Firstly, and most importantly, it must be stressed that no food should be considered inherently good or bad unless you have a medical reason. Seeing foods as good or bad can be a breeding ground for eating disorders and unhealthy relationships with food.1
What we will be discussing here are foods that can have a negative effect on gut health if consumed in excess. If that sounds like something you ought to know, then keep reading!
Why does food affect gut health?
Everything we consume has an impact on the body - whether that be positive or negative, it will have an impact somewhere.2 Food, in particular, has a large impact on gut health as the gastrointestinal tract is the system that absorbs the nutrients of the food and allows you to dispose of the toxins.
We have trillions of microorganisms in the gut, which play a vital role in digestion. Within these microorganisms are good and bad bacteria, which must be balanced in order to maintain good gut health.3
This means having more good bacteria than bad, and having the right kinds of bacteria. If you’d like to know more about the gut microbiome specifically, check out our article ……..
Food can impact the bacteria in the gut microbiome; some foods encourage the growth of the bad bacteria, whilst others fuel the good bacteria and allow them to repopulate, improving the gut's health. Some foods even add new species of good bacteria into the gut - more on probiotics later!
How do I know if my gut is unhealthy?
If your gut health isn’t quite right, symptoms can show up all over the body due to the intricate connections the gut has all over. Remember that your body's systems are all connected, not separate entities.
The most common symptoms of poor gut health are digestive discomforts such as bloating, excess gas, constipation, diarrhoea, heartburn and pain in the gut. This usually indicates that your gut is not processing and digesting food correctly.4
Poor gut health can also show up in the skin through eczema, psoriasis, rosacea and acne, amongst many other skin conditions. You can read our article The Gut-Skin Axis to learn more about the gut and skin connection, as well as the probiotic supplement Skin Health we have created that could be of help.
Fatigue, irritability, brain fog, depression, anxiety, low energy levels, a lack of concentration and sleep difficulties can also be symptoms of poor gut health. Sugar cravings, food intolerances and unexplained weight fluctuation must also be added to the symptoms list.4
Of course, many of these symptoms can have other causes; they are not exclusive to an unhealthy gut. If you are suffering from symptoms and you don’t know why, we encourage you to make an appointment with your medical provider to rule out more serious causes.
What foods should be avoided for gut health?
Refined sugar is the first food to be aware of when it comes to maintaining or achieving a healthy gut microbiome. In moderation, sugar can be digested by the body without causing issues. When consumed in excess, it can act as fuel for the bad bacteria in the gut and encourage them to repopulate, causing an imbalance that can lead to gut inflammation and the symptoms listed above.
Refined sugar can be found in cakes, biscuits, chocolate, hot chocolate, yoghurt, ice cream, baked goods and tinned fruit, to name a few. Low-fat items are often stacked full of sugar, so make sure to read the nutritional labels on the food you consume to check you aren’t receiving a whopping dose of sugar without realising it.5
Processed foods, just like sugar, can be fine for the gut in moderation. Most processed foods contain very little nutritional value, as a lot of this is lost in the manufacturing process. Processed foods don’t pretend to be good for you - they advertise as quick, convenient and often cost-effective.
Studies on those that consumed high amounts of processed food showed a correlation between this diet and higher levels of bad bacteria in the gut, leading to gut inflammation.6 Inflammation in the gut increases the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and death of all causes.
High levels of salt can be detrimental to the gut, too. Many processed foods are packed with salt to give them flavour, so ensure you read the nutritional labels wherever possible to make conscious choices about what you eat.
Excess salt levels can upset the balance of the bacteria in your gut in a similar way to sugar. It can lead to gut inflammation that can wreak havoc on the rest of the body.7
Don’t forget, moderation is key for whatever you are eating. A varied and balanced diet will help you to maintain a healthy gut microbiome. Eating a diet rich in probiotics found in fermented foods will add new species of good bacteria into your gut, leaving less room for the bad bacteria to grow and cause problems.
If fermented foods don’t tickle your pickle, why not try our signature formula Gut Care? A probiotic supplement containing 4 probiotic strains, and Actazin, a potent kiwifruit extract, can help your gut to thrive and reduce unpleasant symptoms associated with poor gut health.
Don't suffer alone if you believe you are suffering from an eating disorder. Contact your medical provider to be directed to organisations that can help you or visit the NHS website