5 Danger Foods You’re Consuming on a Regular Basis

October 10, 2017
danger foods - dr. axe

Hippocrates, the founder of modern medicine and the food is medicine concept, once said, “All disease begins in the gut.” Today, more than ever, we know this is true as we hear scientists connecting disease after disease to microbiome disruption. This assault on your gut — largely triggered by eating danger foods — often leads to a condition known as leaky gut.

Also known as “intestinal permeability,” leaky gut is characterized by a malfunction in the tight junctions of your intestines. This results in things like toxins, microbes and undigested food particles leaking out of your gut and into your bloodstream. This sets off a cascade of inflammation, leading to all sorts of side effects and diseases like allergies, asthma, eczema and autoimmune disease symptoms.

Clearly, leaky gut doesn’t only impact your gastrointestinal tract. Bloating, food intolerance and gas are common symptoms in people living with leaky gut, but not everyone experiences them. One important way to start healing your gut is to start avoiding danger foods. Let’s take a look.

Danger Foods to Always Avoid

1. The Wrong Fats

The best sources for healthy fats include things like avocados, raw or organic grass-fed butter, omega-3 rich fish like wild-caught salmon or anchovies, coconut oil, and extra virgin olive oil. Always avoid damaging, processed fats found in things like margarine, other “vegetable oil spreads,” and rancid, inflammatory vegetable oils like canola oil, safflower oil, and cottonseed and soybean oils.

Processed oils are extracted by high heat and pressure and the use of solvents. The fats in these oils are exposed to light and air, which oxidizes the fat, turning them rancid. The high heat and pressure destroy antioxidants and alter the chemical nature of the fat, creating dangerous free radicals. BHA and BHT, dangerous preservatives, are then often added to the oil to extend the shelf life.

Trans fat, listed as hydrogenated oils or sometimes “shortening” on the ingredients label, should be avoided at all costs, too. Harvard researchers estimate that trans fats cause about 50,000 premature heart attack deaths annually. (1) A 2015 review of studies concluded that those who ate the highest levels of trans fat were 34 percent more likely to die from any cause compared to people who ate the least trans fat. (2)

2. Tap Water

OK, not technically a food, but tap water is a diet staple for millions of Americans. (It’s the second most consumed beverage behind carbonated soft drinks.) What’s concerning here is that a growing number of microbiologists believe even low levels of chlorine commonly found in tap water could be damaging the beneficial bacterial community in the digestive tract. (3) That’s the No. 1 reason this lands on the danger foods list.

I’m not suggesting that bottled water, which is about 300 times more expensive than tap water, is the right alternative, either. (4) Numerous studies suggest bottled water also contains contaminants. A recent German study detected nearly 25,000 chemicals in a single bottled water. (5) I suggest looking for a water filter featuring the NSF/ANSI 42 standard label. This means it’s been proven to significantly reduce levels of chlorine from water. Activated charcoal filters often bear this label.

3. Surprising Inflammatory Grains

This may come as a surprise, but I’m not here to tell you that all grains are evil. While I do recommend going exclusively grain-free during the first phase of the leaky gut diet, avoiding ancient grains for the rest of your life may not be necessary. Instead, learn how to soak and sprout grains. This helps break down gut-irritating phytic acid and antinutrients in ancient grains, helping your body absorb more nutrients without all of the unnecessarily inflammation.

Years ago, our ancestors typically soaked, sprouted and fermented ancient grains before consuming them. The shift to eating grains without taking these important steps has left our bodies more inflamed.

In fact, consuming high levels of phytic acid (or phytate, as it’s called in its salt form) in unsprouted grains can actually lead to nutritional deficiencies. These antinutrients impair your body’s ability to absorb things like calcium, copper, iron, magnesium and zinc. (6) Phytic acid also inhibits our digestive enzymes called amylase, trypsin and pepsin. Amaylase breaks down starch, while both pepsin and trypsin are needed to break down protein. (78)

For those who love bread and don’t want to give it up, Ezekiel bread in moderation is a better choice.

4. The Sneakiest Sugars

To be clear, I’m not suggesting you eliminate all forms of unprocessed fruit from your life. In fact, the health benefits of blueberries make them a great part of your breakfast routine. What you need to start avoiding are the sneakiest forms of sugar, though. This includes avoiding things like yogurt (even organic yogurt) that contains added sugar.

Too much sugar causes yeast overgrowth, triggering the yeast in your gut to start overtaking the beneficial microorganisms in your gut. Sugar feeds yeast overgrowth and candida, causing malabsorption issues over time. This means your body won’t be able to absorb and digest all of the vitamins and minerals you need. If your’e experiencing certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies, particularly vitamin B12, iron, zinc and/or magnesium, know that these are chief symptoms of leaky gut.

