Foods to avoid for a healthy gut

Avoiding foods that harm your gut can improve your overall health immensely – here’s what you should cut down on…

Few people can eat whatever they like with no consequences. Spicy curries, processed meat, high sodium ready meals, booze and additives can all wreak havoc on the delicate balance in your gut and cause indigestion. Beyond noticing the obvious effects on your immediate digestion, problem food and drink in your diet can have a far-reaching effect on everything from your skin to your energy levels.

Food tolerance varies tremendously from person to person, but if you’re not feeling your best here are some of the most common culprits of excess wind, indigestion, constipation and bloating, that cutting out can alleviate.

Fat and oily foods

Foods high in saturated fat, such as fried chips, processed red meat and full-fat cheese take longer to digest, giving your system a tough job. This can manifest in stomach ache, indigestion and heart burn. If you suffer badly with heartburn it may be worth cutting them out altogether.

Spicy food

Hot curries or spicy stir fries are very popular in the UK, but unfortunately for us, they’re not easy to digest and the amount of spice we can cope with is different for everyone. Food that’s too hot for you can cause heartburn and diarrhoea, as well as indigestion and feeling sick. You might particularly notice this after a big curry (especially if beer is also involved!)



We might love it but (as we all know) alcohol isn’t very good for us at all. For your digestion, drinking too much can immediately cause you to feel sick (or be sick), and give you heartburn and stomach ache. Regular drinking can do some serious damage to the organs that digest your food, including the stomach, pancreas and intestines. If you’re having trouble with your tummy, it’s a good one to cut out.


Sorbitol is used as a low-calorie alternative sweetener in diet foods and chewing gum. It’s also natural to fruits including prunes, apples and peaches. In some people it can cause stomach cramps, wind and diarrhoea. If you notice you’re feeling poorly after eating these ‘healthy’ foods, sorbitol could be the cause so try changing to different snacks for a while to see if it makes any difference.

Acidic foods

Acidic foods, unsurprisingly, can cause heartburn. Tomatoes, citric fruits and fruit juices can cause an upset stomach. But actually, many of the foods you think of as acidic are actually alkaline once broken down by your body, and vice versa. Find out more about an alkaline diet and how it can benefit your health. What everyone agrees on is that caffeinated drinks can give many people tummy trouble, so instead of reaching for tea, coffee and cola, try herbal teas instead.

Be kind to your gut

The lucky few can devour a curry, wash it down with beer and follow it with a fry-up the next morning, without any ill-effects.

For the rest of us, when it comes to digestion, not all foods are created equal. Some can be more of a hindrance than a help to our digestive systems.

Here are some common culprits behind excess wind, indigestion, constipation and bloating, with a few tips on how to improve your overall digestive health.

Fatty foods

Eating fatty and fried foods on a regular basis can challenge the hardiest of digestive systems, as they take longer to digest. Eating too much or too often can lead to stomach pain and heart burn. If you are already susceptible to heartburn, you may want to avoid them altogether.

Give your gut a chance, by grilling foods rather than frying them, use vegetable oils for cooking, and choose low-fat dairy products whenever you can.


Indian, Chinese and Thai food is popular, with good reason – it tastes great, thanks in part to the clever use of spices. Although some are able to eat any amount of spicy food, for others it can cause indigestion, heartburn and diarrhoea, especially after a large meal.

Acidic foods

Acidic foods such as tomatoes, citrus fruits or fruit juices, salad dressings and vinegars are not for everyone. In those who are sensitive, they can cause heartburn or an upset stomach.

Caffeine containing drinks such as tea, coffee and cola are also acidic, and should be kept to a minimum if you have a sensitive stomach. Try herbal teas instead.

Fruit and vegetables
Fruit and vegetables


In the short-term, drinking too much alcohol can lead to heartburn, stomach pain, nausea and vomiting; in the long-term, drinking over the limit can damage the oesophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver and intestine.

For low risk drinking, stick to the recommended limits; these are no more than 21 units of alcohol a week for a man, and 14 units a week for a woman. Men are also strongly advised to drink no more than 3-4 units, and women no more than 2-3 units of alcohol a day.


Used as an artificial sweetener in some diet foods and chewing gum, sorbitol also occurs naturally in prunes, apples and peaches. However, for some it can cause stomach cramps, wind and diarrhoea.

What’s good for digestion?

To keep your digestive system in good working order, include plenty of fibre in your diet, such as whole grain cereals, breads and pasta, beans, lentils, fruit and vegetables.

If you’re not used to eating these foods, gradually add them to your diet, as their sudden introduction can cause excess wind and bloating.

Drink plenty of water, especially if you are eating more fibre. Fibre soaks up water, and makes stools more bulky and soft so they can exit the body more easily. But if you are not drinking enough, you may end up with constipation instead.

Leave out fizzy drinks as these can cause excess wind.

Fresh foods are better than processed, as the latter are often low in fibre and high in additives.

Try to eat regularly during the day, rather than just one or two large meals, and chew food thoroughly; digestion begins in the mouth, not the stomach. Gulping down lumps of food can also contribute to excess wind and bloating.

In general, exercise is also good for your digestion. It helps to keep food moving through the intestine and counteracts the negative effect stress can have on the digestive system.

Intense exercise after a large meal is generally not advised, as the body diverts blood away from the intestines to the muscles, which may lead to nausea and cramps.

If you think a particular food is causing problems, keep a food diary and then take it to your doctor. Note down what you eat, when you eat it and any symptoms that occur afterwards.

You should never exclude an entire food group from your diet as it can leave your body deprived of essential nutrients, and may make you feel worse than before.