Forget the “Cheat Days” — They Might Mess Up Your Gut

Living a clean, healthy lifestyle is a big adjustment for many people. In today’s Western culture, many of us grew up eating processed foods, going out for fast-food burgers and fries, and enjoying quick-fix microwaveable meals and deep-fried snacks. We know that none of this is healthy.

While making slow, gradual changes towards health is the way to go — these are the changes that tend to stick — there comes a point where we must say goodbye to those fast-food habits altogether if we are to be truly healthy. However, there is a justification method among many people that goes a bit like this: “If I eat healthy on weekdays, I can eat whatever I want on the weekends!”

Does this sound familiar? If so, you may want to take a look at the results of a recent study published in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research. According to this research, those unhealthy “cheat days” may wreak havoc on your gut — even if you’re eating healthily for the majority of the week.

On their new research, the study authors wrote:

“Overconsumption of energy-rich food is a major contributor to the obesity epidemic. The eating habits of many people are characterised by the cycling between overconsumption of energy-rich foods and dieting, the effects of which on the microbiota are currently unknown.” 

To learn more about the effects of these types of eating habits on the microbiotica (aka the gut environment), researchers studied three groups of rats. One group was given a healthy diet all week. A second group ate nothing but junk food. A third group was given healthy food for four days of the week, and junk food for three. The study lasted for 16 weeks.

At the end of the study, it was found that, not surprisingly, the rats fed entirely on junk food were the heaviest. The rats fed the varying diet were less heavy, but 18 percent heavier than the rats eating only healthy foods. Interestingly, when the researchers compared the gut bacteria of the rats eating all junk food to the rats eating junk food three days per week, the results were very similar.

The study authors explained:

forgetthecheatdaysmessupgut_640x359“The microbiota of cycled rats was nearly indistinguishable from rats under constant cafeteria [junk food] diet, and both groups were significantly different to the chow [healthy diet] group… These data suggest that continuous or intermittent exposure to palatable foods have similar effects on the gut microbiota.”

While this study was performed on rats, and more research needs to be done on humans to confirm the pattern, it does not look good at all for those weekend junk food binges.

Why you should take good care of your gut

First of all, the health of your gut is directly tied to the health of your immune system. Therefore, in order to keep your entire body (and mind, for that matter) healthy, you have to take good care of your gut. The bacteria in the gut also affects metabolism, and the function of your digestive tract.

There is evidence that maintaining a healthy gut may even help you live longer. 

Give your gut some TLC

According to a 2014 study published in the journal Nature, even if you’ve developed some unhealthy habits throughout your life, taking a turn towards health now can start healing your gut environment pretty quickly. The following are a few ways to start giving your gut some love: 

  • Ditch the processed foods and junk foods.
  • Stick to whole, natural foods from the Earth, and eat organic whenever possible.
  • Get some probiotic foods into your diet, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and organic yogurt and kefir.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Only take antibiotics when absolutely necessary. 

What have you done for your gut lately?

-The Alternative Daily 


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