This Doctor Is a Gut Expert—These Are the 3 Foods He Won't Touch

Sophie Miura

When your body is functioning at its best, it's like a finely tuned orchestra—every organ and system work in perfect harmony. But when one small aspect is off-balance, such as your gut health, it can lead to a ton of subtle issues that are hard to trace to the root cause. "75 million Americans suffer silently from gut distress on a daily basis," Vincent Pedre, MD, author of Happy Gut, tells MyDomaine. "Most people don't consider this to be abnormal because they're numb to the symptoms."

Beyond abdominal pain and constipation, he cautions that there is a host of subtle symptoms that could indicate you have a gut issue. "Fatigue, mental fog, and allergic conditions like an allergy, asthma, or skin rashes are all related to poor gut health," he says. "You have to find the root cause, dig deep, and look under the hood. The gut is the foundation of our health—you have to start there."

Concerned your gut health might be out of whack? We grilled Pedre to find out how to actually know if you have an issue, and, more importantly, what to do about it. If you're ready for a gut cleanse, skip to the end for his one-day meal plan.

MYDOMAINE: How do you know if you need to do a gut cleanse?

VINCENT PEDRE: The one typical candidate is anyone who has been on an antibiotic in their lifetime. Any single dose of antibiotic wipes our gut flora and takes six to 12 months for your body to bounce back. One of the most commonly prescribed antibiotics, Cipro, which is given for UTIs, changes your gut flora for as long as 12 months. It takes a year for your body to recover! Any woman who takes antibiotics and needs antifungal medication afterward tells me that her base foundation is already compromised.

MD: Is bloating ever normal?

VP: Bloating has become "normal" for a lot of people, but it could actually be a sign that something is wrong. A lot of people aren't aware that they could be suffering from low stomach acid. Your digestive power is decreased when you can't break down protein and fats—they sit in your stomach like a red brick and make you inflated.

Bloating could also mean you're suffering from some form of microbial overgrowth in the small bowl. SIBO, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, is when you have too many bacteria growing in the small intestine. It can make you bloated 30 to 60 minutes after the meal. Depending on where the bloating happens and at what time, we can gain clues about your gut health.

MD: Which foods do you avoid eating because they're bad for gut health?

VP: There are three main food categories I'd avoid to keep my gut functioning at its best:

  1. Wheat and gluten: Gluten is a very hydrophilic molecule, meaning it attracts water and is a binder. It becomes this big mass, which, for a lot of women can lead to constipation and slow down digestion. It's just a big no-no for a happy gut.
  2. Fried foods: They're a big problem. Usually, they're fried in flour, which means you're ingesting gluten too. It's a double-whammy.
  3. Spicy foods: I'm not talking about spices. I mean excessively spicy foods like habanero peppers or curry. These hot foods can irritate the gut lining and cause issues.

MD: How does our morning routine impact digestion? What ritual do you follow?

VP: When you sleep, your digestive system is in maintenance mode, so going and immediately eating food without preparing the stomach in some way is like jumping into a cold bath.

I like to have a slice of lemon with hot water to wake up my digestive system first thing. The lemon has acidity so it helps stimulate stomach acid production, and it also wakes up the liver and prepares your body to secrete bile. I usually sip on hot water and lemon as I prepare for work or before I get into the shower. It's a ritual I follow before I even have breakfast, to encourage me to slow down.

MD: What are the best dishes to order when dining out if you're trying to do a gut cleanse?

VP: My safe bet when I eat is going to a Greek restaurant. The menu is always packed with dishes that are easy on digestion, like salads, grilled vegetables, and grilled or baked meats. Fish is a good option because it's not as difficult as a steak or fillet mignon to digest, and I tend to look out for anything with anti-inflammatory ginger, prebiotic scallions, or immune-boosting shitake mushroom.

Ready to kick-start a gut cleanse? Follow Vincent Pedre's simple one-day meal plan to get started.

Have you tried a gut cleanse before? Tell us if you noticed a difference. 

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