You asked and we're here to answer: do avocados cause gas?
The short answer is Yes, they can.
Most people will have no problem eating the fruit, but why is it that some get overly gassy?
Avocados originated in Mesoamerica and were cultivated in the Mexico area as early as 500BC. They were introduced to the Spanish conquistadors by the Aztecs in the 16th century, in a form that the Aztecs called "ahuaca-molli"... which the Spanish then called guacamole and the rest is history... guacamole and avocados spread to Europe and later the rest of the world.
They are very high in "good", monounsaturated fat, are a great source of fiber, have more potassium than bananas, good protein amounts, and they have a creamy texture that nothing can compare to.
BUT... if they are going to cause uncontrollable bursts of flatulence, then are they really worth eating?
Well, in order to answer this question let's first go over 6 possible reasons that avocados are producing this effect...
Avocados contain what is called sorbitol, which is a polyol (aka sugar alcohol) that naturally occurs in a variety of fruits, such as apples, peaches, different types of berries... and it occurs unnaturally in many types of sugar-less chewing gum.
Sorbitol, unlike its classification of a "sugar alcohol", is neither a sugar nor an alcohol. It is a fermentable carb that is classified as a high FODMAP, meaning people with IBS should avoid it.
However, even if you don't have IBS, sorbitol can cause and upset stomach, cramps, bloating, gas, etc.
The reason behind this is because it isn't completely absorbed by the small intestine and continues into the large intestine where it is fermented by our gut bacteria, producing gas as a byproduct.
Avocados are a great source of fiber, both soluble and insoluble. The amount of each depends on they type of avocados that you buy. According to SFGate Healthy Eating, half of a California avocado has about 4.6 g of fiber, 63% being insoluble and 37% being soluble, while half of a Florida avocado (larger kind) has about 8.5 g of fiber, 82% of which is insoluble and only 18% soluble.
Fiber is great, and most of the US population needs more of it, but getting too much (some people experience negative effects after around 40 g per day) can come with downsides.
It is the soluble fiber in particular that is the problem here, because this type of fiber is considered "ferment-able" and is fermented by the bacteria in our guts, just as sorbitol is.
While avocados have significantly more insoluble fiber than soluble, the amount of soluble fiber that they provide is actually quite high compared to other foods.
*Note: This is also a big reason beans have such a gassy effect.
Now this is something that almost no one talks about, but very well could cause bloating and flatulence.
Borborygmi is the scientific term for stomach growling, which consist of the sounds made from gas as food moves through the intestines.
Avocados, because they digest rather slowly due to their density and high fat content, and because of their viscosity after being chewed, could have the potential to trap more air as they move through the digestive system... thus causing more sounds.
This, coupled with the fact that the sorbitol and soluble fiber they provide produces gas, could exacerbate the problem or air being trapped in the intestines and causing gassy-ness.
Another potential cause of excessive gas and digestion issues could be an allergic reaction, in which excess gas wouldn't be much of a concern.
According to BetterHealth Channel, about half of people that have latex allergies also are allergic to avocados. This is because the same proteins are present in both.
An intolerance to histamine also produces symptoms similar to that of allergic reactions, which include everything from hives to digestive issues (like excessive gas).
Histamine is a chemical that communicates messages to the brain, aids in digestion by helping control stomach acid release, and is released after injury or allergic reaction.
An intolerance to histamine can occur when levels get too high. The body produces its own histamine but we also get this chemical from the foods we eat, and avocados are considered high in it.
There is an old Spanish saying, "aguacates duros, flatulencia seguros", which roughly translates to "hard avocados, gas surely".
It doesn't rhyme so well in English, but the point it makes is translatable.
The harder the avocado (less ripe), the more likely it is to cause flatulence.
When avocados aren't ripe, still hard, they are more difficult for the body to digest. The starches they contain still haven't fully broken down into simple sugars, complex enzymes have yet to denature, and so on... making more than one reason they could lead to gas.
What if you can't control yourself when it comes to a fresh bowl of guacamole? Is there any hope?
This would all depend on the reason behind the gas. If highly allergic then even the slightest amount could trigger symptoms... but then again, if you are only worried about the gas that avocados are causing then you likely aren't highly allergic.
If it's excess fiber that is the cause then you could simply consume less fiber in other parts of your diet, such as by eating these "diarrhea friendly" low-fiber foods, if you still want to continue to eat your avocados. And if you've just got a bad case of borborygmi then simply drinking more water as you eat can help.
The easiest solution, and what works pretty much no matter what the reason behind the excessive flatulence, is to simply consume less.
Avocados originated in southern Mexico long before the Spanish arrived, but today the biggest commercial exports come from north of the border, from California and Florida in the USA.
As briefly mentioned earlier, the avocados from California differ a good bit from the Floridian avocados... so you may want to try switching varieties and see how that works.
And if it is guacamole that you have been getting gassy from, then it may also be worth trying a different product. It could be other ingredients in the mix and not the avocado that is the problem.
Unless eating avocados presents a serious gas problem, such as that which may stem from an allergic reaction, it might be worth it to put up with the increased gassy-ness for the sake of good nutrition.
Avocados are a very well-rounded fruit, nutritionally speaking, with the nutrition facts for a 136 g California avocado being:
... just to name a few.
So you decide... is the gas worth it?
Now it's your turn: What has your experience been like eating avocados?
Have you had an experience with green poop after eating Fruity Pebbles? Then you are in the right place!
There has been a lot of concern about Fruity Pebbles causing green poop but not all that much information online, so we decided to do a little investigating here at Gut Advisor to get to the bottom of things.
Some people claim to have been experiencing green poop for weeks after switching to a Fruity Pebble diet for their morning breakfast; some mothers have been concerned after seeing unnatural green colors in their child's diapers; and some people have enjoyed as little as one bowl of the tasty cereal only to end up being alarmed on their next trip to the toilet.
It is so common that the term "fruity poop" has been coined for such an occurrence at UrbanDictionary...
It's fairly common. That's a bit relieving... but is there any cause for concern?
After all, we are not talking about the naturally green-looking poops that come from eating a bunch of green leafy vegetables. We're are talking about unnatural looking feces that sometimes appear to be bright and almost fluorescent green.
And it's not just Fruity Pebbles that are the problem. There have been similar occurrences reported after the consumption of other foods/candies/drinks such as fruit chews, Kool-aid, Trix cereal, etc.
The common theme here seems to be the artificial dyes, so we decided to check it out.
Apparently the Flintstones don't live as naturally as you might expect cavemen to live. Fruity Pebbles aren't colored by natural fruits... it's all artificial... well, mostly anyhow.
Unlike the cereal giant General Mills who did away with artificial colorings in 2017 due to the negativity associated with them, Post continues to use artificial dyes.
Fruity Pebbles' nutrition facts and ingredients can be found at PostConsumerBrands.com or of course on the side of the box. Below is what it contains...
The dyes included here are...
All of them are artificial except for the Turmeric Oleoresin, which is a turmeric extract that is often used as a natural food coloring.
Surprisingly, there isn't really all that great information available on different colored poops and the dyes that cause them, however there is some... and we did a lot of digging around to get to the bottom of things.
It's been said around the internet that the blue dye is the main problem here, but how true is this really?
Well, a single-blind study was carried out on 24 volunteers consuming anywhere from 1 to 24 glasses of Kool-aid (which is relevant because this particular kind contained Blue #5 dye and dye-lake red). The results, as hypothesized, was that stool was brighter green with increased consumption of the Kool-aid by participants.
You can find the full study at PoopReport.com.
Upon briefly looking more into Kool-aid causing green poop it appears there are lots of occurrences. And we're talking about your normal purple Kool-aid here, which contains blue and red dye (these colors make purple when combined).
According to PoopReport, the science behind it is that the blue die combines with bile and forms the bright, unnatural looking, green color.
This goes along with other reports of the blue dyes being the causes, such as reports of green stool after eating a lot of blue-dyed tortilla chips.
Stool color is influenced by what you eat as well as how this interacts with bile pigments and enzymes. This is why eating something blue can create a green color.
Under Chapter VII, section 721 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act artificial food dyes are required to go through strict FDA testing before being allowed on the market. More information on this can be found here.
