Tuesday, 18 April 2017

10 Foods That Are Wreaking Havoc on Your Gut

Processed foods

Gut health-and overall health-is dependent on the microbiome, the trillions of tiny cells living within our intestines. "Cutting-edge science has shown that the microbiome is the secret to healthy, dramatic weight loss, as well as significant improvements to your mood, energy, and mental function," says Raphael Kellman, M.D., a specialist in integrative and functional medicine and author of The Microbiome Diet. One of the top culprits of a messed-up gut? Processed and refined foods like cookies, crackers, chips, packaged cold cuts, and microwavable meals. "These 'foods' are packed with sugars, preservatives, additives, coloring, chemicals, and a whole host of calories devoid of any nutritional content," says Kellman. "They can lead to an unbalanced microbiome, causing a cascade of health concerns beginning with inflammation and insulin resistance-a major factor in weight gain and fatigue-and progressing to more serious conditions like obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease."


Meat

Bad news for those following the Paleo diet: "Clinical studies show that higher levels of meat intake are consistent with upping the numbers of less desirable species of gut bacteria," says Kellman. In fact, recent research conducted at the Cleveland Clinic found that carnitine, a compound abundant in red meat, can be metabolized during digestion to form the compound trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO), which is linked to cardiac events including heart attacks and stroke. Those volunteers who consumed a beefsteak produced more TMAO than those who took a carnitine supplement, but when the participants took antibiotics to suppress gut microbes before eating more meat, they produced less TMAO. That's proof that eating lots of red meat can feed the bad bacteria in our guts. Also, a separate study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition confirms (once again) that decreasing meat consumption may improve weight management.

Sugar
We know, we have a sweet tooth too, but... "Sugar feeds the bad bacteria in our guts, causing an imbalance in the bacterial composition," say Boynton and Brackett. "This imbalance can lead to inflammation, leaky gut, and the diseases associated with that, including autoimmune disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, allergies, and asthma." Also, when consumed in large amounts (hello again, processed foods!), sugar can cause insulin resistance, which can contribute to obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
It's present in most junk foods, and sports and soft drinks, says Kellman, as well as many juices, syrups, jellies, condiments, and breakfast cereals. Like sugar, HFCS raises insulin levels, and is linked to diabetes, fatty liver disease, and other inflammatory conditions. However, it's not exactly the same as sugar. "It's more of a franken-food invented as a cheap substitute for sweetening," Kellman says. "It's a dangerous sweetener that feeds unhealthy bacteria, disrupts your hormones for hunger and fullness, and blunts your appetite for healthier foods."

Artificial sweeteners
"If I had to pick my top-10 diet and health myths, the idea that artificial sweeteners are a good substitute for sugar would surely make the list," says Kellman. Sucralose-also known as Spenda-can cause blood sugar and insulin levels to spike, increasing your risk for insulin resistance and weight gain, while aspartame-sold as Nutrasweet and Equal-breaks down into the compound formaldehyde, which has been shown to cause cancer. "And in September 2013, a review of the scientific literature published in Obesity Reviews showed that sugar substitutes also have an impact on the microbiome, which might well be why they have those other negative effects."

Gluten
If you suffer from chronic tummy issues, you want to consider limiting foods that contain gluten. Kellman explains that gluten-a form of protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and other grains-can trigger the production of zonulin, a biochemical that opens up the tight junctions of your intestinal wall. "When you eat gluten in moderate amounts-for example, a twice-weekly serving of toast or pasta-your body has a chance to tighten up those junctions and maintain intestinal health," he says. "But when you are continuously exposed to gluten, your tight junctions often remain open, causing you to develop leaky gut." And leaky gut results from inflammation, which usually leads to weight gain. Keep in mind that gluten is also used as a preservative, meaning it's often found in products not labeled as "gluten-free."

Dairy
Milk and cow's milk products, such as cheese, butter, sour cream, and ice cream, can cause immune reactions (like acne, sore throat, and bloating) in many people, says Kellman. If your system is sensitive to dairy, eating it can also promote the pancreas to release excessive amounts of insulin. The end result: The body stores more fat instead of burning it. "Dairy can be responsible for an imbalance in the gut flora, which can lead to more inflammation, difficulties with digestion, and overall problems with immunity," he adds. As an alternative, consider trying almond-, hemp-, or coconut-based milk products.

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
The World Health Organization defines GMOs as "organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally." "Our bodies are not designed to digest GMOs, and the very presence of them in the digestive tract can alter the delicate bacterial composition, leading to overgrowth of bad bacteria and fungi," say Boynton and Brackett. GMOs are found in many nonorganic processed foods, dairy, meat, and poultry products, and most corn and soy-based products-the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in 2012 that 88 percent of corn and 94 percent of soy grown within the United States was genetically modified. "Chances are, if nature didn't create it, you shouldn't eat it," add Boynton and Brackett.

Chlorinated water
If you're drinking tap water, you're probably also ingesting chlorine. And unfortunately, we've come to accept this impure form of water as the norm, say The Heal Your Gut Cookbook coauthors Hilary Boynton, certified holistic health counselor, and Mary G. Brackett, a whole-foods advocate. "Chlorine is there to kill bad organisms that may lurk in the water supply. But it can also kill the good bacteria living inside your body." According to the Environmental Protection Agency, studies indicate "an association between bladder and rectal cancer and chlorination byproducts in drinking water." For the sake of your gut, invest in a reverse osmosis filter, which helps remove impurities such as chlorine, bacteria, sulfates, and pesticides from water. They're more expensive than typical filters, but are actually successful in removing all chlorine.

Genetically modified organisims (GMOs)
The World Health Organization defines GMOs as "organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally." "Our bodies are not designed to digest GMOs, and the very presence of them in the digestive tract can alter the delicate bacterial composition, leading to overgrowth of bad bacteria and fungi," say Boynton and Brackett. GMOs are found in many nonorganic processed foods, dairy, meat, and poultry products, and most corn and soy-based products-the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in 2012 that 88 percent of corn and 94 percent of soy grown within the United States was genetically modified. "Chances are, if nature didn't create it, you shouldn't eat it," add Boynton and Brackett.

Soy
Hold off on that soy latte for just a moment. "Soy is not only bad for the human gut because it's a genetically modified crop, it also wreaks havoc because it's extremely difficult to digest," say Boynton and Brackett. Yes, soy is a staple of traditional Asian cultures, but unlike what we eat, it was prepared properly and fermented-by breaking down the phytic acid, which is the plant's natural defense mechanism. "Without proper preparation, soy can cause gas and bloating and alter weight-regulating thyroid levels due to the naturally occurring high levels of toxins," they add. Kellman also notes that large amounts of soy tend to "have unpredictable effects on estrogen." Reading food labels is key, since soy can be found in cereals, chocolates, baked goods, and other packaged foods.

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