Gut Check: Are These 4 Foods Wrecking Your Gut Health?

Article By: Whittany Gibson, RDN

Whittany is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who specializes in bariatric nutrition counseling, providing education and support prior to and following weight loss surgery.

With all the obvious changes that occur following bariatric surgery, there’s one change you don’t hear much about. Gut health. No, I’m not talking about your gut as in belly fat. I’m talking about your gut health and the gut microbiome. Your microbiome is made from all the trillions of organisms that lie within your intestines. You’ve got good gut bacteria and bad gut bacteria that live there. We’re all born with our own unique microbiome and there are a number of things that influence changes in this microbiome including the foods we eat (or don’t eat), taking antibiotics, lifestyle behaviors and habits, and even surgeries like bariatric surgery.

There’s a reason you hear so much about gut health, prebiotics, probiotics, and how your gut health is so important. Because it really is. The health status of your gut microbiome plays a vital role in your digestive health, immune system, weight, disease, and overall health. To protect our health, we want to promote good bacteria and prevent the overgrowth of harmful bacteria. One simple way to promote good gut bacteria is to incorporate gut-healthy foods, meaning those that contain prebiotics and probiotics. Additionally, we want to avoid those foods that are known to be gut wreckers or harmful to our gut. Read on to determine what foods you need to explore or foods you need to ditch.

Gut Helpers

1) Yogurt. Yogurt is made from milk with added bacteria for fermentation. This bacterium is like the type that is in the gut. Disclaimer…many yogurts can contain a crazy high amount of added sugars so aim to choose something with less than 5g added sugar per serving.

2) Kefir. This fermented milk is another option which is great for gut health as there are high amounts of good bacteria. Kefir can be purchased in a variety of flavors but plain may be the best option as it will usually have no added sugars. Most flavored versions can be high in added sugar which you will want to limit.

3) Sauerkraut. As a common German food staple, sauerkraut is often served as a side item. Sauerkraut is finely shredded fermented cabbage with great health benefits. It has a good amount of fiber as well as probiotics from the fermentation process.

4) Kimchi. This food has gained popularity over the past few years provided its gut health benefits. Kimchi is a Korean pickled cabbage that is fermented and full of flavor. It is a typical food staple in the Asian culture which is generally served as a side item or used in salads.

5) Kombucha. This drink has really taken off in popularity over the past few years with the rise in gut health awareness. With its endless flavor and brand options, you’re likely to find one you like. A bit bubbly in nature due to fermentation, this tea is a go-to for many gut health-conscious people.

6) Foods rich in polyphenols. Polyphenols are a type of micronutrient that good gut bacteria love. Along with their heart health benefits, many of these polyphenol-rich foods may help gut health. These foods include olive oil, berries, red wine (in moderation), green teas, and dark chocolate.

7) Foods rich in prebiotics. Prebiotics are the food that feeds probiotics. It is a type of fiber that is commonly found in fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Aside from gut health, they can play a role in reducing inflammation and the prevention of colorectal cancer.

8) Garlic and ginger. Known to be great for their digestive benefits, they are great for decreasing inflammation in the gut and also support optimal gut function. Both can be added to any dish for an aromatic flavor.

Gut Wreckers

1) Refined carbohydrates. These types of carbs are void of fiber and fiber is what our gut needs to promote a healthy digestive system among other functions. Refined carbs include white bread, pasta, rice, sugary cereals, crackers, or any other grain products that are low in fiber and higher in carbs. When shopping for these types of products, aim for one that contains more than 3g of fiber per serving on the nutrition label.

2) Foods high in added sugars. Even healthy food can be tainted by added sugars, so beware. Added sugars are any form of sweetener that is not naturally occurring in the food, therefore has been “added”. Common foods include packaged foods like cereals, instant breakfasts, snack cakes and dessert foods, sugary juices, and soft drinks. These are poor choices of carbohydrate rich foods and should be consumed sparingly if at all. A diet high in added sugars can feed bad bacteria along with promoting inflammation in the body. Be sure to check your labels. A good rule of thumb is to stay below 5% of the daily value per serving. This number will be found to the right of Added Sugars on a nutrition facts label.

3) Alcohol. Consuming too much alcohol on a regular basis can be harmful to gut bacteria. However, studies show red wine in moderation can have a protective effect due to the polyphenol content.

4) Low variety of foods. It is important to include a variety of foods in your diet to allow for the various types of good bacteria to proliferate and thrive. Your microbiome is diverse so it’s best to also consume diverse food choices. Offering the gut a diverse range of plant-based foods will offer different types of bacteria which your gut needs to be healthy. Aim for whole foods such as fruits, veggies, and whole grains and consume them closest to their natural state possible.

The Takeaway

Aim for a variety of plant-based foods which will provide a rich source of prebiotics and probiotics. Also, limit your consumption of sugary foods and alcohol. If you are more of a picky eater, a probiotic supplement may be a good option for you. Following bariatric surgery, your restriction may leave you short on your intake of plant-based foods that offer gut-promoting benefits. A daily probiotic can help offer the balance in gut health you need. This can help alleviate constipation and promote a healthy digestive system in addition to supporting your overall health.

BariMelts provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor.

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