, the goal is to help you feel good and live life to the full.
3. Work with a Functional Medicine Doctor
Improving gut health may seem like a daunting road ahead of you. Good news is, you don’t have to go it alone.
Functional medicine doctors like the team at Five Journeys offer professional guidance, encouragement, and resources. They’ll help you get to the root of your gut health issues, which may include having too many damaging gut health foods in your diet. However, your gut health may also be impacted by an additional condition, such as hormone imbalances or chronic illness.
Functional medicine enables you to get to the bottom of your health issues and empowers you to take your health into your hands. Instead of popping another pill, you’ll receive treatment tailored just for you.