What You Need to Know about Fructose and Gluten
If you’re an adult, then there are already many factors that have contributed to the development of your microbiome as it is today. While you can’t change the past, what you can change is the way you eat moving forward in life. Diet plays a huge role in shaping gut bacteria, and it can be done so either positively or negatively. Just as you have the potential to change the way you eat for the better to improve your microbiome, keeping your old, unhealthy habits can play just as crucial a role in developing serious health problems later on. Thankfully, if you’re reading this guide, you’ve probably already made the decision to take a step in the right direction and use a proactive approach to enhance your microbiome for long-term health.
If you want to preserve the function and balance of your gut bacteria, then it’s important to avoid two of the worst offenders working against you: fructose and gluten.
If you’re like anyone else who adheres to a Western diet, then you may already know that fructose is hard to avoid. After all, it’s one of the most common sources of calories in the foods we know and love, and although it’s found naturally in fruit, it’s been manufactured into countless food products found on grocery store shelves. Even the foods deemed “dietary” or “healthy” are often loaded with excess fructose. And although fruit and other sources of fructose are readily available for us year-round, we aren’t necessarily meant to consume it that often. Our ancestors consumed fruit in small portions - only when it was seasonally available. Thus, we’re overloading ourselves with fructose, the sweetest of all natural carbs.
Although fructose has a lower glycemic index (making it easier for our bodies to process) than table sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, it doesn’t mean that it’s a health food by any means. In fact, it has some serious side effects when consumed in large quantities over time from manufactured sources. Studies have shown that high blood fats, hypertension, and insulin resistance are all a result of high fructose intake. Too much fructose also has the potential to deplete uric acid, which can in turn lead to kidney stones, gout, and high blood pressure.
Artificial sweeteners, in particular, are among the worst offenders. Our bodies simply cannot digest them, though they still must pass through our gastrointestinal tracts. Even though they have no calories and appear on the surface to be relatively harmless, studies have shown that consumption of artificial sweeteners actually further hinders the body’s ability to process real sugar. If you want to keep your gut bacteria healthy, it’s in your best interest to stay away from artificial sweeteners altogether. Diet and regular soda should be avoided, and if you’re going to make one change at all to your eating habits, you should start by eliminating these drinks from your diet altogether.
On average, most Americans consume upwards of 80 grams of fructose per day, and in many cases, that comes in the form of manufactured high-fructose corn syrup. That’s an overwhelming amount of sugar, and it’s far more than our bodies are able to process. Bacteria within the intestines rapidly feasts on any excess sugar that it finds, which quickly leads to the development of a fermented product, such as short-chain fatty acids and gas build up. This creates a troublesome effect in the intestines, where bloating, abdominal pain, and even diarrhea can take place. Over time, high fructose intake can even cause liver damage. That doesn’t mean that sweet-tasting foods have to be altogether off-limits; in the food mapping section, we’ll discuss how you can achieve sweetness without all of the added fructose.
Unfortunately, if you thought reading about fructose was an eye-opener, then you’re in for some more bad news: gluten is even worse. Before you find out why, let’s first develop an understanding of what it actually is. Simply put, gluten is a protein found in barley, wheat, and rye. It’s also the single most inflammatory agent found in today’s food. There’s a reason that you’re seeing a gluten-free movement taking place across the globe, and it’s not just because people are suffering from celiac disease.
While individuals who have celiac disease are, in fact, highly sensitive to gluten, it’s likely that nearly everyone has an adverse (although typically undetected) reaction to gluten. That’s because it boosts the production of cytokines, the agents that partake in the development of neurodegenerative conditions. The brain, therefore, is extremely susceptible to the serious effects of inflammation.
Worst of all, the damage done is almost always impossible to detect without rigorous tests. Dr. Perlmutter refers to gluten as the “silent germ,” thanks to the fact that its noticeable side effects are typically subtle at most - at least in the beginning stages. If you’re feeling slow, tired, sluggish, or even experiencing more severe afflictions, such as migraines, there’s a very likely chance that you could be suffering from the dangerous side effects of gluten.
Unfortunately, gluten is nearly impossible to avoid, even with the recent strides made by restaurants, food manufacturers, and health markets throughout recent years. Gluten is present in all of the things you might think - junk food, bread, and most other carbs - but it also lurks in other sneaky places, such as the wheat-free foods that are often dubbed “healthy,” and even in hand creams.
When gluten travels through our bodies, it takes on a sticky nature. It interferes with digestion and hinders the absorption of nutrients, so even if you’re eating relatively healthy but still consume gluten regularly, you’re setting yourself back - big time. And, even if you don’t notice any outward signs of gluten-related issues, it’s entirely possible that your intestinal walls are have been compromised, your nervous system is functioning below its capacity, and a slew of other issues are taking place inside your body without you even knowing it. That’s why it’s crucial to select wholesome foods that are gluten-free by nature. It may seem like a daunting challenge, but it’s certainly not impossible. We’ll examine the ideal eating plan in further depth in upcoming chapters; but first, we’ll discuss some life-changing facts about how our overdependence on antibiotics could be killing us.