Dealing with chronic stomach pain? The solution could be as simple as what you’re eating. The Standard American Diet, or SAD, is just that … sad. Today, it is estimated that the average American consumes mostly processed foods, instead of raw fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These processed foods often come in brightly colored bags and boxes, which is usually a good indication that what’s inside is not so good for you.
Why are these foods so toxic? Processed foods contain high amounts of refined carbohydrates, added sugars, high-fructose syrup, trans fats, filler oils, nitrates, and artificial colors. All of these things are well-known to contribute to health issues.
This style of “Americanized eating” has spread all over the world, contributing to the obesity epidemic and, additionally, an increased risk of health problems, including diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiac events, osteoarthritis, gastroesophageal reflux, and more.
Health professionals know that the Standard American Diet isn’t the ideal menu for a healthy body, and so they recommend eating more whole natural foods to increase intake of vital nutrients like vitamins, minerals, essential fats, protein, fiber, and phyto-nutrients, like antioxidants.
Is My Diet Wreaking Havoc On My Gut?
If you are like most Americans, you probably eat a diet like the SAD, consuming many not-so-good for you processed foods on a daily basis. However, it may shock you to know that some very harmful, and even toxic ingredients are in your favorite healthy foods too. In a recent report on the American diet from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, these compounds were found in some of the most common foods, including chicken, grape juice, and even milk: arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury and pesticides.1 And in relatively large amounts!
It can be a challenge in our fast-paced world to get the nutrients our bodies need to stay healthy. You have to try and stay away from processed foods and, at the same, time steer clear of all of the environmental pollutants, toxins, and insecticidal poisons in so-called “healthy” food. All of these issues can lead to major gut issues.
The Gut Microbiome and Your Diet
The delicate ecosystem of microscopic bacteria in your gut is known as the microbiome. Scientists estimate there are approximately 100 trillion microbiota living and dying, in an endless cycle, within the microbiome in your GI tract.2
In order to keep all of these living microbacteria happy (and your body healthy), you must keep them all in balance. You see, there are many different strains of gut bugs, and while you need them all in your microbiome, some strains of bacteria can be considered “good,” like acidophilus while others are known as “bad,” like E. coli.
The “good” bugs love to eat these foods:
The “bad” bugs love these items in the Standard American Diet (SAD):
- Frozen foods (like pizza)
- Packaged cookies, crackers and pies
- Breakfast sandwiches
- Microwave popcorn
- Fried fast food
- White bread
- White rice
- Breakfast cereals
- Bottled juices
- Sports drinks
- Low-fat, fat-free, and sugar-free foods and beverages, including diet soda
The Right Foods For Good Gut Health
Today, it is harder than ever to get the right foods onto your plate. However, with this handy list of foods for a healthy microbiome, you’ll be well on your way to a happy population of helpful gut bacteria. Just remember that those little buggers have a mind of their own, and if you are feeding the “bad” bugs food that they love to eat, they may take over your gut and your good health.3 So, as a general rule, always try to eat as many whole natural foods as possible, to keep those “bad” bugs in check!
1. Total Diet Study. Elements Results Summary Statistics. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. April 15, 2014 revised February 2016. http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodScienceResearch/TotalDietStudy/ucm184293.htm
2. Andrew B. Shreiner, John Y. Kao. The gut microbiome in health and in disease. Curr Opin Gastroenterol.
3. Marilia Carabotti, Annunziata Scirocco. The gut-brain axis: interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems. Ann Gastroenterol. 2015 Apr-Jun; 28(2): 203–209.