7 Foods That Are Terrible For Your Gut Health

7 Foods That Are Terrible For Your Gut Health


7 Foods That Are Terrible For Your Gut Health

Sure, we all know the saying "you are what you eat". But have you ever considered how literally this applies to your gut health? The food you choose can be your gut's best friend, nurturing its delicate ecosystem, or its worst enemy, leading to discomfort and potential health issues. So, it is crucial to know which foods can harm your gut health the most. To help you out, we've put together a list of 7 foods that can be particularly harmful to your gut. We'll also provide some equally delicious and gut-friendly alternatives you can swap them out for.

Artificial Sweeteners

You may be surprised to learn that artificial sweeteners are not as saintly as they are marketed. Numerous studies indicate that they can negatively impact your gut health.

Your body is home to approximately 100 trillion bacteria, residing predominantly in the gut. These microorganisms are beneficial, helping with digestion, metabolism, immunity, and more. However, artificial sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin can disrupt this delicate system and drastically alter your gut bacteria's composition. In fact, a study found that 8 out of 13 tested artificial sweeteners unfavourably impacted the gut microbiome, leading to an imbalance in the bacterial community, a condition known as dysbiosis. This can upset your body's metabolism and immune response, potentially resulting in digestion problems, lowered immunity, and even mood disorders.

So, what's the solution? Instead of artificial sweeteners, try embracing the natural sweetness of fruits. Packed with fibre and natural sugars, these sweet treats don't just taste good, but also provide an array of nutrients that promote good health. 


While a bottle of wine or pint of beer may seem harmless, their impact on your gut microbiota can be significant. Not only can alcohol lead to inflammation, but it can result in an imbalance of your gut flora, impacting the proteins and enzymes that work tirelessly to keep your gut healthy. 

However, there are multiple delicious and healthy alternatives that can provide gut-friendly benefits without sacrificing flavour. One such alternative is kombucha, a fermented tea that is packed with probiotics, which are great for your gut health. Additionally, you can try detox water or herbal teas instead of your regular drink. Detox water is often infused with fruits, herbs, or vegetables, and can contribute to your hydration needs while flushing toxins from your body. Herbal teas, on the other hand, offer antioxidants with potential anti-inflammatory effects, making them perfect for nurturing your gut health.

Processed Meats

Processed meats are a popular choice for many people, but did you know that they come with some serious health risks? First of all, they're chock-full of harmful additives that are introduced during the processing stage to enhance their flavour and prolong shelf life. These additives can wreak havoc on your gut health, leading to various gut issues, including inflammation and even increasing your risk of diseases.

To make matters worse, processed meats are also loaded with unhealthy and harmful saturated fats. These fats can raise your blood cholesterol level and potentially irritate your gut. In fact, a study published in the Nature Journal found that processed meats are included in the list of foods that significantly harm your gut microbiota. This means that our gut flora isn't exactly a fan of these meats. 

Why not try swapping your processed meats for plant proteins like seitan, tofu or lentils? Not only do they have a low fat content, but they're also much kinder to your gut flora. 

Refined Sugars

Refined sugars are what you might call gut-unfriendly food. They tend to negatively impact the helpful bacteria in your gut, leaving your digestive system out of balance. This can lead to inflammation, decreased immune-regulatory properties, and even more serious health problems, such as metabolic disorders and inflammatory bowel diseases. 

So, what's the alternative to refined sugars, given that we all have sweet cravings now and again? We recommend using natural sweeteners, such as agave or dates. These natural options lack the harmful effects of refined sugars and are gentler on your gut. Plus, they can satisfy your sweet tooth without sacrificing your gut health. 

Frozen Meals

Have you ever found yourself reaching for a frozen meal after a long, tiring day? We've all been there, looking for a quick meal fix. But here's something you might not know. These frozen meals may seem convenient, but they are often packed with sodium, which isn't great news for your gut health. 

Sodium, the main component of table salt and a common ingredient in processed foods, plays a big role in bloating and water retention. Additionally, a high-sodium diet can upset the delicate balance of your gut microbiome. This, in turn, can lead to digestive issues, including stomach discomfort and irregular bowel movements. One study found that a low-sodium diet fostered a healthier and more diverse microbiome, promoting better gut health. 

