Long thought of as a host-dependent relationship, we now know that our gut bacteria help build the immune function, assimilate a few nutrients, and even prevent the invasion of harmful bacteria. In other words, the gut bacteria may be playing a huge role in keeping us hale and healthy. Since the gut is the recipient of everything we eat, it is severely affected by what we put in our mouths. Here are 5 food habits that could be harming you secretly by killing off the gut bacteria.
1. Gluten And Wheat
There is some reason to believe that avoiding gluten altogether changes the composition of the gut flora.1 Now, wheat is the most common and known source of gluten. The wheat we eat today might not be the same as the one our ancestors consumed. Genetically, it has turned into a different product due to changes in farming techniques that have changed the composition of the food. So this wheat might be doing more harm to your gut than good. Replace wheat with healthier options such as quinoa.
2. Chemicals Sprayed On Food
Most of us – hopefully, all of us – wash the produce before cooking and eating them. However, no matter how well you do this, certain chemicals used to grow food do not wash off. One such compound is glyphosate, which many farmers spray on crops for better yield. This compound acts as a potent antibiotic. In some cases, this antibiotic harms gut bacteria enough to make them powerless against invading pathogens.2 To be on the safer side, buy only organic produce and from reliable sources.
Commonly prescribed for all kinds of bacterial illnesses, antibiotics kill all bacteria and not just the bad ones. Ever had an episode of thrush after using antibiotics? This is because all the good bacteria in the body have died. Using antibiotics too often or for small illnesses and self-medication can kill the gut bacteria and weaken your immune system.3
Alcohol does not just kill the good bacteria, but it causes an overgrowth of certain kinds of gut flora. In chronic alcoholics, the gut flora balance is vastly different from that of healthy people. Long-term alcohol consumption can weaken your immune system simply by the virtue of its effect on the gut flora.4 Adding to this, alcohol uses up more nutrients to be digested than what it gives to the body. Regulate or avoid your alcohol consumption to keep your gut going strong.
A component of several foods that have a jellylike consistency, carrageenan is obtained from seaweed and may hamper the gut flora development and balance. Carrageenan forms a gel-like mass in the gut and prevents gut bacteria from doing their job. According to lab studies, gut bacteria act as an immune responder in cases where the natural immunity is compromised. And carrageenan interferes with this ability.5
These are just some of the many foods that can interfere with our gut flora balance. Probiotic foods and prebiotic foods can help us maintain a healthy balance.
|↑1||De Palma, Giada, Inmaculada Nadal, Maria Carmen Collado, and Yolanda Sanz. “Effects of a gluten-free diet on gut microbiota and immune function in healthy adult human subjects.” British journal of nutrition 102, no. 8 (2009): 1154-1160.|
|↑2||Krüger, Monika, Awad Ali Shehata, Wieland Schrödl, and Arne Rodloff. “Glyphosate suppresses the antagonistic effect of Enterococcus spp. on Clostridium botulinum.” Anaerobe 20, no. 74 (2013): e8.|
|↑3||Dethlefsen, Les, Sue Huse, Mitchell L. Sogin, and David A. Relman. “The pervasive effects of an antibiotic on the human gut microbiota, as revealed by deep 16S rRNA sequencing.” PLoS biology 6, no. 11 (2008): e280.|
|↑4||Morencos, F. Casafont, G. De las Heras Castano, L. Martin Ramos, Maria J. López Arias, F. Ledesma, and F. Pons Romero. “Small bowel bacterial overgrowth in patients with alcoholic cirrhosis.” Digestive diseases and sciences 40, no. 6 (1995): 1252-1256.|
|↑5||Rowland, Ian R., Anthony K. Mallett, and Alan Wise. “The effect of diet on the mammalian gut flora and its metabolic activities.” CRC Critical Reviews in Toxicology 16, no. 1 (1985): 31-103.|