Additionally, all of the dyes used in Fruity Pebbles are common. It's not like they are some new formulations that have just hit the market. Lots of foods/drinks use them, it's just that it takes a lot of them to create the brightly colored Fruity Pebbles.
That said, artificial dyes are sometimes called the "rainbow or risk" and many that are used in the US are actually banned in countries like Norway, Finland, France, the UK, and Austria. There is no strong evidence that they are harmful, but there is concern.
Other Potential Causes of Green Stool... Still Not Much Cause for Concern...
If it isn't the dyes then green stool may be coming from:
However, these are going to cause a more natural green color... not the bright green that is caused by artificial food dyes.
So while the bright-green stool may seem alien-like and give you a scare, it's probably nothing serious. If you still have concerns then contact your doctor. This is the recommended route to take.
Now it's your turn: What has your experience been like with Fruity Pebbles? Leave your story down below. We like to hear back from our readers 🙂
Graham crackers... they're delicious and great for gingerbread houses, S'mores, or just eating all by themselves. But, can Graham crackers cause diarrhea?
The truth is they can, although unlikely.
The recipe for Graham crackers was first created in 1829 by Sylvester Graham, but was not anything like the sweet snacks that you find at the grocery stores today. In fact, Mr Graham was a bit of a health nut and would probably be appalled with what the crackers have evolved to become.
Nowadays you find many different brands with products labeled "Graham crackers". We have Nabisco, Keebler, Honey Maid, Annie's and others... and while they are all very similar they do contain different ingredients/formulations.
... these are some of the more common varieties you will find.
For the sake of simplicity, let's take a look at 3 popular Graham cracker products on the market and see what could be the cause for diarrhea...
Total Fat: 3g
- Saturated: 0g
- Trans: 0g
Total Carbohydrate: 24g
- Dietary Fiber: 1g
- Sugars: 8g
Total Fat: 3g
- Saturated: 0g
- Trans: 0g
Total Carbohydrate: 24g
- Dietary Fiber: 1g
- Sugars: 8g
Total Fat: 3g
- Saturated: 0g
- Trans: 0g
Total Carbohydrate: 24g
- Dietary Fiber: 2g
- Sugars: 8g
The nutrition facts are virtually the same, but ingredients differ. So let's take a look at these and then go over 5 potential reasons they might be a problem.
Getting too much fiber, in particular insoluble fiber, is one of the most common causes of diarrhea.
Low fiber foods stimulate the bowel less. This is why our list of foods for diarrhea (which you might want to consider eating if you have diarrhea) are all considered low in fiber.
Graham crackers generally have low dietary fiber amounts. As you can see in the nutrition facts listed above, all 3 products only have 1-2g per serving. Over-consumption is always a potential problem, but as long as you aren't eating entire boxes at single sittings, fiber likely won't be a concern.
And it's likely not the "artificial flavor" (as listed in both Honey Maid Graham cracker products) causing the diarrhea either.
Although the word "artificial" is enough to scare many people away from purchasing certain food products, these artificial flavors go through strict testing and are deemed by the FDA (in the US) to be safe for the intended purposes. They often go through more rigorous testing than natural flavors... so are sometimes actually more safe for consumption.
So... let's move on to some more likely causes of diarrhea that could come from Graham crackers (in no particular order)...
Not all Graham crackers contain it, but a lot do. Both of the Honey Maid cracker varieties shown above have the ingredient Soy Lecithin listed, as did BOOST drinks in a recent review we carried out. This is commonly used as an emulsifier, and won't cause any problems for most people but can for some... symptoms such as stomach aches and diarrhea even when consumed in normal doses.
You may have never heard of it before, but chances are you are already consuming such. Soy lecithin is found in ice cream, dairy products, breads, and more. And not only did GMO Compass find that soy lecithin often contains modified soy, but the way most manufacturers extract the needed ingredients is done with use of non-natural chemicals.
There is still some controversy surrounding the actual negative side-effects of the substance, and they are likely blown out of proportion at times, but it is nonetheless one potential ingredient often contained in Graham crackers that could lead to diarrhea.
It is believed by some that the problems arising from soy lecithin consumption could be due to soy intolerance or allergies rather than a problem with soy lecithin in particular.
Besides Graham crackers containing soy lecithin they also often are made with soybean oil... two sources of soy.
An intolerance to soy means that your intestines don't produce the needed enzyme to digest soy proteins properly, which leads to irritated and inflamed intestines. An allergy is more severe and is a problem where the immune system sees the proteins in soy as a threat and mounts an immune attack. Both can result in diarrhea but an intolerance will only affect the GI tract whereas an allergic reaction might be accompanied by swollen mouth and throat, rashes, shortness of breath, runny nose, and others.
Soy allergies are much more common at younger ages and are normally outgrown, but some people carry them on into adulthood.
Unless you find Graham crackers that specifically state they are "gluten-free", chances are that they have gluten, which is a type of protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. If you look at the ingredient lists above you will see that all three types of crackers contain wheat flour. This is where the gluten is coming from.
Now the questions of how much gluten Graham crackers actually have is unknown and will vary, but it doesn't take much at all if you are highly sensitive to it.
Those with celiac disease have the most extreme case of gluten intolerance. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where gluten triggers an immune response that causes an attack on the lining of the small intestine. Statistics vary some but it is thought to affect about 1% of the population in the United States.
Non-celiac gluten intolerance, aka gluten sensitivity, is the name for the condition affecting the other group of people who will experience problems consuming gluten. This condition is much less known, but it is known to occur in people who test negative for celiac disease. According to Healthline it is estimated that anywhere from 0.5 - 6% of the global population have it.
Symptoms for either group of those with some form of gluten intolerance include bloating, cramping, constipation, diarrhea, etc.
Molasses is only listed as an ingredient in the Annie's Organic Honey Grahams product shown above, but there are lots of other products out there that sweeten their crackers with it.
It can be a tasty constipation remedy (as mentioned in Reader's Digest) but can also lead to diarrhea if consumed too much.
While the amount of molasses in Graham crackers is unlikely to cause any problems, people that are already ingesting high amounts of it and other sugary substances may be more susceptible to digestive issues and loose stool.
Fructose... it's a natural sugar that is found in fruits and vegetables... and it is also found in honey and high-fructose corn syrup (of course), both common ingredients in Graham crackers.
Fructose intolerance (aka malabsorption) is actually pretty common. Although most people with the condition will have very mild cases, some will experience symptoms from abdominal pain to diarrhea when consuming too much... and about 40% of people have it!
The problem is that fructose is particularly hard for the body to digest and absorb, which leads to it making its way to the colon where bacteria ferments it... causing gas, bloating, and sometimes diarrhea.
While all that is listed above are potential causes of diarrhea, it is unlikely for most people to have any such side-effect after eating Graham crackers by themselves (s'mores and Gingerbread houses are a different story). Chances are low based on the ingredients and low dosages of those that are potential causes.
In fact, Graham crackers are actually listed as a food to calm diarrhea on LiveStrong.com. This is mainly due to the fact that they are low fiber and, generally, easy on the gut.
So don't stop eating your favorite cracker just because it has potential to cause frequent trips to the bathroom. It isn't at all likely.
And if you do strongly believe that they are the cause then you could always do a quick & easy elimination diet (stop eating them and reintroduce them; see if any difference) to find out further.
Now it's your turn: What has your experience with Graham crackers been like? Let us know in the comment section below...
You asked and we're here to answer: Can Cheerios cause diarrhea?
The short answer is Yes, they can.
Cheerios is a brand of the behemoth General Mills company. The cereal was first produced in 1941 and was originally called CheeriOats, but later changed to Cheerios after changing the cereal shape to that of an "o".
Generally speaking the cereal is at the top of the list when it comes to health benefits, and certainly is a better choice than competitors like Fruity Pebbles and Captain Crunch.
Cheerios is made of 100% whole grain oats, has only 1g of sugar per serving (for Original flavor), has been made "gluten-free" since 2015, and stopped the used of GMOs a year prior.