So, what's the alternative? Cooking fresh meals using gut-healthy ingredients is an effective way to nourish your gut. Choosing foods high in fibre, like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, can promote gut health and diversify your gut flora. Moreover, incorporating foods rich in probiotics, such as yoghurt and fermented foods, can aid in maintaining a balanced gut microbiome. 

White Bread

White bread might be satisfying in the moment, but it lacks a crucial ingredient – fibre. Fibre plays a pivotal role in maintaining your gut health by acting like a detective, ferreting out and banishing harmful substances while simultaneously feeding the beneficial gut bacteria. A high dietary fibre intake boosts gut microbiota diversity, which is crucial for a healthy gut. 

When fibre is absent from your diet, like it is when consuming white bread or other refined foods, your gut health takes the brunt of it. These not-so-friendly foods can potentially disrupt the balance of your gut flora, leading to an array of digestive issues. 

Whole grain alternatives offer a great source of fibre and other vital nutrients that are stripped from white bread during the processing. Whole grain bread is not only good for your gut, but it also keeps you feeling fuller longer, helping curb those cravings. 

Hydrogenated Oils

Hydrogenated oils such as margarine and shortening are a common sight in many kitchens. However, these oils can wreak havoc on your gut health. Not only are they tough to digest, but they can also induce gut inflammation. 

Hydrogenated oils are basically chemically altered versions of natural oils. They are filled to the brim with unhealthy trans fats, which your body struggles to break down. What's worse is the fact that these trans fats can increase the level of 'bad' LDL cholesterol in your bloodstream while reducing the 'good' HDL cholesterol. This can be a devastating combo for your gut and overall health. 

An aggravating factor in the equation is that trans fats tend to create an environment conducive for inflammation. One study found that a diet high in hydrogenated oils can increase the risk of gut inflammation by 51%. 

That's where healthier cooking oils come into play. Olive oil and coconut oil are stellar substitutes for hydrogenated oils. Not only are they easy on the gut, but they are also full of health benefits. Olive oil, for instance, boasts anti-inflammatory properties because of its high levels of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat. On the other hand, coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) which are easier for our bodies to digest, and they further assist in boosting gut health. 

What Can You Do to Restore Balance in Your Gut?

Now that we've given you the lowdown on the foods that can wreak havoc on your gut health, let's flip the script and talk about what you can do to restore balance in your gut. As a nutritionist, I can't stress enough the importance of probiotics in fortifying your gut microbiome. These tiny but potent live bacteria and yeasts are found in foods and supplements and play an instrumental role in revving up your digestive health. 

Probiotics work by repopulating your gut with beneficial bacteria, helping it maintain a healthy equilibrium. This not only enhances digestion, but also amps up your immune function. Consuming probiotics isn't tricky at all—foods like yogurt, kefir, and kimchi are teeming with these beneficial microbes and double up as tasty additions to your diet. 

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But probiotics alone won't quite cut it; your gut needs a robust variety of nutrients to thrive. Fibre-rich foods, commonly found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, are fantastic for your gut health. These high-fibre foods serve as a delicious source of sustenance for the good bacteria in your gut, which thrive on them. This not only keeps these beneficial microbes happy but also encourages the growth of a diverse and healthy gut microbiome.

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Our Fibre Complex offers a high-fibre blend of ingredients to help boost the intake of fibre, including: Inulin, Flaxseed, Psyllium Husk, Glucomannan, Peppermint Leaf and Aloe Vera extract. Our fibre supplement is naturally high in soluble dietary fibre to help you maintain your daily rhythm. Each serving contains an impressive 3g fibre per 5g scoop with a natural blackberry flavouring, making it ideal to mix into a smoothie for your daily source of fibre.

Adding to the probiotics and fibre-rich meals, you should consider incorporating fermented foods like sauerkraut, miso, and kombucha into your dietary routine. These foods bring another brand of beneficial bacteria to the table, easing digestion while warding off gut inflammation.

Written by Riya Lakhani-Kanji MSc ANutr

Riya Lakhani-Kanji MSc ANutr is a registered nutritionist and health writer. Equipped with a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Human Nutrition, Riya leverages her scientific knowledge to create engaging content that empowers people to embrace the power of plants.