10 Foods That Damage Your Gut Health & 10 That Heal It

10 Foods That Damage Your Gut Health & 10 That Heal It

Maintaining gut health may require some dietary sacrifices, but it’s an important step in ensuring your system works the way it should. It may not seem like a big deal now, but poor gut health leads to a ton of potential issues like inflammation, bloating, and digestive problems—which is why it’s so important to know which foods are out to get your gut and which foods are out to save it. 

1. Sugary Foods

Too much sugar in your diet wrecks gut health by causing inflammation. Whether it’s from overly sugary foods like baked goods or highly sweet beverages, excessive sugar throws your gut bacteria off balance and puts you on the fast track for symptoms like bloating and diarrhea. 

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2. Processed Foods

Loaded with sugar, unhealthy fats, and empty calories, processed foods target gut health through inflammation and impaired digestion. To make matters worse, all that harmful stuff allows bad bacteria to thrive while the lack of nutrients leaves good bacteria in the lurch.

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3. Fried Foods

Fried foods may taste good, but they don’t do you any good. Rich in trans fats and coated in flour, fried foods love to pick fights with our insides and often lead to inflammation or exacerbated IBS symptoms.

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4. Red Meat

Red meat, especially fatty cuts like steaks and ribs, wreaks havoc on your system. It has a lot of protein going for it, but also comes hand-in-hand with high levels of saturated fats—so don’t be surprised if you experience bloating, inflammation, or even flare-ups of gout.

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5. Salty Foods

High-sodium diets are best avoided to preserve gut health. Too much salt can quickly dehydrate you, which impacts the stomach and can easily lead to inflammation and cramps. Other instances can put you on the toilet. 

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6. Artificial Sweeteners

On the surface, artificial sweeteners seem like a good choice—they cut down your sugar intake and are great options for diabetics. The downside to them, however, is that they can harm those with preexisting GI problems, leading to gut bacteria imbalances, more gas, and diarrhea.

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7. Sugary Drinks

Much like with sugary foods, highly sugary drinks like soda or fruit juice are detrimental to gut health. Not only is soda high in sugar but the carbonation also leads to bloating and excessive gas in some. Fruit juice, on the other hand, is loaded with sugar and often missing the fiber and nutrients you’d find in natural fruit. 

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8. Alcohol

Alcohol does a number on your system, least of all your stomach. Too much of it damages your gut’s lining, impedes nutrient absorption, and causes symptoms like inflammation or bloating. Not only that, but excessive alcohol consumption also encourages bad bacteria growth, throwing off your system even more.

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9. Dairy

While dairy is often thought of as a gut-safe food group, it can be the exact opposite for others. For some, dairy products are a one-way ticket to all kinds of unpleasant symptoms like bloating, gas, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. 

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10. Excessive Caffeine

Coffee affects everyone differently—while your morning mug isn’t necessarily bad, excessive caffeine can harm others, leading to bloating, gas, or longer bathroom breaks. However, so long as you don’t deal with any underlying GI issues, a cup of coffee should be more than fine. 

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Now let’s dive into which foods and drinks promote the best gut health. 


1. Yogurt

Not only does yogurt promote gut health through its calcium, probiotics, and vitamins, but it’s also a safe food for the lactose intolerant. Yogurt is an all-around good way to improve digestion and reduce inflammation without causing any GI upset.

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2. Fermented Foods

Some fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and sugar-free kombucha assist in healthy gut bacteria production. You need to be careful which fermented foods you indulge in, though, because some do more harm than good.

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3. Bananas

Bananas help gut health in a myriad of ways. They’re packed with potassium and vitamins, but most notably a soluble fiber called pectin, which keeps your bathroom breaks regular. All in all, bananas help reduce bloating and keep your gut healthy. 

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4. Tea

Green tea is often the go-to, and it’s a good one because it helps flush out the system and promotes healthy gut bacteria. However, peppermint, fennel, and licorice tea are all alternative routes to help settle your stomach and keep your gut on the right track. 

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5. Whole Grains

Whole grains like brown rice, oats, and whole-grain cereal give your gut the fiber it needs to maintain bowel movement regularity. They also keep your healthy gut bacteria in check without causing additional GI upset.

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6. Beans 

Beans like peas, black beans, and lentils help stomachs everywhere—they’re loaded with enough fiber and nutrients to settle inflammation and support healthy gut bacteria. If you have preexisting GI issues, though, then you may want to tread carefully as beans can (and often do) lead to gas.

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7. Bone Broth

Bone broth is one of the safest and most effective ways to boost gut health because of its nutrients. It nourishes the intestinal lining, reduces inflammation, and can even help sufferers of leaky gut. 

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8. Salmon

Salmon is filled with vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids, all of which help your gut. One of its biggest achievements is its ability to reduce inflammation, so be sure to incorporate salmon into your diet. 

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9. Berries

Look no further than the average berry for your fill of antioxidants and vitamins. Strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries are all great sources of both and promote gut health by keeping inflammation and gas to a minimum. 

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10. Certain Nuts

Walnuts, almonds, and pecans are just some of the nuts that promote gut health. Thanks to their protein and fiber, certain nuts maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria and help regulate bathroom breaks. 

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