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What’s the link between sugar and gut health?

By Rachel O'Regan |


I Quit Sugar - What's the link between sugar and gut health?

Is your gut telling you something’s not quite right?

It might be worth having a look at your sugar intake. Western diets (i.e. diets high in sugar and unhealthy fats) are increasingly linked to gut issues, including too much bad bacteria, not enough good bacteria and even gut inflammation.

Sounds familiar? Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how sugar might be affecting your gut health.

Scientists think that bad bacteria could feed on sugar.

Preliminary studies on mice have found that too much sugar and unhealthy fats (we’re looking at you, junk food) encourages potentially harmful bacteria to overgrow. It also suppresses good bacteria, a situation that can cause dysbiosis (bacterial imbalance).

While human models are still emerging, scientists think this is a good clue as to what our sugar-laden Western diets are really doing to us.

A diet high in refined sugar could also make you constipated.

Scientists don’t quite know why yet, but evidence shows that a diet high in refined sugar could slow down food transit time in the gut. And the longer your food stays in the gut, the more water is drawn out of your faecal matter. Which makes you bloated and constipated. Not fun!

You could even be intolerant to fructose!

Yep, if you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, there’s a really good chance that you don’t process FODMAPs very well. These are short-chain carbohydrates and sugars that some guts find quite difficult to digest – and one of them, you guessed it, is fructose.

A sugar-free diet cuts out many of the foods that impact your gut health.

It’s no secret that packaged processed foods are no good for you – or for your gut-dwelling microbiome. But when you quit sugar, you eliminate these foods completely and focus on fresh vegetables, healthy fats, protein and a little fruit. It’s as easy as going with your gut.

We originally published this article in June 2016. We updated it in March 2017.

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