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Digestion is a hot health topic these days, more so now than it used to be. Most likely due to the way we’ve learned how processed foods hinder not just our waistlines and heart health, but also for the way they negatively impact our digestion. We live in a time where you go to purchase a package of cereal or container of fruit juice and the label actually reads something like, “Made with real corn,” or “Made with real fruit,” as if we should have to receive validation that our food is actually … well, real food.

Most of us are aware that genetically modified foods are harmful, along with pesticides and herbicides, but what is it exactly about processed foods that make them so bad for our bodies?

Emulsifiers and Additives: Your Gut’s Worst Nightmare

Recent investigative reports have found that processed foods containing additives and emulsifiers are largely contributing to digestive distress and even damaging our internal microbiome. When carrageenan, a popular food additive, was connected to causing digestive distress and even permanent gut damage and inflammation a year ago, consumers went into an uproar and many food producers even quit using it, or began removing it from their products. But carrageenan isn’t the only “bad guy” in the world of additives in our food supply.

Have you ever seen ingredients such as arabic gum, cellulose gum, locust bean gum, acacia, acacia gum, acacia syrup, Indian gum, xanthan gum and guar gum on food labels? These are all ingredients used to make your food products nice and thick and creamy and allow them to sit on shelves longer without changing texture or consistency. They’re commonly found in many foods like heavily processed veggie burgers along with gums and other additives, highly refined protein powders or bars, non-dairy ice cream, milks and yogurts, along with flavored dairy-based yogurts, cheese products, dips, dressings, and anything that holds a creamy, consistency. They’re also used in some sweeteners or dry non-dairy creamers so that when you give your coffee a good stir, it all blends together perfectly, or so that your sweetener doesn’t clump up in your beverages. This is one reason when you make almond milk at home, that it doesn’t have that same free-flowing even texture as the kind you can buy at the store – because it’s not meant to!

What Research Has to Say About Emulsifiers 

Emulsifiers have been directly linked to destroying good bacteria in the digestive system, contributing to inflammation, and also to multiple types of digestive problems over time. They’re thought to be the leading cause behind inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and they directly contribute towards irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). What’s worse, is that research studies have found them to lead or contribute to ulcerative colitis (UC), a serious digestive disorder that’s one of many forms of autoimmune disease.

But what’s even worse, is that these foods don’t just impact the way our digestion works and how we feel – they also slow down our metabolisms! So basically, we’re kicking ourselves in the foot by buying processed foods if we want to maintain a naturally healthy weight. While one could argue that we can’t achieve perfection all the time, the studies show us that we need to choose more whole, single ingredient unprocessed foods when possible. The less work our digestive systems have to do to break down these foods, the better our metabolism will work and the healthier our guts will be too.

What You Can do to Stop the Damage

You can start taking care of your digestion and your metabolism right now by implementing whole foods in place of processed foods and also consuming specific foods that support a healthy microbiome. Start with your first batch of homemade almond milk, homemade kraut or raw plant-based yogurt. If you do choose to buy products from the store, read labels and avoid those with a laundry list of gums, gels, and other emulsifying agents as much as possible. Your gut (and taste buds) will thank you dearly!

Lead Image Source: FoodBevSource/Flickr

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