Oats are naturally gluten-free. The reason the cereal was never labeled as such is because of the manufacturing process and how the farmers who they obtain their oats from rotate crops with wheat, barley, etc. which have gluten that gets mixed in with the oats on some level. Now, however, they have implemented new procedures and sifting processes to make sure only oats, gluten-free, make it into the Cheerios cereal.
Diarrhea is a common symptom experience by those who are gluten intolerant or have celiac disease and eat gluten in their diets. The choice of General Mills to go gluten-free was a good one.
However, there are other reasons Cheerios can cause diarrhea.
First we need to take a look at the nutrition facts and ingredients to see what exactly we are eating.
The nutrition facts do differ depending on the flavor, but not very much for the two most popular of the Cheerios: Original and Honey Nut...
A nice healthy list of ingredients (excluding the sugars) indeed... but there are some reasons some people might come down with a case of diarrhea after consuming such.
Fiber is very important for proper digestion, but having too much or too little can cause diarrhea and other digestive issues.
The Original flavor contains 3g of fiber while the Honey Nut variety only contains 2g. This comes form the whole wheat oats and corn start which is contained in both, as well as the oat bran contained in some of the Cheerios varieties.
The problem here however isn't that there is too much fiber, but rather a lack of it. The FDA recommends 25g of fiber per day (based on a 2,000 calorie diet) and 2 - 3g isn't helping reach this number much, especially when considering that only about 5% of Americans get enough fiber.
Generally speaking, having too much insoluble fiber or not having enough soluble fiber can lead to diarrhea. There isn't too much insoluble fiber here, but there is very little soluble fiber, 1g or less, which is a type of fiber that can absorb water multiple times its weight, helping to firm up loose stool.
When you couple this with the fact that most people eat cereal with milk, which has no fiber, this isn't a very good start to a fiber-rich day and could lead to diarrhea.
Having too much sugar can be a common cause of diarrhea. Too much sugar from foods causes more water to be pulled into the intestines to balance out the solute (sugar), and this can lead to watery stools.
The Cheerios Original formulation only contains 1g of sugar, however, the Honey Nut variety and many of the other flavors have much more. For example, Honey Nut has 9g of sugar per serving and Cheerios Protein has 16-17g... a huge difference!
Some of the Cheerios varieties, such as Honey Nut, also has fructose. About half of the sugar in honey is from fructose and this sugar is particularly difficult for the body to digest efficiently. Fructose malabsorbance is the name for this condition and the Genetics Home Reference estimates about 40% of people have in the western hemisphere, at least to some extent. This is one of the common reasons people experience diarrhea after eating high-fructose fruits such as grapes, watermelon, strawberries, etc.
The intestines can become irritated for various reasons. Spicy foods may cause irritation for some, fiber for others. When irritated this can cause the muscles of the intestines to contract more rapidly to try to get rid of the irritant, thus leading to diarrhea.
Some sources will tell you that oat-bran, one of the ingredients in many of the Cheerios flavors, is good for diarrhea. This is true to some extent. After all, oat-bran does contain the soluble fiber beta-glucan. However, oat-bran could possibly be an irritant to some people. This is possibly because oat-bran comes from the outer shell of oat seeds, which as you would expect is more fibrous and hard--and it is thought that this could irritate the lining of the intestines.
In particular, people with IBS may want to avoid bran. There hasn't been much research into it, but a study in the 1990's found oat-bran made IBS symptoms worse for 55% of patients and better for only 10%.
Even without gluten there is still the possibility that you could have an oat allergy, or be slightly intolerant to oats.
There is a protein in oats called avenin, which is known to cause problems for some people. Whether you are have a minor intolerance to this protein or are full-blown allergic, both of which conditions can lead to a variety of symptoms...irritated itchy skin, rashes, runny nose, nausea, vomiting and possibly diarrhea.
In the case of an allergy, the body mistakes this avenin protein for an unwanted intruder that might cause harm. Although there is no real threat, the immune system takes action and creates anti-bodies to attack it.
Generally speaking, Cheerios are on the more healthy side of breakfast cereals. While "processed whole grains" might be a more accurate ingredient listing on their boxes, and while a fresh bowl of oatmeal is likely a better choice... the company still does a good job at keeping things semi-healthy... at least for the non-high sugar Cheerios varieties.
But diarrhea is a possibility and the 4 causes listed above should be considered. Gluten is another possibility. A 2017 study by Nima (after Cheerios began to be labeled "gluten-free") found gluten in 12.5% of samples tested. And, the Canadian Celiac Association even warned caliac sufferers about consuming such because of the level of difficulty that comes from the removal of gluten-containing grains--since the whole oats that General Mills gets comes from farms that rotate crops. That said, Cheerios are tested by the company to be below the FDA required 20ppm to be able to be called "gluten-free".
In other words... there is still gluten, just hardly any.
Recommended: Foods to Eat When You Have Diarrhea
Now It's Your Turn: What has your experience with Cheerios been like? Leave your comments below! We like to hear back from our readers 🙂
You asked and we're here to answer: Can Splenda cause diarrhea?
The debate and controversy surrounding the safety of Splenda and its affects on health are ongoing, but it seems that the number of anti-Splenda advocates are growing with the current trend to a more natural diet.
In this article we'll be taking a look at how this artificial sweetener passes through the body and more than one reason it could cause diarrhea... which is a side-effect that has been reported.
Splenda is that brand-name for an artificial sugar substitute that is 600 times sweeter than sugar, is considered a "no calorie" sweetener, and is composed of 3 ingredients: sucralose, maltodextrin, and dextrose.
Sucralose is the substance behind its incredible sweetness, which maltodextrin and dextrose are said to be "bulking ingredients" [source: Splenda.com/faqs].
While this popular sugar substitute is considered "no calorie", it does actually contain a small amount from the maltodextrin and dextrose... but because there are so few the FDA allows for the labeling of "no calorie".
Sucralose is the only ingredient that is "made". It is an artificial ingredient that is made from sugar. The patented process starts out with normal sugar molecules and replaces three hydrogen-oxygen groups with three chlorine atoms.
The result of this process is a molecule that, because of it's unnaturalness, isn't broken down by the body and provides no calories.
While it is claimed to cause upset stomach, boating, gas and diarrhea for some people, it is considered safe if consumed in normal doses.
Spenda is approved in over 80 countries and was first approved by the FDA in the US in 1998.
There have been numerous studies on its safety which have shown it to be well tolerable, such as a 13-week study with adult volunteers given up to 10mg of sucralose per kilogram of body-weight per day without any adverse effects. However, there is still some controversy here and many natural health advocates will tell you to ditch the artificial sweeteners.
Splenda largely passes through the body without doing anything. It is not recognized by the body as a carbohydrate and is not metabolized.
About 85% passes through the body unchanged and leaves in the stool, while a small percentage is absorbed and later excreted through urination.
The fact that sucralose, the main ingredient in Splenda, is not digestible by the body is what lead many to believe is the cause for upset stomach, boating, diarrhea, etc.
After all, people who aren't able to digest lactose and fructose effectively have diarrhea as a common outcome of eating foods rich in such compounds.
According to Columbia University, sucralose and other artificial sweeteners are notorious for laxative effects, such as diarrhea and gas.
But why is this?
Well, the studies are lacking in this particular area, but there are several possibilities.
#1 - Intestinal Inflammation
In a 6 week study in which mice were fed Splenda, it was found to increase microbial dysbiosis and Crohn's-like disease, which is an Inflammatory Bowel Disease that patients often experience diarrhea from. The pro-inflammatory enzyme myeloperoxidase was also found at increased levels, which is thought to be the result of the increased amounts of E. coli.
#2 - Harmful Gut Microbiota Effects
The study mentioned above found that Splenda causes a disruption of the microbiome of the gut in mice, Other studies have found similar results.
A 2018 study in PLOS One found that non-nutritive sweeteners such as Splenda have bacteriostatic effects and disrupt the gut microbiota, and a 2008 study from the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health found Splenda to cause a "reduction in beneficial fecal microflora", among other negative side effects.
Ingesting probiotics to stop diarrhea is becoming increasingly common, and has some proven effectiveness. Probiotics are "good" but bacteria so it makes sense that a disruption in gut flora and a killing of "good" gut bacteria from Splenda could potentially lead to GI tract problems like diarrhea.