5. Gluten

Intense breeding practices in agriculture have left us with a modern wheat that’s loaded with gluten, a protein that’s very hard to digest. Today’s hybridized wheat contains about double the amount of gluten compared to grains of the past, too. And let’s not forget that, historically, people prepared wheat in a much different way, routinely sprouting and pre-digesting it so it’s easier for the body to process.

Today, some people in particular are more sensitive to gluten. Some signs of gluten intolerance include frequent headaches, infertility, muscle and joint pain, skin rashes, mood disorders, and a higher risk of learning disabilities, among others.

Foods with gluten aren’t always obvious. For instance, ketchup, ground spices, lunch meat and hot dogs are often unexpected sources.

Read Next: The Top 15 Anti-Inflammatory Foods

From the sound of it, you might think leaky gut only affects the digestive system, but in reality it can affect more. Because Leaky Gut is so common, and such an enigma, I’m offering a free webinar on all things leaky gut. Click here to learn more about the webinar.

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  1. Jackie Spencer on

    Hi There, I would like to know how much L Glutemin I should take daily, and how to take it. I have IBS-D, and have suffered from it for many years. Thank you so much…..Jackie Spencer

  2. Rose on

    Please give info on the best bottled you like and more info on what to use for water filtration if you live in an apartment. Thanks.

    • gb on

      I have been using a distiller for over 10 years now and am very happy with it! No need to replace filters, just cleaning the tank out (depending on the water source and quality more often)
      My daughter bought a highly recommended (Mike Adams) filter pitcher, nut after only 4 days the water tasted horrible. So they called the company and found out that the city water is so loaded with “junk” that the filter can only handle 4- 6 days before it needs to be replaced! I bought them a countertop distiller and they love it. Distills one gallon at a time (3-4 hours).
      From my research the Berkey water filter is very good; does not need electricity, but again the filters need to be replaced every….?…. But that would be my choice. Hope this helps – even though it is not from the doc’s mouth :)

  3. June on

    Hello Dr. Axe,
    Throughout your collection of articles, you often mention that certain grains are bad for us. You also mentioned that our ancestors fermented their grains. What is your opinion of homemade sourdough bread?

    • gb on

      I would like an answer to that as well, since I bake sour dough bread (and no nasty bloating!) Any regular wheat containing baked goods, especially if they are made with yeast have become really bad for me, so I cut out yeast and then changed to sour dough.
      There is one exception: a small bakery around here makes breads (with yeast) but uses non bromated flour and that I seem to tolerate in moderation. So may be it is not only the wheat/gluten/phytic anti nutrients but how the USA treats the flour?

      • June on

        Thank you so much for your quick reply!
        After learning so much about the American food industry in the past few years, I wouldn’t be surprised.

        That’s awesome! I didn’t know you baked sour dough. Do you have any sourdough recipes that you could share with us?

      • Kevin & Lisa Campbell on

        I get freshly milled flour that includes the bran and is absolutely not treated in any way. Mainly I make sourdough but also bake loaves of baguettes and French breads. I also bake with einkorn, though it’s not as popular with my family. I live in Canada if that makes any difference. I tried to research into chemicals used in grain growing and hit a dead end. There definitely is a conspiracy of silence on this matter. Pleased to see we eat none of your 21 foods to avoid except shrimp. I am picky but is there any shrimp that is ok?

  4. Davido on

    I use Pure Water Products filters. Sure, they just put units together, but, I get their fluoride filter kit that also filters chlorine. I think it’s amazing that the water company isn’t forced to provide end user filters to remove the chems they put in…. then again, no I don’t. I believe the government currently in place, and before for many years, has absolutely NO concern for the citizens’ health. It couldn’t possibly. What’s not to understand? If you look at graphs of diabetes, cancer, autism, and more and overlay that onto chems used in our food chain, water, air, along with GMO and the obvious NEUROTOXIN, fluoride (it has zero biz in our bodies), and useless vaccinations, you’ll see an inclination of both. Are they absolutely, directly related, or a direct correlation? I believe so.


    • Asabelle on

      No! Distilled water is harmful to your heart as there is no minerals at all. You should expect some minerals/salts.

  5. Dawn on

    Fluoride in tap water must also be considered. It is harmful to your thyroid especially if you already have hypo/hyper thyroid issues.

  6. Rex Kittle on

    Tap Water. The city of Detroit Michigan buys toxic waste from a company that gets it from Aluminum and Fertilizer companies, then dumps it in the water for drinking, then filters it. This their way of adding Fluoride to the Tap Water. The law states that this toxic waste cannot be dumped into oceans, lakes, rivers, streams or ponds, so they sell it to cities who want Fluoride in their Tap Water.


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