If wellness is your jam (or maybe I should say, your avocado toast), you likely already know about the importance of gut health. You know to load up on fiber, there’s probably a bottle of probiotics on your bathroom shelf, and you sip kombucha instead of soda. (Sugar: Bad for the gut!)
But even if you know a lot about gut health, there’s a good chance that you believe at least one myth gastroenterologists wish you didn’t. (Even as someone whose job it is to write about wellness every day, I was fooled!)
Here, G.I. docs share their some pretty surprising gut-health facts and myths that they want *everyone* to stop believing. Get ready, it’s a lot to (ahem) digest.
6 gut-health facts and myths from gastroenterologists
Myth 1: Probiotics are the backbone for gut health
While probiotics—aka the “good” bacteria that live in your gut and occur naturally in certain foods—can certainly benefit the gut, Fiber Fueled author and gastroenterologist Will Bulsiewicz, MD, says they aren’t a cure-all. “It’s not that probiotics are worthless. But you can’t take a C- gut and supplement your way to A+ health,” he says.
Dr. Bulsiewicz that when it comes to optimal gut health, a consistent healthy diet and lifestyle is key. “That is the true backbone of gut health,” he says. (Hot tip: his number one piece of advice is to load up on plants.) Plus, he says that the science on probiotics is still minimal. “Like it or not, you have a completely unique gut microbiome. So when you drop a generic formula of probiotics in there, if they even survive your stomach acid, it’s impossible to know whether or not they’re going to do anything for you,” he says.
Instead of supplements, he recommends filling up on probiotic-rich foods instead. Gastroenterologist Lisa Ganjhu, DO, adds that if you’re happy with the way your digestive system is running, you don’t actually need a probiotic supplement. Save that money for sauerkraut!
Here are some other ways to improve your gut health with food, according to a registered dietitian:
Myth 2: Bone broth heals the gut
Similar to the evidence around probiotic supplements, Dr. Bulsiewicz says this commonly heralded gut healthy food lacks hard, scientific evidence. While some wellness experts believe the collagen in bone broth makes it a healing superfood, Dr. Bulsiewicz says the proof just isn’t there. “With all the research and science that we have surrounding gut health, thousands of studies, why are we claiming that something that has zero studies is the solution to our problems? We have plenty of things that science has proven to be the solution, like fiber,” he says.
Myth 3: You should poop every day
“Not everyone needs to have a bowel movement every day,” Dr. Ganjhu says. “Everyone’s bowel movement habits are individual and based on what makes them comfortable.” A better rubric to go by is how you feel. If you experience gas, bloating, or diarrhea, they are all signs that something is off; and that goes for whether you poop every day or not.
Myth 4: Non-medical enemas are safe
PSA from Dr. Ganjhu: Do not seek out an enema where coffee, sanitizers, or anything else is being instilled via your rectum—no matter what celebrity is doing it. “Other than for acute therapy for a stool impaction, enemas given in non-medical settings can be unsafe,” she says. “Instilling coffee, cleanser, sanitizer, or other agents into the rectum can potentially be very dangerous.” Not to mention a pretty embarrassing E.R. visit…
Myth 5: Beans and grains are inflammatory foods
Simply put, Dr. Bulsiewicz says there is no evidence to support that beans or grains increases inflammation in the body. In fact, regular consumption of whole grains is found to decrease inflammation. Same goes for beans; one study linked bean consumption to decreasing one specific inflammatory marker by 40 percent. “Blood pressure and cholesterol both dropped, and what was most fascinating is that the legume group lost more weight even though they ate the same number of calories,” Dr. Bulsiewicz says of the study. The power of fiber, people!
Myth 6: Elimination is the solution to digestive problems
“For 20 years now we’ve been told to restrict and eliminate foods that cause GI distress because they’re ‘inflammatory.’ Not only is this giving us a complex with our food, and in some cases leading to a full-on eating disorder, but it’s actually bad for your gut,” Dr. Bulsiewicz says. “The single greatest predictor of a healthy gut microbiome is the diversity of plants in our diet. When we eliminate plant categories from our diet, our gut suffers the consequence.”
While food sensitivities and intolerances are real, fearing food or cutting out too many healthy sources won’t ultimately be best for health. If you are experiencing digestive problems and think something you’re eating is causing it, book an appointment with a gastroenterologist who can help get to the root problem so that you aren’t eliminating more foods than you have to. As these gut health facts show, food shouldn’t be the enemy of gut health.
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