#3 - Maybe It Doesn't..?
It could be possible that Splenda gets blamed for side-effects caused by other ingredients, such as sugar alcohols often included in splenda-containing foods/drinks, which are known to cause stomach issues.
Sugar alcohols are neither sugars or alcohols. They occur naturally and are used as sweeteners as well, but are also known to cause bloating, diarrhea, etc. because they are not well absorbed during digestion and ferment in the intestines--one of the reasons the protein-packed nutritional Quest Bars may cause diarrhea for some.
While Splenda has been found to be "safe" by the FDA and is approved in over 80 countries, what is considered "safe" by some may not be considered "safe" by others.
Splenda has been well proven to kill good gut bacteria, was found to increase intestinal inflammation, and there are other less proven reasons why it may lead to gastrointestinal distress and possibly diarrhea.
To make matters worse, according to MayoClinic using "no calorie" sugar substitutes such as Splenda tricks your body and might actually make you hungrier and lead to eating more... defeating the purpose of using a "no calorie" sweetener in the first place.
People have been asking and we're here to answer: Can Quest bars cause diarrhea?
There have been numerous postings online from people who claim to have experienced diarrhea as a result of eating the highly popular, protein packed, Quest bars.
After doing a Google search you will come across posts like this, which probably isn't too settling...
But is it actually the Quest bar itself that is causing such unwanted frequent, and often loud, bathroom visits?
And if so, why is this happening?
Quest Nutrition, the company behind it all, was recently acquired the US food giant Simply Good Foods. They started out in 2010 with protein bars devised from one of the co-founders' wife's recipe, whom was working as a fitness trainer.
They make a variety of different health products nowadays ranging from Quest Protein Shakes to Quest Protein Chips, but the Quest Protein Bars are still some of the most popular.
There are dozens of different flavors of Quest Protein Bars and because of this their nutrition will vary. Cookies & Cream, Blueberry Muffin, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, S'Mores, Chocolate Peanut Butter, etc...
But for the sake of simplicity, lets take a look at the popular Cookies & Cream flavor....
*Note: Nutrition facts may vary slightly as Quest tinkers with their formulation.
The nutrition facts here remain fairly steady among the flavors. What you can typically expect is:
But these numbers really don't tell you much of anything. What you have to look at is the list of ingredients and where some of these numbers might be coming from.
Of these ingredients there are some that stand out as possible problems. These include Protein Blend, Fiber, Almonds, Erythritol, and sucralose, which brings us to 5 reasons Quest bars could be causing you to spend more time on the toilet.
Quest bars are high in fiber, usually containing anywhere from 13g to 17g per bar.
The daily recommended intake is 25 - 30g, which means that one single bar is already providing about 50% of your daily need. So if you already get enough fiber from other foods in your diet then this could certainly result in excess.
Fiber can be both good and bad for diarrhea. Generally speaking, too much insoluble fiber is a common cause. This type of fiber is not soluble in water and goes through the digestive system unscathed. It adds bulk to stool and can increase transit time, helping to "flush your system".
We know that Quest Protein Bars contain the insoluble, prebiotic fiber Isomalto-Oligosaccharides (IMO for short) from the ingredient list, which is actually marketed as a sweetener usually because of it's sweet flavor. This fiber provides food for good gut bacteria and can absorb water helping to prevent diarrhea... but we don't know how much of the fiber content this makes up.
Not every flavor Quest Protein Bar contains sucralose, but most do.
Sucralose, aka Splenda, is an artificial sweetener that has 0 calories and is a massive 600 times sweeter than sugar. However, the downside is that it is artificial and, although approved by the FDA, does bring some side effects such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea.
The reason sucralose/Splenda causes gas and diarrhea is thought to be due to the fact that about 85% isn't absorbed (source: Food Insight) during digestion and some is fed on by gut bacteria, which produce nitrogen gas in return.
It's also worth noting that Splenda kills good gut bacteria, something found in more than one study.
Nearly all flavors of these protein bars contain a sugar alcohol called Erythritol, which is used as a sweetener and is neither a sugar or alcohol, contrary to what the name might suggest.
Erythritol is found naturally in grapes, watermelon, peaches, and other fruits... and is a low-calories substitute for sugar.
Being that it's natural is good and all, but it has been found to give some people headaches, stomachaches, and diarrhea.
This is also caused by incomplete digestion and then later fermentation by gut bacteria in the intestines, just like sucralose.
In one study published in the Journal of Nutrition Science and Vitaminology erythritol was given to 55 adults at increasing dosages to see how much people can handle before getting diarrhea. The dose at which erythritol is safe stops at around 0.46g/kg of BW for men and 0.68g/kg of BW for women, meaning that a 155 pound person can handle about 32 - 48 grams.
This is a heck of a lot, but when coupled with other potential causes, such as sucralose, the amount needed is likely less.
About 65% of the population is lactose intolerant, but this statistic, while true, doesn't paint a very clear picture because the rates of this intolerance very greatly in different parts of the world.
Lactose is a sugar found in milk, or milk products... and Quest bars have Milk Protein Isolate and Whey Protein Isolate, both of which can have lactose at varying levels.
People who are lactose intolerant lack the enzyme needed to digest this sugar and this is what causes diarrhea, bloating, stomach pain, gas, etc.
There is also a chance that diarrhea could stem from an allergic reaction, which more than one ingredient on the list could lead to.
Milk allergy is extremely common in young children with about 3% of people under 4 years of age being affected. Most people grow out of this allergy, but some still may have the problem into adulthood.
The problem here is much different from that of lactose intolerance, as it involves the immune system. What happens is your body sees one or more of the proteins in milk as a threat and the immune system responds accordingly, although there is no real threat. It is basically a false alarm that beings about symptoms of illness.
As we know, these protein bars do contain milk protein.
The almonds that are often in the list of ingredients could also cause an allergic reaction leading to diarrhea--and obviously peanuts could be a potential cause of allergic reactions if you are eating any of the peanut butter flavored Quest bars.
If either of these are the causes of diarrhea then the affected individual will notice symptoms consuming other milk-derived products and/or almonds/peanuts.
If you really, really want to eat Quest Protein Bars but get diarrhea from them, there may be an easy solution.
Maybe you bought an entire box of them and don't want to waste your money, or maybe you just really like the taste... but your gut doesn't. The reason doesn't matter.
The easy and free solution is to simply eat them more slowly. If the diarrhea from eating these bars is stemming from there being an overload of fiber, the artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols, or even lactose intolerance, then just slowing down the consumption rate could do the trick. This will give your body more time to handle less of whatever the problem may be.
So limit yourself to 1 bar at a time, and if this has been giving you problems then consume that 1 bar slower. If this doesn't seem to help then you may also want to incorporate more foods that help prevent diarrhea into your diet.
*If you are allergic then this likely won't help.
Overall Quest Protein Bars are a fairly health choice when it comes to the protein bar market. They contain mostly natural ingredients and can be a lifesaver when you are in a rush but need to get your dose of protein packed nutrition to stay in shape and build muscle.
But just because they are generally healthy doesn't mean they won't give you diarrhea. This is a fairly common side effect potentially caused by a number of things, the high amount of fiber likely being the most prevalent... which can often be remedied by simply slowing down Quest Protein Bar consumption.
Now it's your turn: What has your experience been eating Quest Protein Bars?
BOOST is supposed to "boost" your health and energy levels, which is why it's called a "nutritional energy drink". The original formulation provides 26 vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and a nice dose of protein... similar to Ensure.
This is great and all, but the concern is that BOOST causes diarrhea, which would defeat the purpose of supplementing a nutrition drink like this in the first place. Some of the reported side effects of BOOST include stomach pain, boating, and diarrhea.
Diarrhea leads to a loss of fluids and nutrients that are important for health, which often results in weakness, fatigue, and overall worse health... if it continues for an extended period of time.
Most reports don't provide much information such as the specific type of BOOST that led to diarrhea, but it appears that more than one of their products cold lead to this unwanted side effect.
The Nestle brand has a variety of different products under the BOOST label, for different consumer needs.
