If you have an upset stomach that feels like it’s on fire and raw onions make you cry, you might be experiencing some gut inflammation. But what is gut inflammation, exactly? And what foods should you avoid to keep your gut from flaring up? It’s not as scary as it sounds. Gut inflammation is actually a natural response of the body when it comes under attack by bacteria or viruses or experiences stressors such as too much alcohol consumption, dehydration or exposure to toxins. In other words, in response to stressors, your body ramps up its immune system to deal with the threat and protect your guts (and the rest of your body). That said, if left unchecked, chronic low-level inflammation can lead to long-term health problems such as cardiovascular disease and arthritis. To get a better understanding of what will aggravate your stomach and which foods are best for healing it, read on…
Dairy is your enemy
First up, dairy is a common culprit of gut inflammation because it contains proteins that your body can’t digest very well. Plus, the majority of people are lactose intolerant, so your digestive system will have a hard time breaking down this dairy-based enzyme. If you have a gut inflammation, it’s best to cut out dairy completely and find an alternative source of calcium. Good alternatives to milk include soy milk, almond milk and coconut milk. If you really miss the taste of milk, you can opt for milk made from rice, oat or hemp seeds. For cheese, choose sheep and goat cheese (made from sheep and goat milk) or hard cheeses like Parmesan or cheddar.
More bad news: Fats are also out
Butter and all other forms of fat should be avoided as well. You may think you’re doing yourself a favor by dumping a ton of butter on your food, but all you’re doing is irritating your gut. Same goes for oil, which is basically fat. So if you’re having fried food or something that’s deep-fried, you’re basically just adding fuel to the fire burning in your gut. Not to mention, most oils are highly processed and contain trans fats that can increase inflammation.
More good news: There’s some good news!
Vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are all good for your gut inflammation. So, while you may not be able to eat many of the foods you’re craving, at least you’ll be getting all the nutrients you need to heal. Vitamin C is a great way to start. You can find this in citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits, kiwis and strawberries. Protein-rich foods such as beans, meat and eggs are also great for your gut. Finally, iron-rich foods like spinach, beets, sweet potatoes, beans and lentils also do your body good. Supplements like Quercetin, that are high in antioxidants and minerals, is another fantastic way of providing your body with essential nutrients without upsetting your stomach.
These foods are off the menu
Caffeinated or sugary drinks or alcohol. All of these things will irritate your gut, and none of them are good for you anyways.
Caffeine and sugar will do nothing for your healing process (other than give you a temporary energy boost that will leave you crashing).
Alcohol is a no-brainer: It dehydrates you, it flares up inflammation, and it’s a depressant that can make you feel anxious and depressed. Plus, it’s easy to overdo it when you’re in pain, which can make the problem even worse.
Spicy foods. Again, these will do nothing but inflame your gut.
Processed foods. This includes anything in a bag, box or can.
Don’t eat this
These foods should be avoided if you want to soothe your stomach.
High-fat foods. This includes fatty meats and cheese, french fries, and foods that contain lots of butter, oil or cream (pasta, mashed potatoes, etc.).
Artificial sweeteners. These have been linked to increased inflammation in the gut, so avoid aspartame, acesulfame potassium and sucralose.
Excess fibre. While fibre is good for your gut in general, too much can be painful for those with inflamed guts.
Try these foods instead
These foods are better for soothing your stomach and healing inflammation in your gut.
Low-fat proteins such as fish, chicken, beans, rice, potatoes and eggs
Foods rich in vitamins C, B and iron
Foods rich in soluble fibre like oats, barley, beans and legumes
Overall, gut inflammation is brought on when too many bad things get into your digestive system, and not enough good things get out of it. To keep your gut healthy, you want to make sure good things are going in and the bad things are coming out. Unfortunately, most modern diets are extremely high in inflammatory ingredients, so making a few simple dietary swaps can make a big difference in how you feel. With a few dietary tweaks, you can keep your gut healthy and happy, so it can do the good work of helping your body function properly.