It is not a coincidence that the rise in obesity, allergies, IBS and chronic diseases plaguing societies across the globe has coincided with a decline in the health and diversity of our gut bacteria.
Scientists have linked all of these conditions with our gut bacteria – just as Hippocrates – the father of modern medicine, stated “All diseases begin in the gut”.
So to stop this decline and restore our gut and our health, we have to remove the harmful chemicals and toxins in our diets and lifestyles right away. Here are the main ones to look out for:
Antibiotics are one of the most significant medical breakthroughs since their discovery and subsequent commercial production over 70 years ago.
They have saved countless lives – without them a small untreated cut or graze could result in death. However their success has come with widespread usage in farming and with significant over-prescription and unnecessary usage by ius – with grave consequences for the health of our gut microbiota.
If your doctor does recommend a course of antibiotics – feel free to discuss how necessary they are and if in doubt seek a second opinion. Meanwhile if you are given a course of antibiotics many experts recommend taking the course together with probiotics (see chapter 4) to help reintroduce good bacteria to your gut.
Sugar in our diet feeds the types of bacteria and pathogens we want to keep in check – so a diet rich in sugar can lead to an over growth of these bacteria and a resulting in balance and dysbiosis in our guts.
Furthermore a study at Oregon State University found that altered gut bacteria as a result of a high-sugar diet, appeared to impact “cognitive flexibility,” in one’s ability to adjust to changing situations – and also showed an impairment of early learning for both long-term and short-term memory.
Its also worth noting that sugar is addictive and refined sugar contains no nutrients –only calories which are quickly absorbed causing blood sugar levels to jump and then collapse – causing hunger and further cravings.
3. Refined Starch
Most starch in our diet is broken down in our small intestine into sugar. Refined starches, as you’ll find in white flour, bread, white rice, and pasta – is quickly and easily broken down in our gut – feeding the harmful gut bacteria and spiking our blood sugar. Whole grains and complex carbohydrates – as you will find in
4. Artificial Sweeteners
Concerns over the health effects of artificial sweeteners have long been raised – and that consuming them prompts hunger and further cravings when the expected sugar hit doesn’t arrive – however recent studies have shown that artificial sweeteners also harm the balance of our gut bacteria – promoting growth in the undesirable strains of bacteria associated with obesity and diabetes – as well as inflaming the gut lining.
5. Processed Foods
Processed foods – (defined as foods prepared with chemical additives or processes to alter the flavour or shelf life) – are very harmful to your gut bacteria as a result of the additives and ingredients they contain.
How to identify which foods are processed? They could be described as anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognise as food – or if you read the label any ingredient you don’t recognise (typically with a scientific name).
6. Preservatives & Emulsifiers
Preservatives are added to most packaged foods in order to slow or prevent the processes of oxidation and bacterial growth – or put another way they are designed to kill bacteria. There are many natural preservatives such as salt and natural acids, oils and vinegars which are easily digested and do no harm however most preservatives in our food are synthetic man made – and studies have shown they could be doing serious harm to our gut
Emulsifiers are very common in packaged foods which also extend the shelf life of foods and keep ingredients—often oils and fats—from separating. Emulsifiers are found in many common household foods from mayonnaise to ice cream, biscuits to peanut butter with common emulsifiers including ingredients such as polysorbate 80, carboxymethylcellulose, lecithin, carrageenan, polyglycerols, and xanthan.
Some major studies have shown how emulsifiers negatively affect the makeup of our gut bacteria and disrupt the protective mucous layer that shields our intestinal tract, resulting in inflammation and can lead to bacterial infection. Another side effect is an interference with the signal of ‘satiety’ – or feeling full – leading to overeating and get fatter.
7. Artificial Food Colouring
The use of food colouring in processed food is now widespread to encourage sales, and many of the popular colourings used today have been found to have antibacterial properties. This was previously considered a positive effect but now we are increasingly aware of the damage such chemicals have on our gut flora.
Alcohol is very effective at killing bacteria which is why it is used in sanitary wipes, mouth wash and for cleaning cuts and grazes – so consuming high levels of alcohol or binging will not do your gut microbiome much good. However there are benefits to drinking low levels of certain drinks:. Some alcoholic drinks – red wine is a great example – contain many nutrients in addition to alcohol such as as polyphenols which come from the skins of the fruits used to make them – and these are very beneficial to our microbiome.