10 Things That Mess With Your Gut Health
Your gut is a major component of your overall health. Often, maintaining a healthy gut comes down to your diet and lifestyle, meaning certain habits, foods, and substances can contribute toward poor gut health.
Importance of a Balanced Gut Microbiome
In your gut, beneficial bacteria (called probiotics) metabolize fiber and other materials from foods (called prebiotics) into substances that your body can use while also keeping harmful bacteria in check. If the balance in the gut is thrown off by reducing the ratio of good bacteria, it can impact your body through alterations in immune response and digestive health.
10 of the Worst Things for Gut Health
In terms of what kills good gut bacteria, there are many lifestyle habits that can have an impact. Ten of the habits that can negatively affect your gut health are listed below.
1. Lack of Exercise
The first item is lack of exercise. A sedentary lifestyle can affect your health in many ways, including in terms of your gastrointestinal health. A growing body of research shows that physical activity is linked to both the physiology of your gut as well as the ratio of gut bacteria (microbiota) present.
Stress and depression have been shown to change the composition of bacteria in your gut through various means, including stress hormones and inflammation. As such, poor stress management can lead to poor digestive health.
3. Poor Sleeping Habits
An important aspect of stress management is maintaining good sleeping habits. Sleep also appears to be directly related to your gut as well, with studies showing that sleep loss has a subtle effect on the composition of your gut microbiome.
4. Lack of Vitamin D
Vitamin D has long been touted as a way to combat anxiety and depression, adding to its role in stress management. However, research shows that it also plays a role in maintaining the integrity of your intestinal barrier, and it may also regulate inflammatory and immune responses, which can also affect your gut’s bacterial composition.
Most people are well aware of how bad smoking is for your health, and its impact on your gut only adds to the list of its adverse effects. One study assessed the impact that various toxic substances in cigarettes can have on different gut bacterial strains, with the results ultimately contributing to an imbalance.
6. Too Much Alcohol
Excessive alcohol consumption has also been associated with problems in the gut. Research shows that some of the issues that accompany alcohol-related conditions include dysbiotic changes in your gut’s microbiota while also making your intestinal wall more permeable, potentially letting toxins through.
Naturally, antibiotics can have a significant impact on your gut’s microbiome. Since they are designed to kill bacteria, they can throw off the gut’s microbial balance, often with various health issues as a result.
8. Processed or Sugary Foods
Recent studies have begun to show the impact that food processing can have on your gut. While more research is needed to pinpoint the exact mechanisms at work here, highly processed foods—including foods high in fat and sugar—do seem to have negative results for your gut.
9. Certain Pesticides
Roundup® and other pesticides include a substance called glyphosate, which until recently has largely been believed to be safe for human beings. While it may not affect human cells, it can, however, affect gut bacteria. In fact, studies estimate that about half of the human microbiome is sensitive to glyphosate, making it potentially harmful to your health.
10. Lack of Food Variety
Finally, bacteria need food in order to thrive. That food comes in the form of numerous prebiotic fibers and polyphenols from plants, each of which feeds different types of bacteria. A lack of diversity in your diet can therefore lead to a less diverse and less resilient microbiome.
Gut Health FAQs
What can mess up gut health?
Unhealthy habits and foods of various types can mess up gut health, especially over time.
Does alcohol kill gut bacteria?
Heavy alcohol consumption can kill gut bacteria, including numerous beneficial strains.
What does an unhealthy gut feel like?
Gas, diarrhea, bloating, constipation, fatigue, and heartburn are all potential signs of an unhealthy gut.
How do you know if your gut biome is off?
Digestive issues are a common sign of gut dysbiosis, as are some problems with the immune system, metabolic system or even a breakdown in the brain-gut feedback system.
How to Improve Your Gut Health
- Exercise Modifies the Gut Microbiota with Positive Health Effects
- Stress, depression, diet, and the gut microbiota: human–bacteria interactions at the core of psychoneuroimmunology and nutrition
- Gut microbiota and glucometabolic alterations in response to recurrent partial sleep deprivation in normal-weight young individuals
- Vitamin D and the Host-Gut Microbiome: A Brief Overview
- Effect of Cigarette Smoke on Gut Microbiota: State of Knowledge
- The Gastrointestinal Microbiome: Alcohol Effects on the Composition of Intestinal Microbiota
- Impact of antibiotics on the human microbiome and consequences for host health
- Food processing, gut microbiota and the globesity problem
- Does Glyphosate Affect the Human Microbiota?
- A healthy gastrointestinal microbiome is dependent on dietary diversity