7 Habits That Hurt Your Gut Health
Nutritionists and other health professionals like me have long known that an unhealthy gut is one of the root causes of disease, and where healing starts. That’s why the gut is sometimes calls the second brain.
Science is now recognizing why gut health is so important, and it’s called the microbiome. The microbiome is filled with beneficial bacteria that have a vital link to health and disease, and can be influenced by your diet and lifestyle. We are made up of 10 times more microorganisms than human cells, and most them are found in the microbiome. Here are 7 habits that might be affecting the health of your microbiome and harmful to your gut.
1. Poor Diet
What and how you eat influences your microbiome’s health. If your diet is rich in nutrition and easily digestible, your microbiome will thrive and your health will too. If you eat a processed diet containing bad fats and sugar, and if you eat in a hurry, you will absorb little nutrition from your food, your microbiome will be colonized by bad bugs and your health will suffer as a result.
Dietary tips to improve your gut health
- Remove processed foods
- Eat an alkalized diet full of greens
- Eat live foods like sprouts, as the contain enzymes and beneficial bacteria
- Limit sugar, as sugar fuels the bad bacteria.
- Increase fibre from whole foods such as beans, vegetables, and gluten free grains
- Remove foods that aggravate the gut (dairy, gluten, MSG)
- Chew your food to improve digestion
2. Antibiotics and Medications
Antibiotics are over-prescribed for common illness such as earaches and even viruses despite the repercussions. Antibiotics kill good and bad bacteria, as do most pharmaceutical medications. If you take daily medication, or antibiotics more than once a year, you need to replenish your good bacteria through fermented foods and probiotic supplements.
3. The Oral Contraceptive Pill (OCP)
Over time the pill wreaks havoc on your gut. It depletes your B12, folate and zinc levels, and kills off beneficial bacteria. If you’ve been taking the pill for years, it’s probably time for a break! Focusing on a gut-healthy diet will help support long-term use if you must remain on the pill.
Alcohol kills off the good bacteria in our gut, changes the ecosystem of our digestion, and increases acidity. Alcohol also increases intestinal permeability, meaning foreign agents and partially digested food enter through the gut and create an immune response that leads to inflammation. Intestinal permeability also means less nutrient absorption, which may lead to nutrient deficiencies in your body.
5. Obsession with Cleanliness
Do you carry around a hand sanitizer in your handbag or have an antimicrobial hand wash at every sink in the house? The overuse of antibacterial and antimicrobial agents might not be doing you good. Over-sanitization causes a lack of exposure to the bugs that help create immunity.
6. A Diet Low in Fermented Foods
Where do we get our good bacteria in the first place? At birth we are exposed to them when we come through the vaginal birth canal, and then again from breast milk. Afterwards, we need to obtain bacteria from fermented foods. If your diet lacks yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, or miso, you could be missing some of the most important foods needed for your microbiome to thrive. Increase these foods to make sure you are replenishing your vital beneficial bacterial.
Stress diverts blood from our digestive tract to our vital organs to help fuel the fight or flight reaction. The digestive response is not needed if we’re facing a threat, so it partially shuts down. Long term stress deprives your digestive tract of a blood supply and gastric secretions, leading to poor gut health. To combat the effects of stress, try taking a few deep breaths, deep in your belly, to reverse the stress response.