Foods to Restore Your Intestinal Flora

Certain drugs and medical procedures can do a number on your intestinal bacteria. Nutrition Diva explains how to replenish your gut flora with food - and which foods to avoid to help the good bacteria thrive.

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
4-minute read
Episode #332

Foods to Avoid When Restoring Gut Bacteria

There are also a few things I’m going to avoid during the first few days after my procedure, because they tend to promote the growth of less desirable bacteria. These are all foods that I normally enjoy in small quantities—and I’m sure I will again. But I want to give the good guys a big head start first.

  1. Sugar. Normally, my goal is to limit added sugars to no more than 25 grams a day. Some days I do better than others. But while I’m rebuilding my intestinal flora, I’m going to try to avoid added sugars altogether, because the bacteria that thrive on refined sugars are not the ones I want to encourage. The same goes double for artificial sweeteners. See alsoArtificial Sweeteners and Weight Gain: Mystery Solved?
  2. Red meat. People who eat a lot of red meat (one or more servings a day) have higher risk of disease, in part because it leads to an unfavorable shift in their intestinal bacteria. This isn’t likely to be a concern for people who eat small amounts of red meat (no more than once or twice a week). All the same, I’ll hold off on the red meat while I’m restocking my gut bacteria.
  3. Undercooked eggs or seafood. Although I’m usually a fan of soft-cooked eggs and raw oysters, I’ll be steering clear of these until my intestinal bacteria are well re-established. Eating these foods always carries a certain amount of risk, but a robust population of friendly gut bacteria makes you a bit more resilient.

See alsoWhy do I Get Food Poisoning When Others Don’t?

Menu for Healthy Gut

So, no burgers, ice cream, oyster shooters, or Hollandaise sauce for a few days. But that doesn’t mean I’ll be going hungry!  The list of foods I want to eat more of is much longer than the list of foods I’ll be avoiding.

I know I'll enjoy some green smoothies with kefir, raw spinach, and flaxseed. It’s also the perfect time of year for Warm Weather oats, a make-ahead breakfast made with yogurt, fruit, and rolled oats. (If you have a copy of my book "Secrets for a Healthy Diet," you’ll find the recipe on page 199. )

I’m also looking forward to some nice, fresh spring salads, with sprouted lentils or garbanzos, dressed with a miso vinaigrette. This fantastic kimchi omelet will make a nice light supper. And for a little something sweet, maybe this curried carrot and apple salad

If all that sounds good to you, there’s no reason to wait for your next round of antibiotics or medical procedure. Why not feed your microbes extra well this week?

If you have questions or comments about gut bacteria, connect with me on Facebook or Twitter!

Image of keffir grains courtesy of Shutterstock.


Blaut M, Clavel T. Metabolic diversity of the intestinal microbiota: implications for health and disease. J Nutr. 2007 Mar;137(3 Suppl 2):751S-5S.

Gorkiewicz G, Thallinger GG, et al. (2013) Alterations in the Colonic Microbiota in Response to Osmotic Diarrhea. PLoS ONE 2013; 8(2): e55817.

Lozupone CA, Stombaugh JI, et al. Diversity, stability and resilience of the human gut microbiota. Nature. 2012;489(7415):220-230. doi:10.1038/nature11550.



About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.