#1: Granola Bars
This may sound like a no-brainer, but the real evil here is SUGAR. And, as you’ll see, this gut-killing ingredient runs abundantly even in unsuspecting supposedly healthy foods. The laundry list of sugar’s health-robbing qualities seems never-ending. In addition to spiking your blood sugar, packing on a spare tire around your waist, and wreaking hormonal havoc, sugar is arguably the worst offender in causing your gut flora to be completely out of balance. Not only is sugar completely void of any health-bearing properties, it is truly a haven for pathobiotics and bad bacteria.
#2: French Fries
Oh, the beloved French fries. Thomas Jefferson preferred his potatoes be served to him in a French manner. There’s a pretty good chance that today’s French fries don’t look nutritionally anything like those that were conjured in the early 1800s. As a matter of fact, today’s French fries that are deep fried in vegetable oil/shortening are loaded with calories, high-glycemic carbohydrates, and saturated fats. What’s
worse, you can expect a wallop of health-desecrating trans fats in your next serving of fast food fries.
#3: Diet Sodas
Think you’re doing yourself a favor by cutting back on sugar and empty calories? Sounds good in theory, but remember that calorie-free sweeteners like sucralose (Splenda), aspartame (Equal), and saccharin (Sweet ‘n Low) are ARTIFICIAL. At some point, you have to think, “Is something that’s artificial actually good for me?” Artificial sweeteners — along with other artificial ingredients, flavors, and preservatives — are linked to increased calorie intake, obesity, and storing more body fat. What’s more, researchers from Duke University published a study in the Journal of Toxicology
and Environmental Health that suggests that Splenda significantly
depresses the number of good bacteria in your gut. In addition,
research from the Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology suggests
that artificial sweeteners are to blame for the rise in inflammatory
bowel diseases. Diet sodas are an easy culprit to spot, but what about sugar-free chewing gum? Toothpaste? Artificial sweeteners run rampant in “light” and “fat-free” diet food items as well. Another obvious source of these sweeteners is the little packets that you add to your coffee, tea, and other beverages. Chances are that the “diet” products that you currently eat are loaded with artificial sweeteners and ingredients. While they resemble food, they are mere food-like
substances. Ditch those foods and opt for whole, minimally processed real foods.
#4: “Light” and “Fat Free” Yogurts
You may have been told that eating dairy can actually increase the amount of good bacteria in your gut. However, what you may not have heard is that the pasteurization process that most commercially purchased dairy goes through actually completely destroys all of the probiotic bacteria in those foods. Much of the commercially available dairy has gone through pasteurization or some related heating process. From milk to yogurt, nearly all of the healthy bacteria that you would want from these foods have been destroyed. What’s more, many of the yogurts that are marketed as “healthy” on the grocery store shelves are packed with sugar. If they’re not, they’re loaded with artificial sweeteners. As you’ve already learned, these are robbing your gut of good bacteria. You should opt for organic dairy sources that specifically state that the foods contain “live cultures.” Instead of “fruit on the bottom” options, get some fresh fruit from the produce
aisle and add it yourself to some healthy, organic plain yogurt.
#5: Atlantic Salmon
You’ve probably heard about omega-3 fatty acids. Those are the “good” fatty acids that help protect your heart. There are also omega-6 fatty acids that are converted by your body into arachidonic acid.
When the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is the correct balance — 2:1 — the small amount of arachidonic acid that results is healthful.
But when the ratio is unbalanced, this increase in the amount of arachidonic acid your body has to deal with causes an exaggerated inflammatory response. Prolonged inflammation is known to cause damage to blood vessels, the heart, lung and joint tissues, skin, and the digestive tract. Salmon is a “super food,” right? It is packed with protein and massive dose of antiinflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, right? As Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast, my friend.” It’s almost a guarantee that any salmon caught from the Atlantic and sold at your local grocer or offered at your favorite restaurant is farm-raised.
What does that mean? Well, it means that those poor fish are kept captive in a pen all day and fed a diet full of soy, corn, and a bunch of other stuff that has no resemblance to what these fish would actually consume if left alone to roam the seas wildly. The result: the diets of farm-raised salmon are significantly higher in omega-6 fatty acids, while dramatically lower in omega-3 fatty acids than their wild counterparts. What’s more, these farm-raised fish are often plagued by pests and disease, which means they have to be treated with pesticides and antibiotics. Those chemicals are passed right along to you, and guess what antibiotics do? They kill bacteria, good and bad.
#6: Non-Organic Vegetables and Fruits
The benefits of adding more vegetables and fruits to your diet
by now have been pounded into your head. You know these colorful,
nutrient-dense foods are full of health-promoting vitamins, minerals,
phytochemicals, anti-oxidants, and fiber that all contribute to improving your health and reducing your waistline.
What you may not know is that the majority of commercially produced vegetables and fruits are heavily treated with agricultural and pesticides. Plants that have been treated with these dangerous chemicals carry them. These chemicals not only affect the
bacteria concentration in these foods, the pesticide residue can also be passed along to you and destroy your own good bacteria.
Knowing the potential dangers of exposure to these chemicals and additives, each year the Environmental Working Group analyzes Department of Agriculture data about pesticide residue and ranks foods based on how much or little pesticide residue they
have. The group estimates that individuals can reduce their exposure by 80% if they switch to organic, especially for certain produce.
#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 prepackaged, 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.
#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 antiinflammatory 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.
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.
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!