Did you know your gut is home to trillions of bacteria? Some are beneficial and some, not so much. One indication that there’s an imbalance between good and bad is if you experience common symptoms like heartburn, gas, bloating, and constipation.
When your gut microbiome is healthy, with a diverse range of helpful bacteria, your digestion works well. On the other hand, when things are out-of-whack, dysbiosis occurs. Dysbiosis occurs when the microbiome has an imbalance of too many bad bacteria and not enough favorable bacteria. The result is poor gut health that leads to poor overall health since the gut is linked to the immune, nervous, and hormone systems, to name a few.
We are all aware that gut health is critical to our overall well-being. Knowing what factors lead to gut microbiome damage is the first step toward keeping your gut healthy. There are many things that may be ruining our gut health, let’s review a few of them now.
Lack of exercise
As functional doctors, of course we’ll always stress the importance of being physically active, but what you may not know is that exercise is not only for keeping your heart healthy. It’s also for keeping your gut healthy, too! Being physically active offers several health advantages, including lowering stress and the risk of chronic disease. Exercise has also been demonstrated to empower gut microflora, which improves overall gut health. Physical activity also encourages a balance among gut bacteria and their diversity which have been seen as markers for weight loss.
Antibiotics are a blessing for modern medicine. They’re critical to treating common infections and helping all of us get back to health faster. That said, when we take antibiotics, they unfortunately not only treat the harmful bacteria but also the beneficial bacteria are decreased, too. This translates to an imbalance in the gut microbiome. While it’s clearly inevitable that you’ll take antibiotics at some point, don’t fret; with probiotics for gut health, you can rebalance and restore your gut over time.
Another surprising thing that can be negatively impacting your gut microbiome is stress. While most of us may see stress as a cause for migraines, or sleepless nights, it can also upset the gut microbiome. Stress has been demonstrated to cause the production of cortisol (aka chronic stress hormones) in the gut which leads to an imbalance among the gut bacteria that results in diarrhea, constipation or abdominal pain. This triggers inflammation (which is detrimental to the gut and health overall) as well as changes the ecosystem of the gut. Try to seek out breathwork or other mindful activities during times of stress to decrease chances of damaging the gut microbiome.
Prebiotics are fibers that pass through the body undigested, feeding beneficial microorganisms in the intestine. Prebiotics aid in the maintenance of a healthy bacterial balance in the intestine. However, in order for the microbiome to survive and develop, they require fuel, which means eating prebiotic rich foods daily such as oats and bananas. If you’re not eating fiber rich foods daily, you could consider incorporating supplements for gut health like prebiotics into a daily regimen to counteract any issues linked to this.
In America, the grab-and-go food culture has never been more popular. Though tempting, processed foods are not good for your gut microbiome. Filling up on “white” foods (pasta, rice, bread, potatoes) leads to a less diverse diet. The goal is to welcome a variety of bright, whole foods, like leafy vegetables, into your daily meals to boost bacterial health and expand your gut’s ecosystem for healthy living.
Likely to be the least shocking offender on our list is alcohol. Even in tiny, regular doses, alcohol is detrimental to intestinal health. Not only does it dehydrate you but it has a range of gut health implications as well. It’s been shown to increase inflammation within the gut, alter the delicate balance of bacteria in the gut microbiome and increase the permeability of the stomach lining)
As you can see, our gut microbiome is crucial to our general health, and alteration of the gut flora have been related to a variety of health issues. Take action and begin to heal your gut by talking to a functional medicine doctor today.