Food Additives and their Effect on Your Gut Health

Food Additives and their Effect on Your Gut Health

Written by: Dr. Kathy Dang ND, MSTOM

Do you have tummy fat troubles?  Sugar level issues?  Cholesterol abnormal?  Painful abdomen?  Colitis?

What do they all have in common? Food additives.
Food additives — like emulsifiers — are shown to alter the behaviour of gut bacteria. This leads to gut inflammation causing symptoms like painful cramps, diarrhea and fluctuations in weight. Gut inflammation is also seen in metabolic syndrome — a triad of obesity, high blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol which increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Inflammatory bowel disease — like Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis are also potentially caused or exacerbated by gut inflammation.

This month, in a study published by Nature, a team of Microbiologists at Georgia State University linked 2 commonly used food-additives to metabolic syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease in mice. Human studies are underway.

Food emulsifiers make foods stay creamy and smooth and increase shelf life — carboxymethyl cellulose and polysorbate 80 were used in this study.  They are found mostly in processed foods and products such as margarine, mayonnaise, creamy sauces, candy, and ice cream. 

The Science behind it:
The gut is lined with a protective multi-level mucus layer, that puts distance between the lining of our gut wall and our gut bacteria. Food-emulsifiers act like detergents and wash out the protective mucus lining of the gut. This makes it thinner and compromised and allows bacteria to rub up closer to the wall. This causes a cascade of low-grade inflammation of the gut wall – leading to irritation and pain seen in inflammatory bowel disease and metabolic syndrome.

So how can you protect your gut lining?
Read the ingredients on the label to avoid these food additives — carboxymethyl cellulose and polysorbate 80 — and decrease your exposure to these gut altering culprits.

Probiotics can help! But which ones?
Consult your Naturopathic Physician for guidance in gut health at Yaletown Naturopathic Clinic.

If you chose to purchase probiotics from a health food store here are a few tips to get your moneys worth:

Avoid probiotics that are not refrigerated (unless the bottle specifically says the product is “shelf stable”). Probiotics will become inactive if they are not stored correctly!

Look for probiotics free of dairy, gluten, casein, shellfish and other potential inflammatory ingredients if you are sensitive to these ingredients.

Different strains have different functions. So depending on the condition, some strains can exacerbate symptoms or not target specific areas of the gut. Keep this in mind when choosing a supplement and seek advisement by your Naturopathic provider to alleviate any adverse effects and maximize effectiveness.

Feel free to contact us for more information on gut health and healing. We are here to support you and your health goals!

Dr. Kathy Dang is a Naturopathic Physician at Yaletown Naturopathic Clinic and offers integrative and holistic care that treats the whole person with safe, effective and natural therapies. She also brings combined training in Traditional East Asian Medicine. She supports each person to become active in their healing process to complete wellness. She is caring and compassionate towards each individual’s health journey. To book an appointment please contact us at 604-235-8068.



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