6 Worst Foods for Gut Health

Many people know that eating a diverse, healthy diet rich in fiber is generally good for your gut health.

Such an eating regimen generally supports good bacteria in your gut. In turn, this bacteria — of which there are 300 to 500 different kinds — helps your gut maintain a strong and diverse microbiome. Everyone has a microbiome, a collection of more than 100 trillion microbes that live on and in our body, the majority in our large intestine. Certain foods — like sauerkraut, yogurt and fresh fruits and vegetables help foster a healthy gut microbiome.

Conversely, there are certain foods and beverages that aren’t good for your gut, or microbiome, says Lisa Jones, a registered dietitian based in Philadelphia.

Here are six of the worst foods and beverages for your gut health:

1. Artificial sweeteners

An array of artificial sweeteners pass through the body undigested, and because of this, they can negatively affect the microflora in your gut, Jones says.

Research published in April 2021 in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences suggests that consuming the artificial sweeteners aspartame, saccharin and sucralose may be associated with two harmful gut bacteria, E.coli and E. faecalis.

Popular artificial sweeteners include:

— Stevia. Available under various brand names, including Splenda Naturals Stevia Sweetener and Truvia.

— Aspartame, brand name Equal.

— Sucralose, brand name Splenda.

— Saccharin, brand name Sweet’N Low, Sugar Twin and Necta Sweet.

— Acesulfame K, brand name Sunett.

2. Alcoholic beverages

The federal government’s 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends moderate drinking for those who imbibe. That means two drinks or less a day for men and one drink or less daily for women. Drinking more alcohol than this amount can harm your gut microbiome, Jones says.

Research published in the journal Gut Microbes in 2020 suggests that drinking alcohol excessively is associated with dysbiosis, which occurs when the bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract — including your intestines — become unbalanced.

Dysbiosis is associated with a wide array of health problems, including:

Acid reflux.

— Acne, psoriasis and skin rashes.


— Chronic fatigue.


— Cramps.

— Diarrhea.

Digestive issues.

— Food intolerance (bloating, gas).

Trouble urinating.

— Vaginal or rectal itching or infections.

3. Fried foods

It’s more difficult for your body to digest fried foods compared to fresh fruits and vegetables, Jones says. “The oils that may be used to fry the food is rich in saturated and trans fats, which can bother your gut.”

Palm and coconut oils are typically used to fry food. Eating fried foods can lead to:


— Gas.

— Stomach pain.

4. Red meat

Plenty of people enjoy steak, bacon and pork chops. Many people may not know that these red meats are abundant in a compound called L-carnitine, which alters the bacteria in your gut, says Stacy Cavagnaro, a registered dietitian with Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Human Nutrition. This alteration can lead to the production of a substance known as trimethyline N-oxide, or TMAO. High levels of TMAO increase your risk for heart attack or stroke.

Higher red meat intake is also associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer and inflammatory bowel disease. Research published in 2020 in the journal Advances in Nutrition suggests that beef, “when consumed at higher than recommended levels as part of a diet high in sugar or fat . . . has adverse consequences for the gut microbiota.”

Cleveland Clinic recommends eating no more than one to two servings of red meat weekly, or, 6 ounces per week. People with heart disease or high cholesterol should limit their consumption to 3 ounces weekly.

5. Processed foods

Eating processed foods containing additives and salt can impact your gut microbiome negatively, Cavagnaro says. “Processed foods lack diversity and are low in fiber. Eating processed foods that contain additives and salt can affect your gut micribiome negatively.”

Highly-processed foods include:

— Bacon, ham, pate and sausage.

— Canned vegetables.

— Cakes.

— Cookies.

— Processed lunch meats.

— Soft drinks.

6. Sugary soft drinks

Research published in 2019 in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that consuming higher levels of soft drinks and sugar-sweetened soft drinks is associated with digestive disease mortality. The study did not find such an association when drinking artificially-sweetened soft drinks.

A separate study, however, published in 2018 in the journal Molecules reports that the consumption of artificial sweeteners has been linked with an array of adverse effects, including a negative change in gut microbiome activity.

6 of the worst foods and beverages for your gut health:

— Artificial sweeteners.

— Alcoholic beverages.

— Fried foods.

— Red meat.

— Processed foods.

— Sugary soft drinks.

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6 Worst Foods for Gut Health originally appeared on usnews.com

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