According to Ireton-Jones, it’s not the type of food that exacerbates gut issues—it’s how much you eat it (unless, of course, you have a more severe issue, like Celiac disease). “You can have some salts; you can have some sugar,” she notes. “There’s no food that is inherently bad as an occasional thing.” The dose makes the poison, as they say.
You can apply the same logic for healthy foods, too: We’ve said this before, but you can’t just eat pounds of kale and expect your gut to remain in tiptop shape. Your gut microbes are picky eaters—they love a diverse range of fiber and nutrients in order to stay satisfied.
Additionally, says Ireton-Jones, eating all day long without ever getting hungry is not so good for the gut. It’s the other layer to overconsumption: “We have forgotten that it’s OK to be hungry in between meals,” she explains. Of course, some people might have individualized issues with blood sugar control, but generally, she recommends stopping your food intake after dinner, around three hours before bed.
It’s not as strict as a full-on intermittent fasting plan—it aligns more with circadian fasting—but letting your gut rest for a significant period of time is key. “We’re exposed to food all day long, and we can get food any time we want,” Ireton-Jones says. “If intermittent fasting teaches somebody to eat at more prescribed hours, that’s OK with me.”