The digestive system is a delicate ecosystem that needs to be cared for. Unfortunately, modern society has a way of keeping our health at the bottom of an ever-growing pile of priorities. Take a few minutes for yourself and prioritize that gut biome to avoid digestive problems! Here are five food groups keeping you from achieving digestive tranquility:
1. Dairy products
Although somewhat controversial, dairy products are generally considered to be nutritious; however, they are also a top offender when it comes to digestive distress. Cheese, butter, milk, and yogurt made from cow’s milk all contain lactose—the carbohydrate responsible for bloating, gas, diarrhea, and stomach cramps that people with lactose intolerance or sensitivity to dairy may experience. The severity of symptoms will vary, depending on what kind of dairy product is eaten, as they all contain different levels of lactose.
2 Greasy foods
Eating greasy foods is associated with a wide variety of chronic conditions. The more often we indulge in foods like French fries, burgers, and fried chicken, the higher our chances are of developing health issues. When fried and/or other types of greasy foods are consumed, they put a large strain on the digestive system because of their high-fat content. Compared to carbs and protein, fat is much more slowly digested. This can be a good thing when we eat things like avocados—keeping yourself fuller, longer is a tried and true weight-loss strategy. However, fried, greasy foods don’t offer much in the way of nutrition and can negatively affect the gut flora, potentially causing diarrhea and stomach pain.
3 Sugary foods
I don’t know about you, but as a child, I was able to consume half a ton of Halloween candy and feel fine. But now that I’m in adult, it’s a different story. Our bodies change as we age, and because sugar stimulates the gut, over-consuming sugary foods or candy creates a high chance of experiencing an episode of diarrhea. This may happen from natural sugar (such as the fructose found in fruit that can ferment in the gut and cause bloating and gas), but digestive distress can also be caused by the added sugar substitutes found in juice, soda, and high-sugar snack foods. The blood sugar spike you experience from artificial sugar is another good reason not to over-indulge!
4 Spicy foods and sauces
Experts say that spicy sauces may be masking a high-fat content. The combination of high-fat content and hot spice may equate to a few especially troubled bathroom trips (diarrhea and a burning rectum!). Capsaicin, the active ingredient in spices like cayenne or chili peppers, irritates the small intestine and activates pain receptors in the body. If you’re someone who experiences these negative effects after eating a lot of spicy foods, it’s nothing to worry about, your body is trying to protect you from strong irritants. You may want to ease up next time, though!
5 Highly processed foods
Highly processed foods are typically modified in some way to make them more shelf-stable, are often packaged conveniently, and usually have artificial ingredients to make them more flavorful. It’s important to keep in mind that most foods we eat are processed in some way, shape, or form. For example, the triple-washed spinach you can buy at the grocery store has technically been “processed.” However, the real troublemakers are the “ultra” processed foods created in factories—think boxed mac and cheese, frozen/microwavable meals, packaged meats and snacks made with lots of refined sugar, sodium, and stabilizing chemicals. These types of foods generally do not have a healthy nutritional profile and have been modified in such a way that they have become even more caloric. Because what we eat has a huge impact on our gut flora, the standard American diet of ultra-processed foods may be to blame for a less diversified microbiome, which then negatively affects the digestive system.Image © iStockphoto