Learn about a common ingredient that could be damaging your health.

While there are a variety of food additives that are detrimental to health, there’s one in particular that is well known to damage the gut microbiome, and that ingredient is called emulsifiers.  

Emulsifiers are chemicals that are added to processed foods to stabilize and improve the texture of foods, leading to increasing shelf life. Emulsifiers do this by keeping oils and fats mixed with water based ingredients in processed and packaged foods. Emulsifiers can be found in a wide variety of products like chocolate, ice cream, crackers, salad dressing, processed foods, pre-made veggie burgers, non-dairy milk and a variety of other foods.  

Common names for emulsifiers include:

  • Carrageenan
  • Polysorbate 80
  • Lecithin
  • Carrageenan
  • Polyglycerols
  • Xanthan 
  • Other “gums”

A study in the journal, Nature, suggested that these ingredients may be contributing to GI conditions like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) by interfering with microbes in the gut. Emulsifiers specifically disrupt the mucosal layer of the intestinal cell wall leading to inflammation. When inflammation occurs it can create a dysbiosis (bacterial imbalance) in the gut and affect the variety of systems the gut supports including digestion, hair and skin health, immune health, sleep, emotional well being, and more!

How to Avoid Emulsifiers

First review the packaged foods in your kitchen for the emulsifier ingredients, and aim to stop buying that food product and replace it with a more natural option. For example, salad dressings are a common source of lecithins. Instead of buying store-bought dressing, consider making your own with natural ingredients found in your pantry. 



Borthakur, A., Bhattacharyya, S., Anbazhagan, A., Kumar, A., Dudeja, P., & Tobacman, J. (2012, May 08). Prolongation of carrageenan-induced inflammation in human colonic epithelial cells by activation of an NFκB‐BCL10 loop. Retrieved June 26, 2020, from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0925443912001032.

Chassaing, B., Koren, O., Goodrich, J., Poole, A., Srinivasan, S., Ley, R., & Gewirtz, A. (2015, February 25). Dietary emulsifiers impact the mouse gut microbiota promoting colitis and metabolic syndrome. Retrieved June 26, 2020, from https://www.nature.com/articles/nature14232