As you already know, BOOST drinks are packed with ingredients. This is the reason it is often looked at as an easy meal replacement... because it basically is. You get your protein, carbs, fats, 26 vitamins, minerals, and a good amount of antioxidants from the long list of ingredients from BOOST Original...
However, the contents between the different BOOST drinks vary.
As you can see below with the side-by-side comparison of BOOST Original, BOOST Plus, and BOOST Higher Protein, the nutritional information differs in many areas.
While BOOST Original only has 4g of fat, BOOST Plus has 14g of fat!
And while BOOST Plus has 45g of carbs, BOOST High Protein has only 28g of carbs...
It matters what type of BOOST you are drinking. There can be different causes of diarrhea depending on which type you consume and reasons for diarrhea that could come from any product in their line-up.
With so many ingredients there is a lot of room for something to go wrong. Here are 8 reasons BOOST can cause diarrhea, starting with the most likely...
Consuming anything too quickly can lead to an upset stomach and the possibility of diarrhea. The thing about nutritional drinks like BOOST is that most people don't realize they are drinking them too fast.
With 26 vitamins, antioxidants, and a good amount of protein that the Original formula brings to the table, that is a lot for your body to digest... and because it is liquid the process happens faster, which can overwhelm the digestive system. Some of the other BOOST formulas are thicker and provide even more than the Original.
The solution is simple... slow down your drinking. Don't guzzle them all at once.
Most BOOST products are suitable for those who are intolerant to lactose, however, not all are.
BOOST Glucose Control and their different high protein drinks and mixes all contain lactose, which is a sugar from milk.
If you read the labels of these drinks/mixes you will see "milk protein concentrate" and/or "milk protein isolate", which is where the lactose is coming from.
According to the Genetics Home Reference about 65% of the entire human population has a decreased ability to digest lactose. Levels of this decreased ability vary greatly, but can potentially lead to diarrhea when consuming milk products that contain it.
This obviously isn't going to apply to the BOOST Original (only 4g of fat in an 8oz bottle) and some of the other low-fat varieties, but some BOOST drinks, such as BOOST Plus have high amounts of fat (14g per 8oz bottle).
We all need fat, but getting a lot at one time can potentially have a laxative effect for some of us. Not only does fat act as a lubricant, to some extent, that can speed up bowel movement transit times, but if your body has trouble absorbing fat then this can lead to the colon and small intestines secreting excess water... potentially causing diarrhea (Source: Every Day Health).
You will have to read the labels of the BOOST you are drinking beforehand. Some contain sucralose, aka Splenda.
While it won't cause any noticeable adverse effects for most people other than a slightly bad aftertaste, too much can lead to an upset stomach, bloating, and diarrhea for a small percentage of us... not to mention that it is known to harm good gut bacteria.
The good news its that not many BOOST products contain this artificial sweetener.
Many of the drinks contain the natural 0 calorie sweetener Stevia along with sugars. However, high amounts of sugar are also known to cause diarrhea--which is often due to increased water being pulled into the intestines.
With as much as 20g of sugar in a 8oz bottle of BOOST Original and higher amounts in some of the other formulations, this could potentially be a cause of diarrhea.
Not all BOOST drinks have it, but some do. The Original formula, for example, has what are called Fructooligosaccharides (FOS for short) which are made up of mainly of fructose and occur naturally in foods like bananas, garlic, and leeks.
They are not digestible and because of this are considered soluble fiber, similar to inulin.
Soluble fiber is normally good for diarrhea. It helps to absorb excess water in the colon and can help firm up stool. However, because this type of soluble fiber is composed of fructose molecules so there is another potential outcome.
Fructose is hard to digest and many people have what is called fructose intolerance, aka fructose malabsorption. This is the name of the condition when your intestinal cells aren't able to break down fructose efficiently... potentially leading to gas, bloating, and diarrhea.
Lecithin is something else that you could be intolerant to. WebMD states that it is likely safe for most people, but can cause diarrhea, nausea, and the feeling of being full.
This fat is found in many foods, such as egg yolks, red meat, green vegetables, etc. and is essential in our bodies' cells. The problem (many believe) may have to do with it usually being made from modified soy or possibly from the chemical extraction process of other ingredient that go into making it.
When it comes to additives in foods/drinks, it is usually added in as an emulsifier, or lubricant--and in this case it is contained in some, but not all, BOOST products (is included in the 'original' formula).
*Soy lecithin is considered low FODMAP for all IBS sufferers out there. This is due to it being a mixture of fat and oil, not carbs.
Carageenan is an additive that is extracted from seaweed and then processed, then being used as an emulsifier and thickening agent.
Most BOOST drinks contain this ingredient and it is said to cause diarrhea, being a particular threat to IBS patients.
It is also said to lead to inflammation in the body due to its chemical structure, which may trigger Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
On some BOOST drinks you may see it written that they are "not for individuals with galactosemia", but what exactly does this mean?
Galactose is a molecule found in lactose that may still be left behind in minuscule amounts even with foods/drinks are "suitable for lactose intolerance"... which may not be okay for people with galactosemia.
The disorder is very rare and causes problems being able to metabolize galactose.
Diarrhea is one of the early signs of this condition.
According to Stacey Nelson, a dietitian from Massachusetts General Hospital, nutrition shakes such as BOOST contain more than just health ingredients--but can still be a good choice if you are in a bind or can't eat solid food due to a medical reason (source: Harvard Health Publishing).
So they are better than nothing, but a real, healthy meal would ultimately be the better choice.
While BOOST boasts about providing loads of vitamins, minerals, hefty amounts of protein, etc.... it also often provides processed ingredients that can cause minor problems.
BOOST can be a good source of quick and easy nutrition on the go, but can cause diarrhea for some people.
There are a variety of BOOST drinks that contain a variety of ingredients... which is why there is a variety of reasons BOOST could give you frequent runs to the toilet--some of the most common being that you are drinking too fast, lactose intolerance, high amounts of fats, and artificial sweeteners + high amounts of sugar... and some other less-likely reasons.
Should you avoid BOOST?
If you are positive that it is BOOST that is leading to diarrhea then you should stop drinking it. This would just defeat the purpose because it would be leading to wasted nutrients leaving your body without being absorbed or digested properly.
However, it may be worth a try switching to other products in the BOOST lineup. We would also suggest eliminating it from your diet and then reintroducing it as outlined in with the elimination diet.
And if your diarrhea is serious it is always advisable to contact your doctor.
Recommended: What to Eat to Stop Diarrhea
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What is the relationship of potassium and diarrhea? Is it a cause?.. a cure? Let's find out...
Potassium... it's one of the most important minerals we get in our diets and not getting the right amount could kill us... literally... imbalances of potassium in the blood are linked to, at worst, heart attacks.
But the point here isn't to scare you. This is extremely rare.
The point is that we all need potassium and it is incredibly important, but hardly any of us get enough. In fact, only about 2% of Americans get the recommended daily amount of 3,500mg to 4,700mg, which means that a whopping 98% of us need more in our diets.
It's found in every cell in the body and functions as an electrolyte that helps generate an electrical charge. This helps keep the heart beating steady, muscles contracting when called upon, and it even helps keep the body's water levels balanced, among many other important functions.
You can thank all of the processed foods that are sold in American supermarkets for their being 98% of us not getting enough. Various fruits and vegetables are what provide omnivores like us with natural potassium, but how many of us actually get enough of these foods? Obviously not many.
This then leads many of us on a short journey to the drugstore to pick up some potassium supplements, which then potentially cause the unwanted side effect of diarrhea for some of the more unlucky individuals out there.
WebMD states that potassium supplemented orally is "likely safe" when taken in amounts up to 100 mEq, but can cause an upset stomach, nausea, diarrhea, etc. for some people... although unlikely.
RXList lists diarrhea as one of the most common adverse side effects of the popular Klor-Con (brand-name for potassium chloride) tablets which are commonly supplemented by those with a deficiency in this mineral--and LiveStrong also states that diarrhea and abdominal cramping are very common when it comes to side effects. Another potential side-effect of the drug tingling in the hands/feet.
