Gut Check — Part 3

18 Jan

This series of articles is dedicated to the discussion of your gut flora and the significance that it plays in your overall, digestive, and immune health. We are learning more and more every day about the significance of the bacterial population of your gut. This series will help pronounce that importance and inform you how you can build the optimal city that is your own gut. 

#7: Frozen “Weight Loss” Dinners

If you eat these, you’re a victim. You have to give the companies credit for their marketing savvy. How in the world they could get you to believe that these pre-packaged, heavily processed “meals” are good for you is amazing.

If you have one of these sitting in your freezer right now, go get it. Look at the back of the box and examine the ingredients section. You’ll likely find over 40 ingredients listed in the typical “meal,” many of which don’t even sound like real food.

Among the head-scratching ingredients, you’ll frequently find high-fructose corn syrup, corn syrup solids, sugar, corn oil, soybean oil, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil, some form of heavily refined white carbohydrate, and a list of preservatives for which you’d have to have a chemistry degree to understand.

The first three listed above are basically various forms of sugar. As outlined before, sugar is a haven for bad bacteria and destroys your gut health.

Corn oil, soybean oil, and other vegetables oils are prominent sources of the highly inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. Speaking of vegetable oils, guess what oils your favorite restaurant is most likely using to cook your meal?

While on the topic of vegetable oils, another item that sits next to margarine on the list of “worst foods ever” is mayonnaise, which is typically filled with inflammatory soybean oil. Avoid vegetable oils like the plague; instead, use extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil.

Going back to our supposedly lean cuisine, those partially hydrogenated oils are simply trans fats in disguise. You already know that trans fats are literally the worst ingredients for your overall health and well-being.

When it comes to your gut health — really, your overall health and weight loss goals — these frozen dinners are absolute strike-out material: added sugar, high in inflammatory fats, and hidden sources of trans fats. Three strikes and you’re out! There is no reason to include these convenient resemblances of food in your nutrition plan.

#8: Non-Organic Meats

When you’re sick with an infection, one of the first things your doctor prescribes is an antibiotic. Antibiotics kill off the bacteria that are compromising your immune system. But, those same antibiotics kill off a fair share of your good bacteria.

Animals are also treated with antibiotics. A sick cow is not going to put on much weight, and an underweight cow is certainly not going to make much money. How do you avoid a sick cow? Pump all of your cattle with antibiotics to stave off infection.

Guess what? Those antibiotics have the same effect on the cattle as they do humans. What’s more, those antibiotics build up the animals’ systems and are directly passed along to you when you enjoy them for dinner. You can expect the same effects on your gut health.

In addition to antibiotics, these cows are also fed a steady diet of grains and supplements to promote rapid weight gain. Again, plumping the animals up faster means greater profit. It also means less nutritional value to you.

Grain-fed animals are loaded up with corn, soy, and other grains (not to mention growth hormones) that dramatically affect the amount and types of fat in the meat as well. These grains, which are completely unnatural to a cow’s digestive system, result in a much higher ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids.

As you learned previously, this is another very important ratio to overall and digestive health. These highly inflammatory fats — when out of balance with the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids — can wreak absolutely havoc on one’s overall health by damaging blood vessels, the heart, lung and joint tissues, skin, and the digestive tract.

It’s not just beef that’s the culprit. All animals that are fed that corn — from chickens to cattle — are jam-packed with omega-6 fats and deficient in omega-3s.

Choose organic grass-fed beef and free-range chickens. Going local is even a better option for your beef and poultry. This includes your eggs as well, which will include a boost of omega-3 fatty acids to boot.

#9: Breakfast Cereals

Not only are these foods sources of empty calories, they often result in damaged intestinal lining and inflammation that ruin your gut health. These heavily processed foods are void of nutrients and fiber. In addition, they are often loaded with added sugar and artificial ingredients.

Let’s not put all the blame on breakfast cereals either. Other foods in this category include nearly all store-bought breads (not just “white” bread either), pastas, baked goods, and instant hot cereals.

As a matter of fact, the heavily refined grains that make up the biggest components of these products contain wheat fragments like gluten that can do a number to your gut lining. What’s more, these refined flours result in a rapid increase in blood sugar that makes sugar look well-behaved.

Surprised to see “hot cereals” make this list? You shouldn’t be. The oats and other grains in these cereals are mere resemblances of their once whole grain status. In addition, they are often loaded with sugar. Talk about turning something healthy into a gut-destroying nightmare.

Despite the fact that many people view grains as evil, they don’t have to be completely eliminated. Instead, choose minimally processed whole grains like oats (steel cut), quinoa, barley, millet, amaranth, rice, buckwheat, and spelt. Sprouted grain bread is a vast improvement for many over the typical store-bought bread.

#10: Margaritas

Who doesn’t love a ‘rita? Well, you already know that sugar is a belly-buster, and cocktails like margaritas, cosmopolitans, and other fruity drinks are loaded with simple syrups that are full of simple sugars.

Sure, you could request an authentic version of the popular cocktail that removes the sugar, but the booze can still have a negative impact on your gut flora. As a matter of fact, consumption of even the slightest amount of alcohol can have an impact on gut health.

Research from the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and the Mayo Clinic suggest that even moderate drinking — one drink per day for a woman and two for a man — can lead to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), which results in negative symptoms like stomach upset, cramping, gas, and bloating.

In contrast to the large intestine, the small intestine normally contains a relatively low number of bacteria. In patients with SIBO, the abnormally large numbers of bacteria in the small intestine use many of the nutrients (for their growth) that would otherwise be absorbed.

As a result, a person with small bowel bacterial overgrowth may not absorb enough nutrients and become malnourished. In addition, the breakdown of nutrients by the bacteria in the small intestines can produce gas as well as lead to a change in bowel habits.

While the occasional consumption of alcohol has been shown to have some health benefits, it’s becoming apparent that regular consumption can challenge your gut health. You would certainly be well-advised to eliminate the consumption of brightly-colored, sugary, fruity drinks and perhaps limiting your alcohol consumption entirely to a single drink — preferably red wine or light beer — to a couple nights per week.

#11: Water

Bleach is a household chemical that is used to remove color and stains, whiten, and overall disinfect things. Chlorine is the basis for most bleach products. Can you imagine bathing in bleach? Well, many of you do on a regular basis as your water is chlorinated. That chlorine can seep into your skin and wipe out good bacteria just like it wipes out stains.

Use a filtration system to filter all of your drinking water. Showers are not as bad as taking a bath — imagine bathing in a tub of bleach. You can test your water for chlorine levels. If they are of concern, then you can purchase a nifty add-on to your shower head that will filter the majority of the chlorine out of your water.

Speaking of chlorine, did you know that’s how Splenda is made? While marketed as being made from sugar, those little yellow packets are derived from the same chemical that’s outlined above. No wonder it absolutely wreaks havoc on your gut!

Take Your Gut Health to The Next Level

Now, all of this information is not shared to prevent you from ever eating again, although it is pretty scary. Instead, we simply want to educate you and to help you understand that what you’re putting into your body may actually be doing serious harm to your digestive system and your overall health. In the next article, we’ll discuss exactly how you can work on increasing the good bacteria in your gut.

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