The 10 worst foods for your gut
More and more of us are becoming aware of the importance of gut health, we know that having a good balance in this ecosystem of bacteria that lives in the GI tract is absolutely key to optimal physical and emotional health and wellbeing. Having poor gut health can manifest in many ways for many reasons:
Digestive troubles – probably the most obvious symptom, including things like constipation, diarrhoea, bloating, wind, acid reflux, indigestion etc. These collection of symptoms are often labelled by doctors as ‘IBS’ which is just an umbrella term for these and it doesn’t really mean anything or get to the bottom of WHY these symptoms are occurring. Could it be low stomach acid, or perhaps a low probiotic status within the gut, or maybe due to intestinal permeability from taking too many antibiotics over the years? There are many avenues to explore in order to understand the root cause.
Mood disorders – the brain and the gut are made out of the same synapses when the foetus is growing, little wonder that if the gut health is compromised then the brain can be affected with things like anxiety, depression etc. It is no coincidence that we experience ‘gut feelings’ when we sense something in our brains, it is also quite interesting that serotonin our happy hormone is manufactured in the gut, not in the brain like many people think.
Skin troubles – If the gut is not working properly in eliminating waste products then toxins often build up and the only other way out of the body is through the skin, so often people experience spots, boils, eczema and psoriasis. This can lead on to another problem:
Hormonal imbalances – a classic example of this is if the gut is not working properly and bound oestrogen is left to recirculate around the body, causing a build-up of the hormone which can result in many hormonal side effects.
Nutritional deficiencies – If there is damage to the gut lining then the absorption sites for nutrients can be easily impaired, this means that nutrients pass through the body without being taken up and used by the cells, leaving the individual feeling low in energy and fatigued, even though their diet may look really good and healthy on a food diary.
Auto-immune diseases – Damage to the gut lining through consuming gluten, antibiotics, the pill, excessive stress etc can cause the cells in the intestine to become permeable – a term known as ‘leaky gut’. Large food molecules pass through in to the bloodstream from the gut where they are not supposed to be, the body recognises them as foreign invaders and mounts an immune response against them, which leads to food intolerances. Over time because of the over stimulation of the immune system it can lead to auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, graves and hashimotos, type 1 diabetes, lupus and many more.
Low immune system – Lots of colds and illnesses may be experienced by people with a suboptimal digestive system, this is because 80% of our immune system resides in our gut and disturbances affect our ability to fight infection.
With the effects that poor gut health can have on us, it is clear to see how important it is to look after our digestive system in the best possible way.
So in order to try and keep your digestive system in tip top condition I have compiled a list of things that should be avoided where possible:
- Gluten – a type of protein that’s found in many grains including wheat, rye, barley and spelt. It gives food that doughy texture but it can do significant damage to your gut, even if you do not have an intolerance to it. Gluten contains a protein called Zonulin, which studies have shown to make the intestinal cells become leaky. Gluten can also eliminate good bacteria causing dysbiosis.
- Sugar – no surprises here! Most people are aware how bad sugar is for our general health these days, and just to be clear this includes sugar and sweeteners in all forms (white sugar, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners) as they all impact our blood sugar in a negative way. So why is this bad for your gut health? Well, just like you, your bacteria need to eat. And they get that from the food you consume. While some foods are prebiotic which feed the good bacteria, others including sugar feed the bad guys. The more sugar you eat, the more they grow, outnumbering the good bacteria and causing dysbiosis within the gut which can have impacts in all of the areas mentioned previously.
3. Dairy – Dairy is very acidic on the body which leads to inflammation and excess mucus production in the gut. Furthermore, the cows are fed antibiotics to prevent them from getting udder infections due to their mass breeding. These antibiotics are then passed through in to the milk and end up in our tea and on our cereal. These antibiotics don’t only kill off the bad bacteria, but also our good bacteria too. There are lots of yummy dairy free alternatives in the shops now so it is easy to cut this out. If you would like to read more on dairy check out my blog post here.
4. Soy – Unfortunately most of the soy on the market now is from GM crops. Soy can cause a significant change in the composition of the gut microbiome, especially it has been found to affect Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria, 2 very important strains of probiotic. Organic, fermented soy from a non GM source such as miso can have its health benefits, but be sure to stay well away from the non-organic varieties.
5. Eggs – Eggs are much the same as dairy in the fact that they can be loaded with anti-biotics especially if you buy eggs from chickens who are fed a GM diet, not allowed to roam and kept in crowded conditions that increase their risk of infection and disease (hence the pre-cautionary antibiotics) that get passed into our food. Buying eggs that are free range and organic will solve this problem. It is inexpensive to buy the organic varieties.
6. Red meat – having the occasional organic, grass fed responsibly farmed steak isn’t likely to throw your whole system off. Especially the grass fed element is of importance as it means the cows are rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3s however, cows raised on GM grains contain a lot of the inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. This can wreak havoc on your digestive system. Furthermore, the same problem with anti-biotics being passed on through the animals is likely to happen via red meat too.
7.Tap water – Sadly our water these days if unfiltered is full of chemicals including chlorine which can have a negative effect on the microbiome. There are also traces of anti-biotics and the contraceptive pill which have been found in our water supplies.
8.GM foods – One very worrying issue is the herbicide Glyphosate that is used on GMO foods which has a detrimental effect on the gut microbiome amongst other health implications such as its potential to cause cancer. Eating an organic diet will ensure that you don’t consume GM foods or harmful pesticides like these.
9.Farmed fish – Conventionally farmed fish are kept in overcrowded unsanitary conditions and fed GM feed, like the chickens and cows they are fed antibiotics to prevent them getting infections. Another potential issue is some fish have high levels of mercury in them; especially tuna. Mercury is associated with low levels of good gut bacteria and other negative issues such as Alzheimer’s disease. Try to buy wild fish when possible as this means the fish are not fed GMO feed or treated with anti-biotics. They still may have high levels of mercury however, sticking to smaller fishes (sardines, mackerel etc) will reduce the risk of this.
10.Carageenan – used as a thickener in things like ice-cream, yoghurt, puddings, and even in some ‘healthy’ dairy free milks. Watch out for this as it has been linked to causing small lesions in the intestines.
In our modern western culture, chances are we are going to eat some ice-cream or drink a glass of tap water now and then, so don’t worry if you can’t avoid all of these things all of the time. Instead do the best that you can do to take care of your body and give your microbiome the support it needs to thrive – like making healthy changes to your diet and taking gut specific supplements including a high strength probiotic to repopulate your beneficial bacteria. If you suspect that there is something amiss with your digestive system and would like further support in healing your gut or diagnosing food intolerances then please book in for a consultation with me. I can do Skype consultations and home visits to fit around you.
Have you tried my gut healing recipe for turmeric curry, it is packed with anti-inflammaory ingredients and is perfect to help heal your gut. Find the recipe here.
Wishing you all a wonderful healthy month ahead with the lead up to Christmas. Why not check out the recipe for my Superfood Christmas Cake while you are here!