Some sources claim that the diarrhea is due to irritation of the GI tract. When the inside lining of the intestines becomes irritated it can trigger a reaction where the muscles in the intestines squeeze too hard, making the digested food move faster than normal and causing gas/diarrhea.
For the unfortunate few that develop diarrhea as a result of taking potassium supplements it may seem like all hope is lost.
There is a good chance you are supplementing potassium due to loss of fluids from diarrhea in the first place--loss of fluids from diarrhea, vomiting, excess sweating, etc. are common examples that lead to low levels of potassium.
So you could be taking potassium because of diarrhea... but then taking the potassium could lead to more diarrhea.
What should you do?
If you do develop diarrhea from taking potassium supplements then it is suggested that you try taking them with meals, rather than on an empty stomach. Spreading out your supplementation throughout the day is also said to help.
It is also a good idea to try to get more potassium from natural sources instead of resorting to synthetic supplements, which we'll discuss in a minute.
If you are going to take potassium supplements you should always ask your doctor beforehand if you have a health condition.
Oral supplements are known to stir up problems for those who have gastroesophageal reflux disease, and IBS.
You want the body to maintain a specific amount of potassium in the blood stream, anywhere from 3.6 - 5.2 mmol/L (source: Healthline). This obviously isn't going to be possible if you aren't getting enough in your diet, but if you are eating too much then your body will filter out the excess--or should filter out the excess.
Hypokalemia is diagnosed when blood-potassium levels are below 3.6 mmol/L... and this is when you don't have enough potassium. Common causes are loss of fluid from vomiting, diarrhea, or even excess sweating--which is why you often see athletes consuming bananas after training to replenish potassium levels and why Gatorade often has added electrolytes.
Certain drugs can also cause an increased loss of potassium, such as prednisone.
Constipation is actually a common side effect of not getting enough potassium due to the smooth muscle of the intestines not functioning as it should. Other common side effects include cramps, muscle weakness, myalgia and tremors.
Hyperkalemia, or too much potassium, is often related to the kidneys and includes kidney failure and kidney disease. This is diagnosed when levels in the blood are higher than 5.2 mmol/L.
For people without kidney problems eating a lot of bananas and other foods high in potassium likely won't be a problem, but those who don't have healthy kidneys will have to keep a closer eye on their consumption.
The kidneys are responsible for filtering the blood and when they aren't functioning properly this can lead to a buildup of potassium in the bloodstream to levels that are considered too high, even when eating a diet that isn't considered to be high in the mineral. In these cases the kidneys simply cannot filter out the excess.
The saying of how eating more than six bananas at once can kill you is potentially true.
But what does this have to do with diarrhea?
Well, this condition can potentially stimulate intestinal motility and lead to watery diarrhea, as it likely did for 4 patients admitted to the hospital with hyperkalemia and watery diarrhea, published in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases.
However, this side effect seems to be rare and not talked about all that much.
If you have kidney problems or other conditions that may effect potassium levels then you need to talk with your doctor. But as for the majority of people potassium levels can be healthily maintained naturally.
Foods that naturally contain the mineral include:
And there are plenty of other good, natural sources. Sweet potatoes, mushrooms, cucumbers, zucchini, pumpkins, oranges, and a variety of leafy greens also provide good levels of potassium.
Many fruits are also good sources of soluble fiber, which can help absorb water and firm up loose stool, which is why bananas and oranges are on our list of fruits that help with diarrhea--and both have good levels of potassium.
Remember, you are shooting for about 3,500mg - 4,700mg per day.
Recommended: Foods to eat and to avoid when you have diarrhea
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Some people claim yogurt helps diarrhea while others claim it's a cause... so what exactly is the relationship of yogurt and diarrhea?
Well, it's a bit more complicated than providing a Yes or No answer to the question of whether or not it causes cases of frequent trips to the toilet.
While yogurt is often promoted as a natural remedy to diarrhea due to its probiotic content, people who have certain conditions may actually get diarrhea due to some of the other contents yogurt has.
Don't worry, we'll explain everything.
Probiotics are the term coined for what we refer to as "good" bacteria, in which we are just talking about bacteria that resides in our guts and that is beneficial for our health.
There are trillions of microscopic bacteria in our guts and these guys help break down food, provide us with nutrients that are essential for our health, fight against harmful bacteria that can cause disease, and more.
Probiotics have long been consumed in the East but didn't start becoming more popular for health reasons in the West until much more recently.
A large meta-analysis published in the Chochrane Database of Systemic Reviews looked at 63 studies with a total of 8014 participants who suffered from acute diarrhea and had been treated with probiotics. The results showed that overall probiotics reduced the duration of diarrhea and gave no adverse side effects.
Another meta-analysis performed on the probiotic effects on diarrhea in children included 4 trials with 464 total participants and found that probiotic treatment reduced diarrhea duration by 4.02 days on average.
Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus are two characteristic bacterial cultures found in yogurt, according to MilkFacts.info and other sources, and both have been found to be beneficial (based on early stage research).
Lactobacillus bulgaricus is thought to be able to help treat certain kinds of diarrhea and conditions associated with diarrhea, such as IBD (source: Healthline) and Streptococcus thermophilus has been found to be effective in some cases, such as a study on antiobiotic-associated diarrhea in which Streptococcus thermophilus intake caused a significant decrease of the problem.
While there are a still a lot of unknowns and results from taking probiotics vary greatly, due to the many different strains and other variables, the overall conclusion is that they do indeed work... and that yogurt is a darn good natural source of such.
The origins of yogurt aren't well known, but it is believed that it dates back to around 5,000 BC in Mesopotamia where it was referred to as the "food of the gods". It was likely discovered by accident when milk was stored in warm climates, which would lead to fermentation by lactic acid bacteria which feed off the sugars in milk.
Probiotics occur naturally in yogurts, but that's not the only upside.
The big reason yogurt (and other fermented milk products like kefir) is such a good source of probiotics is because of its ability to help neutralize stomach acid, which is why it's one of the better probiotic choices on our list of 16 foods for good gut flora.
Probiotics are fragile. They are living bacteria and can die easily if not taken care of properly. Not only does manufacturing, processing and production of various probiotic products often kill the bacteria, but our stomach acid can be a hard barrier for it to cross even if live cultures do make their way into our bodies. Yogurt helps neutralize the acidic environment so that the bacteria can get into the intestines unharmed.
Note: Not all yogurt contains probiotics due to harmful manufacturing processes, packaging, etc. If you want yogurt with probiotics look for the "live and active cultures" seal.
It can, but the good news is that it probably won't, at least for most people.
However, if you suffer from lactose intolerance, milk allergy, or fructose malabsorption then it could be a cause of such.
Lactose is a natural sugar that is found in milk... and since yogurt is a milk product it also contains this sugar.
The problem is that many people have the inability to break down lactose during digestion because they lack the enzyme that is required for such, and this leads to bloating, gas, diarrhea, etc.
According to the National Institutes of Health about 65% of people have a "reduced ability" to digest lactose. However, this varies greatly with genetics. Those of us with East Asian descent are among the highest population affected, with estimates as high as 90% being lactose intolerant.
The good news is that yogurt doesn't contain nearly as much lactose as milk does due to the fermentation process in which the bacteria feeds off of this natural sugar, reducing the content for us.
While a cup of milk has about 12g of lactose, Greek yogurt only has about 4g per 6-ounce container (source: AmericanDairy).
So even if you get cramps and diarrhea from drinking milk, you still may be able to ingest yogurt without much problem. It will depend on the individual.
Milk allergies are different from lactose intolerance but may be confused at times.
A milk allergy is when the body's immune system gets involved. Basically what happens is the body thinks that one of the many proteins in milk is harmful and mounts an attack, even though there is no real threat.
This is one of the most common childhood allergies that exists, but is not nearly as common in adults.
Common side effects include vomiting and diarrhea, but can potentially be anaphylaxis.
Symptoms usually don't show until a couple hours after digestion... which differs from other food allergies.
If you buy healthy yogurt then you will have no problem with this. However, be sure to read the label before purchasing because some yogurts are made more palatable by the addition of fructose, often in the form of high fructose corn syrup.
