A diet high in (free) sugars can alter the amount of “good” bacteria in our gut. Free sugars are sugars added to packaged foods. They also include sugars that are naturally present in honey, syrups and fruit juices (but not whole fruit).
Our “good” bacteria are kept busy in our gut digesting the fibre in fruits, vegetables, nuts and wholegrains turning them into molecules that protect the lining of our gut and feed other “friendly” bacteria. The greater the variety of wholefoods we consume, the more “workers” we have looking after our gut.
Too much sugar in our diet can reduce the diversity of bacteria in our gut leaving room for disease-causing bacteria to dominate.
If we continue eating too many refined foods, packaged foods and sugar, go through periods of high stress, or party too hard, these “workers” are put out of work and leave the gut. This opens up space for less friendly, potentially pathogenic bacteria to take-over and dominate.
The result? Over time, this imbalance of bacteria in the gut can increase risk of gut symptoms such as:
What sugars should we avoid?
Sugar can be hidden amongst the ingredients list without you even realising. This is because sugar has a variety of code names. Although some may sound more “natural” they are still classified as sugar.
Some common alternative names for sugar include:
I have included artificial sweeteners on this list even though they are calorie free as they often also stimulate insulin production and interfere with satiety.
Best Sugars for Gut Health
What you’re looking for in a healthier sugar is:
Table of plant based sugars and their Glycaemic Index (GI).
The lower the GI the better for our health, specifically our energy levels, anxiety and mood. Find out more about the link between sugar and anxiety here.
As you’ll see, honey is very close to castor sugar in terms of its impact on blood sugar so it’s helpful to be mindful of how much we use each day.
Ultimately these are all still sugars and should be used in moderation for good health. Too much sugar can increase our risk of anxiety and impact our mental wellbeing.
Wondering how to read a food label for sugar?
Check out my other post on how to work out how many teaspoons of sugar are in a product just by looking at the label - How to read a food label for sugar.
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