Many people think that gut issues are triggered by external factors such as bacterial infections (like H. pylori, which leads to ulcers), or food sensitivities (which cause irritable bowel syndrome).
However, it’s important to understand that gut dysfunction often originates internally. The most visible causes may be external, but the real problem starts on the inside long before you notice symptoms on the outside.
Specifically, when you have inadequate levels of healthy bacteria in the gut flora (also known as gut dysbiosis), this can lead to a host of problems including weight gain and difficulty with weight management, as well as digestive, skin, and mental wellbeing-related issues.
In this video, we take a close look at the two worst inflammatory foods that cause a poorly functioning digestive system. These two foods can create issues years before you ever notice symptoms, and by the time the problem becomes noticeable, your gut may already be in bad shape.
That’s why it’s critical that you take action to avoid and eliminate them from your life starting NOW, so you can get your intestinal health back under control and restore your gut to full, healthy function.
Let’s begin with the first food: Wheat-based Foods & Gluten.
Did you know that the wheat-based products we commonly consume, like breads, bagels, cereals, muffins, and other baked goods, are a primary cause of gastrointestinal issues?
This happens because of two reasons you might not expect.
Firstly, some people may experience digestive discomfort due to a sensitivity or allergy to gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye.
When a person has celiac disease, which is an autoimmune condition, their body treats gluten as a threat and attacks healthy cells.
But there’s another deeper root cause to consider. Modern-day wheat often contains herbicides, particularly Glyphosate.
Studies have shown that this chemical can kill off the beneficial bacteria in your gut, leading to various sensitivities and gut imbalances when consuming wheat and gluten products that have been contaminated.
If you have problems digesting gluten or wheat products, you may notice symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain, headaches, fatigue, depression, anxiety, joint and muscle pain, and brain fog.
While these symptoms show up in places other than your gut, anything that triggers such a reaction in your body can significantly affect your gut function.
Inflammation in the intestines can contribute to digestive problems, and you may experience increased intestinal permeability, commonly known as “leaky gut.”
Let’s talk briefly about Leaky Gut.
Normally, the tight junctions in your gut lining only allow tiny nutrients to pass through and keep out larger molecules like toxins, microbes, and undigested food particles.
When larger molecules from the gastrointestinal tract break open the tight junctions and escape into your bloodstream, leaky gut happens, and further exacerbates digestive issues.
Your immune system marks these molecules as pathogens and attacks them, sparking a chain reaction of inflammation.
Symptoms occur as a result of your body’s immune response to these invaders. They include:
- Digestive issues such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Food allergies or food intolerances
- Brain fog, difficulty concentrating, ADD, or ADHD
- Mood imbalances such as depression and anxiety
- Skin issues such as acne, rosacea, or eczema
- Seasonal allergies or asthma
- Hormonal imbalances such as irregular periods, PMS, or PCOS
- Diagnosis of an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, lupus, psoriasis, or celiac disease
- Diagnosis of chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia
Now, the number one cause of leaky gut syndrome is gluten.
When consumed, gluten triggers the release of a protein called zonulin by the cells lining the gut. Zonulin weakens the tight junctions in the intestinal barrier, leading to a leaky gut.
Apart from gluten, other foods that promote inflammation, like dairy, and toxic substances, such as sugar and alcohol, can also increase intestinal permeability.
The second reason you’ll want to avoid wheat is because it spikes blood sugar like no other carbohydrate, and this can lead to gastrointestinal issues.
We all know that refined carbs like white bread and pasta can easily cause blood sugar to spike. And if your blood sugar levels, and insulin levels, stay consistently too high, it can lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
What you may not know, is that wheat contains an unusual type of carbohydrate called Amylopectin-A, which spikes blood sugar higher than even table sugar. In fact, studies show that amylopectin-A from wheat raises your blood sugar more than almost any other carbohydrate source based on blood sugar response testing.
High blood sugar levels over time dramatically increase Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs) in your body which speeds up the aging process. These nasty compounds cause wrinkled skin, and damage to your organs, your joints, and your gut. This is why diabetics look older than they really are.
So, how does high blood sugar levels cause gastrointestinal problems?
Firstly, it can affect the nerves that control the muscles in your digestive system. This can result in delayed gastric emptying, also known as gastroparesis. The slow movement of food from the stomach to the small intestine causes uncomfortable symptoms such as bloating, nausea, vomiting, and a feeling of fullness.