Fructose is a simple sugar, but not so simple to digest... which is the reason many people have what is now called fructose malabsorption. This occurs when the intestines aren't able to break the sugar down efficiently and can lead to bloating, gas, cramps, diarrhea, etc.
It's thought to affect about 40% of the Western hemisphere, but degrees of this condition vary greatly and most conditions wouldn't be considered 'bad' by any means.
So read the label next time you pick up a pack of delicious strawberry yogurt... or plain if you aren't into much flavor.
Also, many yogurts have added fruits which , although natural, contain fructose and could lead to the problem. This is a reason strawberries, grapes, watermelon, etc. can cause diarrhea for some people (among other reasons of course).
Yogurt can help cure diarrhea and may lead to diarrhea in some individuals. But which is it more likely to do?
Well, if you are eating healthy yogurt that does indeed have live bacteria cultures then it's more likely to be beneficial. Sure, some of the population may be lactose intolerant, suffer from milk allergies, or have fructose malabsorbance... but this would be more rare and unlikely serious enough to cause diarrhea for most of us.
Remember, yogurt has much less lactose than milk, milk allergies aren't nearly as common in adults as in children, and fructose malabsorbance is often benign.
That said, if you do feel as if your yogurt consumption has been leading to your increased frequency of bathroom visits then we suggest trying a simple elimination diet to get to the bottom of things. This can be done at home for free by simply eliminating foods from your diet, observing any changes, and then reintroducing them.
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If you are looking to improve your health then start looking at your gut and the foods you put in it.
Food that are good for gut flora can help in a variety of different areas, and the purpose of this article is to give you a guide of what you should be eating, and shouldn't be eating, to improve your gut health and live a better life.
A healthy balance of gut flora is said to help with your health in many areas:
Gut flora can also help boost metabolism and help keep weight under control.
In a nutshell, a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut seems to be able to benefit just about every part of our health... which makes sense considering that it is well known to improve digestion and proper digestion is important for overall health.
The first step to a healthy gut flora is to stop eating unhealthy foods. Foods that are overly processed, contain a lot of chemicals, are deep fried, etc. should be avoided (We'll talk more about what type of food to avoid in a bit).
Then you need to both: 1) eat foods that contain "good" gut bacteria so that you can restore a healthy balance, and 2) eat foods that will help feed and keep that "good" gut bacteria healthy.
Restoring a healthy balance of gut bacteria will also help keep bad bacteria out, helping eliminate the potential for adverse health effects.
"Probiotics" is just a word for good gut bacteria. So when you see probiotic foods at the store, these are just foods that contain bacteria that is beneficial for our guts.
But here we aren't going to tell you to go out and buy a bunch of "probiotic" labeled foods. Instead, let's talk about some amazing natural sources of probiotics.
*"Probiotics" occur naturally in certain foods. There is no need to buy probiotic drinks, etc. that have been artificially stuffed with probiotics.
Quick Summary of Naturally Containing Probiotic Foods:
First on the list of some foods you can eat to increase your healthy gut flora are fermented vegetables (although not all scientifically considered vegetables) like pickles, sauerkraut, etc.
Pickles are nothing more than cucumbers that have been pickled with salt and sometimes vinegar... and they taste great on sandwiches, burgers or even all by themselves.
However, if you are currently eating pickles there is a good chance you aren't getting probiotics from them. Pickles that are pickled using vinegar do not contain probiotics... and this is usually what you find at the supermarket.
Probiotic-containing pickles are pickled with a salty brine solution and fermented. They are often kept in the salty solution for days or even weeks, in which probiotic bacteria strains like Lactobacillus start to grow and ferment them.
There is a lack of studies showing how much good bacteria pickles actually provide, but it seems to be on the lower end of the spectrum. One pickle brand called Olive My Pickle measured their probiotic levels and found about 1.2 - 1.4 billion CFUs per serving.
If you look at probiotic supplements you will often find around 10-50 billion CFUs per serving. CFUs are "colony forming units" and this is how the amount of bacteria is measured. The amounts vary greatly between supplements, but no matter how you look at things pickles are on the low side compared to such.
Sauerkraut is German for "sour cabbage" but actually originated farther to the east. As far back as 2,000 years ago Chinese laborers were eating this fermented food while building the Great Wall.
This dish consists of finely shredded cabbage with a salty/sour taste. It is often added to foods as a condiment, eaten by itself or added to soups and stews.
If you want sauerkraut with probiotics then you are going to want to avoid the canned stuff. This has been pasteurized and all the bacteria has been killed off during the process.
Fresh sauerkraut that is made without vinegar is what you want to look for.
According to Dr. Mercola and some sauerkraut he had analyzed, there are "literally ten trillion bacteria" in a 4-6 ounce serving, which would mean that about 2 ounces is providing more probiotics than a common 100 count probiotic supplement.
However, it is unclear how accurate these numbers are and we were unable to find the original source of such statement... but the bottom line is that this fermented cabbage does contain bacteria, and a lot of it.
A study conducted by Dr Chapman and assistants and published in Clean Eating Mag found a 1/2 cup serving to provide only 195.2 million CFUs, which is a massive difference--which shows how much bacteria counts can vary depending on the source.
There are hundreds of different types of Kimchi but what most people in the western world are familiar with is that made by salting napa cabbage and adding spices, making it a sour and spicy vegetable choice.
This is a dish that originated in Korea as a way for the people in ancient times to enjoy fresh vegetables in cold winter times, because of how the fermentation process helps preserve foods.
It is commonly served with steamed rice but some people claim it also goes well in scrambled eggs, tacos, quesadillas, on pizza, and yeah... pretty much on anything.
The same study mentioned above from Clean Eating Mag found a 1/2 cup serving to have 2.6 billion CFUs, which is better than pickles but still not all that much.
Tempeh is a soy-based dish that is made from fermenting cooked soybeans... with the finished product being a dense cake which is somewhat similar to tofu and is said to taste like mushroom. The dish originated in the east and later made its way to the west.
Tempeh can be used just as tofu is used, which is usually as a meat substitute that can be added to sandwiches, salad rolls, tacos, or just about anything really.
Soybeans are known to impair the absorption of minerals, but the good news is that the fermentation of soybeans lowers the mineral absorption inhibiting phytic acid.
Miso is another fermented soy-based food. It can be traced back to the 4th century BC in China, its predecessor being hisio, and was later brought to Japan by Buddhist monks where it has since become a staple in Japanese foods.
This salty, savory fermented soybean paste is used as a main course in soup, added to salad dressing, mixed in marinades, as an alternative to soy sauce, and more. It is yet another very versatile food.
If you are going to be eating miso soup you have to be careful as to not heat it up too much, as this could kill the good bacteria. Some sources suggest only heating to 115ºF.
Probiotic counts for this dish aren't very clear but do appear to be low.
Fermented drinks like kefir and kombucha are also good sources of probiotics.
Kefir is a fermented milk drink that is made by adding grain-like colonies of yeast to milk. This is a drink that has been around for centuries and was discovered by accident, after shepherds found that milk carried in leather pouches would "go bad" and actually taste pretty good.
Kefir has a sweet taste but is also described as mild and tangy. It is usually drunk alone but some have found it delicious as a milk substitute in cereal, added to smoothies, and more.
An article published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition states that kefir contains more than 50 probiotic bacteria species and yeast... which have been shown to have properties as antioxidatives, antiallergenics, anti-tumor agents, anti-inflammatories, to lower cholesterol, alleviate constipation and more.
There are many different kefir "grains" (not really grains, but bacteria cultures) from different areas of the world which contain different bacteria species and give kefir different benefits.
The study mentioned above that was performed by Dr Chapman found Kefir to have the highest amounts of probiotics at 27.7 billion CFUs per one cup serving (source: Clean Eating Mag). Which is the highest on this list according to this source.
Kombucha is a basically sweet tea that has been fermented after bacteria and yeast has been added. This drink has an even older history, dating back to the Tsin Dynasty in China... 221 BC where it was referred to as "the tea of immortality". However, the name "kombucha" may have originated in Japan after the popular drink made it to other lands.
It's said to be able to help with diabetes, cardiac illnesses, immune health, and even claimed to prevent herpes.
