What we eat spends a lot of quality time with our insides. So it’s no surprise it can have a major impact on our gut health, for better or worse.
But while we talk a lot about the foods we should be eating to keep our gut healthy and happy (it’s one of Sarah’s favourite topics after all), what about the stuff we should be avoiding? Here are three main culprits that could be upsetting your gut-dwelling microbiome.
Surprise! (Not really.) Sugar is a key player when it comes to an unhappy gut. Highly processed, high-sugar diets are linked to a whole host of issues, including bacterial imbalances
(scientists now think bad bacteria could be feeding on the sugar), gut inflammation, bloating and constipation.
“Added sugars of any form are unnecessary and dietary fructose should only come from whole foods,” says dietician and 8-Week Program gut health expert, Kerith Duncanson. “Less processed, whole food diets have been shown time and again to be ideal for optimal gut health.”
2. Artificial sweeteners.
If you think you can just switch out sugar for all things artificial, you may want to think again. Emerging studies show many artificial sweeteners could have a major effect on gut and metabolic activity by actually changing the composition and function of our gut microbiota.
Sugar alcohols – found naturally in some foods and added to others as a sugar substitute – can also cause problems for some. They don’t pass easily through our cell walls, meaning our gut bacteria digest them.
“Sorbitol and mannitol are particularly problematic for people who suffer IBS because they draw fluid into the digestive system (causing diarrhoea), as well as being munched up by gut bugs to create excess gas (causing bloating and wind pain),” says Kerith.
While we’re all for an occasional glass of red with dinner, drinking to excess comes with a whole host of health problems. And the gut is far from immune.
“Alcohol provides no nutritional benefits and can irritate and damage the lining of the gut, which could cause gut pain and increased cancer risk,” explains Kerith.
While she doesn’t want to take away the pleasure of a drink or two, Kerith says that the sheer number of different digestive system conditions that stem from alcohol consumption (and abuse) means we should avoid drinking more than that. Our guts – and our bodies in general – will thank us in the long run.
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