Foods That Interfere with Probiotics
Probiotics are good bacteria that support the health of your gut and offer overall support to your immune system. Many people use probiotics when they are experiencing issues with digestion, are taking antibiotics, or want to promote overall health of the digestive tract. The way probiotics work is by having the good bacteria enter the gut and colonize there to reduce the numbers of bad bacteria. However, probiotics do not work in isolation – a healthy diet, lifestyle, and exercise are necessary to boost their effects and not hinder them. Here are the foods you should avoid because they can interfere with probiotics.
Whether you are binging on regular or diet sodas, neither are good for your gut health. Sugars and artificial sweeteners in carbonated drinks can kill the good bacteria in your gut or alter it, as is the case with sucralose and aspartame. These sugar substitutes also have a number of other negative effects (1). Choosing diet instead of regular soda might trick you by the promise of weight loss. However, this is not the case, because good gut health is also linked to healthy weight, so destroying your good gut bacteria would lead to weight gain. Sugars from carbonated drinks also act as food sources for bad bacteria in your gut, helping them grow and overpower the probiotic bacteria.
Processed Foods and Probiotics
The majority of packaged foods that interfere with probiotics you find in the aisles of your local supermarket or large grocery chains. They are loaded with preservatives and unhealthy additives. We are talking chips, cakes, pretzels, crackers, cookies, and so on. These additives destroy the healthy bacteria in your gut and create an imbalance between the good and the bad bacteria in your digestive system. Apart from that, packaged foods have nothing to offer – they are stripped from fibers which contribute to gut health and feed probiotic bacteria. Instead of choosing packaged foods, focus on whole products like vegetables and fruit.
It is known that GMO foods can create health problems (2), even though research on their negative effects might not be abundant. There are several ways GMOs interfere with the effect of probiotics. Firstly, the herbicides used when growing these foods have a negative impact on your gut health. And secondly, genetic modifications in plants may also alter the function of the bacteria in the digestive tract when you eat GMO foods. Some companies label their foods GMO-free, but this is not the case with all products. Be mindful of what you eat and read the package labels and do some research to make sure to avoid these foods.
You should know that red meat can interfere with probiotics, but it also can be bad for your heart. A nutrient in red meat, choline, can produce special gut bacteria when you eat red meat and eggs, which is not good for your gut and your body in general. The substance created by these bacteria can make your arteries harder and as a result could cause heart problems. If you eat a lot of meat in your diet, chances are that your gut bacterial composition already has more bad bacteria than the good ones. So, if you are taking probiotics, eating red meat at the same time can interfere with the results. Apart from that, if meat was treated with antibiotics, you also consume those, and they kill off the good bacteria in your gut making it harder for probiotics to do their job of restoring digestive balance.
Gluten-Rich Foods and Probiotics
There are many debates about gluten, and recently its reputation has not been so good. Apart from people with Coeliac disease, many others develop sensitivity to this component (3), which might result from imbalances in the gut flora. While for different people gluten might show different effects, there is still research confirming that eating a lot of gluten-rich foods does not benefit your gut health in the long run. It could cause stomach discomfort and promote inflammation in the gut. So, eliminating gluten from your diet or at least reducing it will help you make sure that the probiotics you are taking are doing the work.
Just like there are good and bad kinds of fat, there are also healthy and unhealthy kinds of oils. Highly refined vegetable oils like corn, canola, sunflower, soybean, and safflower promote inflammation in the gut. They contain a lot of omega-6 fatty acids which are pro-inflammatory. At the same time, they provide none of the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. These oils damage the lining of your intestine and decrease your gut health, interfering with the job of the probiotics. If you still want to use oils in your cooking, but want to reduce inflammation instead of promoting it, swap the omega-6 rich oils for olive, avocado or coconut oil.
Dairy Foods and Probiotics
Keep in mind that not all dairy is the same. While your probiotic-rich yogurt or kefir is good for your health and your gut, and actually contains the good bacteria on its own, some dairy can really do bad things for your digestive system. Many dairy products are pasteurized and processed, especially the low-fat dairy options which are advertised all over. Conventional dairy items can also have antibiotics which destroy the good bacteria in your gut after you consume them from food. So, at one meal you will be replenishing your healthy bacteria, and then at another meal you will be killing them off yet again. Opt for good quality organic and full-fat dairy products for best results.
Hydration is very important, especially for women in menopause. Ideally, you should aim for 8-10 glasses of water per day to help your body flush out toxins and stay hydrated. However, there is a difference in the quality of the water you drink. Filtered or spring water is your best option for gut health, while tap water is not so much. While drinking water from the tap, you also get chemicals, like chlorine, and also antibiotics. Some wastewater is processed into the tap water. So, it can still contain residue of those chemicals which can be harmful for your gut and your body. They can undo the beneficial effects of probiotics.
(2) C. Zhang, R. Wohlhueter, and H. Zhang. "Genetically modified foods: A critical review of their promise and problems."
(3) C. Catassi. "Gluten sensitivity."