However, there is some controversy surrounding kombucha's probiotic benefits due to the low amounts it supplies us with. According to Zhaoping Li, professor of medicine at University of California, it is 'from enough to make any real difference in health" (source: Vice).
Yogurt can be an excellent source of probiotics and has been for thousands of years (there is evidence of cultured milk dating back as far as 10,000 years), provided that you buy good yogurt--because not all yogurt has good bacteria.
It is commonly made by fermenting milk with lactic acid bacteria (like Lactobacillus for example) and bifidobacteria, which are considered probiotics.
While many yogurts will contain probiotics naturally, some brands like Chobani and Yoplait take it a step farther and add in additional types such as L. acidophilus.
However, the amount of probiotics you are getting when eating yogurt is almost always unknown, since yogurt labels don't list the number of CFU's. You could be getting anywhere form 90 billion to 500 billion CFU's per serving according to a 2011 study by Consumer Reports.
If you are going to the store to purchase yogurt for the purpose of getting some good gut bacteria it is important that you look for a 'live and active cultures' seal or something of this nature. This ensures that there is actually live bacteria. Some yogurts are heat treated or processed in other ways that will kill any bacteria that existed... so you will want to keep an eye out for this.
You probably have noticed that all of the foods listed above are fermented... fermented vegetables, fermented drinks, and yogurt, which is fermented milk.
However, not all fermented foods contain this good bacteria we are after.
Some fermented foods are heat-treated which kills the probiotic activity, and canned sauerkraut also leads to dead bacteria cultures.
It's also important to note that not all probiotic-containing foods are equally effective. Not only are there many different types of probiotic bacteria contained in different foods, which affect our health differently, but the type of food that the bacteria is living in has a big impact on the survival of these little microorganisms.
Fermented dairy foods like yogurt and kefir are some of the best known options for delivering probiotics to the gut naturally. The body's stomach acid is what leads to the death of much bacteria before reaching the colon, and diary products like yogurt can help to neutralize this acidic environment for a short period of time to provide the bacteria with safe passage.
As for the many other types of probiotic containing foods that are coming to market, we don't know all that much about how effective they are at protecting the bacteria during transit.
*Note: Many probiotic supplements are pretty much completely useless because they do not address this problem, which means your stomach acid is likely killing most of the live cultures.
While many people will have no problem taking up a diet with increased probiotic consumption, some might. Common side effects include temporary gas and bloating.
For this reason it is advisable to introduce probiotic-rich foods into your diet gradually so that your body can get used to them--and so you can get used to the increase in gas (joke).
Prebiotics, in a nutshell, are food for probiotic bacteria. They are not living and are extremely easy to find.
Having a good supply and balance of bacteria in your gut is only one part of the equation. In order to keep the good bacteria healthy, you need to consume prebiotics for the bacteria to feed on.
Prebiotics are nothing more than dietary fiber and natural sugars, which you should already be getting in your diet.
Some good sources of prebiotics that you might want to add into your diet if they aren't there already include the following:
There is a good chance you are already eating some of the foods listed above, and this is good. However, if you want to provide your gut bacteria with all the food possible and give them the best chance of survival you may want to look into incorporating chicory root and Jerusalem artichokes...
*Note: A regular diet with good fiber as listed above is probably good enough.
7. Chicory Root
Chicory root is one of the best known prebiotics and this is why you often see it as an ingredient with probiotic supplements.
Nearly half of its fiber comes from inulin, which is a soluble fiber found in many plants, which was mentioned above.
Chicory roots can be boiled and eaten like any vegetable or, another good way to add these to your diet, they can be bought ground up and added to coffee (it tastes similar to coffee).
8. Jerusalem Artichoke
These are actually related to the sunflower and not the artichoke like you'd expect from the name.
They are excellent prebiotic sources of soluble fiber that your gut bacteria will absolutely love.
The bad news is that they have a reputation for giving people gas because of the high amounts of fiber, which is the result of your gut bacteria breaking down the food and releasing gas.
Both Chicory Root and Jerusalem Artichoke have been shown to increase numbers of good gut bacteria. In a 2016 study in Archives of Animal Nutrition Jerusalem Artichoke actually did a better job--but this study was performed with pigs and not humans.
If you eat a healthy and balanced diet with lots of fiber then you probably already are getting enough prebiotics that you won't have to worry about this.
However, in the US only about 5% of the population meets the Institute of Medicine's daily recommended amount of 25g for women and 38g for men (source: VOX).
So there is a good chance you want to eat more prebiotic rich foods, although there is no recommended amount.
1. Greasy Fast Food
While not all fast food is unhealthy, a lot is. So you may want to stay away from those deep-fried fries and Big Macs.
The fats, added chemicals and preservatives that many fast foods contain aren't things that our guts like... although our taste-buds do.
A professor of genetic epidemiology at King's College London, Tim Spector, performed a study where his son (a college student) ate only McDonald's for 10 straight days. The results: his gut bacteria were "devastated" and he lost nearly 40% of his gut microbiota.
While it is far from being the most professionally conducted study, there is supporting evidence of overly greasy food loaded with preservatives causing harm to our gut flora.
2. Foods Loaded With Preservatives
Preservatives are added to food for preservation... to keep food from "going bad". They help limit bacterial contamination in the foods they are added to so it's no surprise that they also can damage our gut bacteria.
A 2017 study in PLOS One tested out the effects of two common food preservatives, sodium bisulfite and sodium sulfite, on four common probiotic bacteria species. The results showed that the preservatives inhibited and even deceased probiotic growth.
3. High Amounts of Alcohol
You don't need to avoid alcohol altogether, but consuming such in high amounts can have serious impacts on your health, and your gut microbiota.
According to Alcohol Research, large amounts of alcohol can directly stimulate bacterial overgrowth in the gut and indirectly cause overgrowth by leading to poor digestion and decreased intestinal functionality.
However, not all alcohol has negative effects. In a 2012 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition ten healthy volunteers drank either red wine or gin for 20 days--the results were that red wine helped increase good gut bacteria diversity, which is likely due to the polyphenols it contains. The same can not be said for the gin.
Moderate beer consumption may also not be a bad choice. It's debatable and not well studied, but beer does contain fiber that could work as a prebiotic. That said, its high acidity is the downside.
4. Artificial & 0 Calorie Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners are popular for 2 reasons: because they are cheap and because they often have low to 0 calories... but they come at a cost.
While artificial sweeteners aren't necessarily something you need to avoid altogether and they have different effects, it is probably a good idea to limit your consumption of such if you are trying to establish a healthy balanced gut flora.
Soft drinks, candy, puddings, drink mixes, jams, etc... all commonly have artificial sweeteners.
1. Probiotics Are Important for Health - Everything from the health of your skin, to inflammation and cognition can be effected by the bacteria in your gut.
2. You Can Get Probiotics Naturally Without Taking Supplements - Probiotics occur naturally in certain foods. Some of the best sources of natural probiotics include pickles, kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, kefir, kombucha and yogurt. Dairy sources like yogurt and kefir are two top choices because they help bacteria get passed the deadly stomach acid.
3. Probiotics Need Prebiotics - In order to survive in our guts, probiotic bacteria need prebiotics to feed on, which consist of fiber and sugars. Onions, garlic, bananas, apples, oatmeal... there are lots of good prebiotic sources that are common.
4. Avoid Unhealthy Foods/Beverages - There are certain foods that should be avoided to keep a healthy and balanced gut microbiota. These include greasy fast foods, foods overloaded with preservatives, artificial sweeteners, too much alcohol of certain kinds, and so on.
A healthy gut is not something that you need to go out and spend a bunch of money to maintain. You just have to be aware of what you are putting in your body, avoiding foods that are unhealthy and increasing your intake of good natural probiotic sources.
Any type of food that is overly processed is probably best to avoid. And generally speaking, the more natural and organic the food is, the better.
One of the last points to leave in your mind is that not all pickles provide the same amount of probiotics. Bacteria can be very fragile and growing it in food can be a challenge.
One organic sauerkraut brand might provide you with an adequate serving of probiotics while another organic sauerkraut brand might hardly provide any.
It can be difficult knowing what exactly you are buying at the store and what you are ingesting... so just try your best at the supermarket.
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