Secondly, it can damage the blood vessels that supply the intestines, leading to a condition called diabetic enteropathy. This can cause symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, and bloating.
Lastly, it can impair the function of the pancreas, which produces enzymes necessary for digestion. This can lead to insufficient breakdown of food and poor absorption of nutrients, contributing to symptoms like indigestion, malabsorption, and weight loss.
If you have diabetes, it’s important to prevent and manage digestive complications by stabilizing your blood sugar levels.
And one way to control blood sugar levels is to cut all highly processed wheat products and gluten out of your diet.
Next, if you think wheat is bad enough, wait till you learn about Number One.
The Number One worst food that causes gut inflammation is: Ultra-Processed Foods
Ultra-processed foods or UPF are industrial food formulations that have more than 5 ingredients. Many wheat-based food products are in fact UPF.
UPF are less filling and raise your blood sugar higher than minimally processed foods. They are often high in pro-inflammatory refined sugars, hydrogenated oils and fats, salt, and artificial substances like flavors, colors, sweeteners, emulsifiers, and other additives, while being low in protein and fiber.
Many of them are snack foods and promote mindless eating, replacing the need or desire for a proper meal. The additives in UPF are used to mimic the taste, texture, and appearance of foods that are either unprocessed or lightly processed, or to hide any undesirable aspects of the final product.
UPF makes up 73% of the US food supply, according to Northeastern University’s Network Science Institute.
Regular consumption of UPF can lead to weight gain, obesity, and an increased risk of chronic diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
UPF contribute significantly to a leaky gut. They disrupt the gut flora, leading to gut inflammation, digestive issues, and a weakened immune system.
In addition, UPF have been associated with higher levels of inflammation in the body, which can contribute to the development of various health conditions.
Despite these health risks, the average adult in the US gets 60% of their daily calories from UPF, while in Canada the figure is 48%. This happens largely because ultra-processed foods are addictive.
Now, let’s take a look at the ingredients commonly found in UPF that cause gut dysbiosis.
There are two types of ingredients that classify UPF: industrial food substances and cosmetic additives.
Food substances include processed protein and fiber (such as whey powder or inulin), maltodextrin (an intensely processed carbohydrate), sugar and sweeteners (high fructose corn syrup or glucose syrup), vegetable oils and trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils).
Cosmetic additives are used to enhance the texture, taste or color of foods. They make ultra-processed foods more appealing and delicious, therefore contributing to their over-consumption.
Examples, are colors and flavors (both natural and artificial), non-caloric sweeteners (includes aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, and stevia), flavor enhancers (such as yeast extract and MSG), and thickeners and emulsifiers (which modify a food’s texture, like soy lecithin).
Even though UPF are considered to be the least healthy within the overall food classification system, many people might not realize that the packaged foods they would normally consider healthy are ultra-processed.
Let’s take a closer look at the list of common UPF.
Some UPF are easily recognized as unhealthy food or junk food. They include:
- Soda pop, fruit drinks and energy drinks
- Candies and cake mixes
- Packaged snacks (like potato chips and cheese crackers)
- Instant soups, sauces, noodles
- Pre-prepared frozen foods like pies and pizza
- Fried chicken and French fries
- Chicken and fish nuggets, sausages, hot dogs, burgers, and other reconstituted meat products
As a side note, ham, bacon and cured meats are classified as processed, and not ultra processed, because they are not reconstituted or liquified meats.
Other packaged foods that might not be immediately recognized as ultra-processed include:
- Sweetened breakfast cereals, including instant oatmeal
- Protein and muesli bars and balls
- Some plant-based ‘milks’ like almond milk, coconut milk, and rice milk
- Baked goods like cakes, cookies, muffins and bagels
- Packaged breads and buns; these are the cheaper brands that are plastic wrapped and sliced
- Sweetened or flavoured yogurts
- Pre-prepared pasta and stir-fry sauces
- Margarine and non-dairy spreads
Some types of UPF may give the illusion of being healthier, due to having fewer industrial ingredients or being lower in sugar. But these are not necessarily less detrimental to our health.
Supermarkets are stocked full of ultra-processed foods, so it can be difficult to avoid them entirely. However, to improve your gut health, always choose unprocessed or minimally processed foods.
To get a full list of inflammatory foods and their healthy replacements, click on the link below.