Chronic inflammation is at the root of many health problems, and your gut health is no exception. Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to improve your gut health, including eating a healthy diet. But if you're not sure where to start, don't worry – I've got you covered!
In this post, I'm sharing a quick guide of inflammatory foods to steer clear of and healthier options to try out. Keep reading for some tried and tested tips on how to give your gut the boost it needs.
5 Ingredients to Steer Clear of For Gut Health
Before I get into the list, I just wanted to point out that we all have a unique microbiome composition so what affects me might not have the same effect on you!
That said, here's a list of universally known ingredients to avoid or at least be cautious of when prioritizing gut health.
Artificial sweeteners can be detrimental to gut health and are at the top of the list for a reason. These include aspartame, sucralose, maltitol, maltodextrin, and saccharin, and have been linked to a range of health concerns including weight gain, inflammation, and hormone imbalance.
They can also increase blood glucose levels, cause indigestion and disrupt the balance of gut bacteria. While these sweeteners are commonly found in diet drinks, salad dressings, and processed foods, they provide little to no nutritional value. For a healthier alternative, consider using natural sweeteners such as honey, stevia, monk fruit, or xylitol.
Have you ever heard of guar gum? It's used as a thickener, emulsifier, stabilizer and blending agent. You'll find it in lots of processed foods like oat milk, coconut yogurt, cereal, ice cream and more.
But here's the thing, even a tiny amount of it can make your stomach upset, especially if you have sensitive digestion. Some have even noticed improvement in gut health after cutting it out of their diet. So, if you have gut issues like IBS or SIBO or are just actively on your journey to improve your gut health, it might be worth checking if guar gum is in your food and cutting it out.
While healthy fats are incredibly beneficial to our bodies, it is important to be mindful of the types of fats present in our diet as certain fats can contribute to inflammation in the body. Industrialized omega-6 fatty acids are particularly prevalent in common cooking oils such as vegetable and canola oil. These oils have high levels of omega-6 and low levels of omega-3.
While both types of omega fatty acids are necessary for our overall health, an imbalanced ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, as is often found in the standard American diet, can lead to chronic inflammation, gut issues, and other inflammatory diseases.
So which oils should we have more of or limit? To maintain a healthy balance, it is recommended to limit consumption of oils such as canola, safflower, cottonseed, sunflower, and grape seed oil, which are commonly found in chips, fried foods, and some plant-based milk. Some healthy alternatives that will nourish your body and keep inflammation at bay are extra virgin olive, avocado, flaxseed, fish, and walnut oil.
Glyphosate, ever heard of it? It's a weed killer that's used in pesticides and herbicides that are sprayed on crops such as wheat. But here's the thing, it can end up in the food we eat and there's no way to wash it off. Unfortunately, it's been linked to a number of gut issues. Buying organic and non-gmo for the foods highest in glyphosate such as soy, wheat, rice, and corn is a great start (also, the Dirty Dozen is a helpful guide).
When possible, opt for sprouted wheat. While you won't find glyphosate on the ingredient list, look for products labeled "glyphosate-free". Three products that did not test positive for glyphosate include Nature’s Path Organic Honey Almond granola, Simple Truth Organic Instant Oatmeal, Original, and Kashi Heart to Heart Organic Honey Toasted cereal.
Have you ever taken nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs for short? They're popular pain relievers, right? But here's the thing, they can have some not-so-great side effects, especially when it comes to gut health. Unfortunately, most NSAIDs can cause damage to your gastrointestinal tract, blood pressure, and heart health over time.
An important side-note is that I am definitely in favor of taking pain relievers when necessary. The potential issues come about when taking painkillers becomes a regular ongoing habit instead of healing the root issue.
Healthy alternatives to NSAIDs include arnica, curcumin, and bromelain. Topical pain reliers such as capsaicin cream may also help.