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It seems like everyone is talking about the importance of gut health lately. From the benefits of taking probiotics to the importance of consuming foods high in fiber, gut health has been at the heart of many concerns, including health professionals and dietitians. And for good reason. According to research, a healthy gut is extremely important for your mental health and mood, for preventing chronic disease and even as easy as digesting it better.

With so much at stake, it seems like taking proper care of your gut health and your microbiome (which controls your body’s metabolism and digestion) should be a top priority for healthy living. And yet, there are traps that people can easily fall into when it comes to their gut health that can have the completely opposite effect.

In order to avoid these bad eating habits and create a healthier, happier gut, we spoke with our medical expert advice members Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT, and Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT, also known as The Nutrition Twins, on what to watch out for to enjoy your meals, and some healthier options to try instead. Here’s what they suggest, and if you’re looking for even more healthy eating tips, be sure to check out our list of the 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat right now.

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“The first step in digestion is chewing and when you don’t completely chew your food ([when] you eat quickly), the digestive system is not prepared to release the enzymes necessary to break it down, ”explain The Nutrition Twins.“ This means that you are preparing your body for bloating, diarrhea, heartburn, acid reflux, cramps, indigestion, gas, nausea and more, as larger pieces of unchewed food enter the digestive system at a time when there are not enough enzymes to disassemble them. “

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Woman counting calories on her phone for a junk food dessert donut
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While eating healthy foods rich in prebiotics that contain natural sugars, like fruits and whole grains, eating too many added sugars can wreak havoc in your gut.

“Sugar negatively impacts the gut microbiome and can lead to chronic inflammation, weakening the lining of the stomach,” says The Nutrition Twins. “Some research has shown that by disrupting the gut microbiome, sugar can lead to inflammation of the colon and inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease.”

“One of the best ways to cut down on sugar in your diet is to make small changes first,” they suggest. “For example, instead of having 2 cookies for dessert, take one. Or better yet, replace cookies with naturally sweet fruits, like berries or apples, which feed the good bacteria in your gut. “

Here’s a major side effect of eating too much added sugar, according to a new study.

throw the salad in a trash can
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“Vegetables contain healthy fibers that feed the good bacteria in your gut, stimulate their growth and strengthen your gut lining,” explains The Nutrition Twins. “The good bacteria in the gut help fight inflammation throughout the body. And it seems that cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage are especially useful for feeding the good gut bacteria.”

If you don’t like to eat vegetables, Tammy and Lyssie recommend that you find ways to add vegetables to meals you already enjoy, such as stuff sandwiches with extra vegetables or throw vegetables into a stir-fry or omelet.

woman standing and eating chinese food
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How many times have you stood by the pantry or the refrigerator snacking on something when you were hungry? This probably happens more often than you think, and according to The Nutrition Twins, you can easily overeat or overeat too quickly while standing, which brings us back to the first point.

“Most people who eat while standing eat very quickly,” explains The Nutrition Twins. “Not only do they often end up eating more food than their body needs, [but they also] do not give their brains adequate twenty minutes to recognize that they are full. Because they eat quickly, they don’t chew well either, so they don’t prepare their digestive tract for adequate release of enzymes, and the food isn’t broken down, causing intestinal upset. “

Additionally, eating while standing is also conducive to food stress, which can also cause digestion issues. According to The Nutrition Twins, this puts your body in “fight or flight mode,” which shuts down digestion to prioritize stress management. It wreaks havoc on your healthy gut. As food stays in the gut longer, bacteria have a field day on it, fermenting it and causing inflammation that wears down the lining of the gut. “

Eating pizza and social networking with laptop.
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On the same note, stressful eating in any capacity can create an unhealthy gut and definitely an eating habit you should avoid.

“The body digests food better when it is relaxed,” says The Nutrition Twins. “Digestion is slowed down during stress (just like the ‘fight or flight’ scenario while standing and eating), so the body can deal with more pressing issues. However, this does mean that undigested food remains in the stomach, which can cause stomach upset while allowing “bad” bacteria in the gut to thrive on the undigested food. “

To help with stress eating, both dietitians recommend do some deep breathing exercises before eating to calm yourself from any outside stress. According to them, it “stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system to trigger relaxation.”

Mature athletic man running out of breath while feeling pain during morning run in nature.
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“Digestion takes blood and energy, and when you exercise, your muscles compete for these resources,” The Nutrition Twins explain. “You can have a cramp and indigestion when the blood is diverted from the intestine; digestion is stopped to give priority to feeding the muscles. “

For even more gut health tips, read on: