“All disease begins in the gut.”
This is a quote attributed to the Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates nearly 2,500 years ago. Well, he wasn’t far off. With every food and lifestyle choice, we’re either feeding disease or fighting it!
On that note, are you helping or hurting your microbiome? As you look to make some changes in 2022, be sure you’re not jeopardizing your gut health. Hundreds of species of bacteria reside in your gut. Some of them are friendly, while others are not. Your body is constantly trying to keep itself in balance so that it can function at an optimal level.
That said, if you’re concerned with gut health (as you should be) here are 10 habits you may want to reconsider:
1. Thinking fermented foods are the only means to support your gut through food.
Move over kimchi —there’s more to the story than fermented foods to keep the good bacteria happy. For example, functional medicine doctors recommend eating cruciferous vegetables to promote gut health. They’re known to support digestion and can even help with bloating. So maybe toss some arugula in your morning smoothie.
2. Using a less-than-ideal probiotic.
With so many probiotics on the market, you might not know where to turn. When in doubt keep in mind that experts recommend selecting a probiotic with targeted strains, each of which performs a different function in the gut. Think: combatting bloating, supporting digestion and regularity, and promoting a healthy weight.
3. Eating when stressed.
You likely know the expression “eating your feelings.” Our emotional state while we’re eating can actually affect digestion and nutrient absorption. When we eat in a state of fight-or-flight, this can then cause that food to sit in the gut for longer. While it’s not always possible to feel completely serene when eating, it’s worth trying to consume meals mindfully when we can. That means turning the TV off and putting your phone away. Also, try to chew each bite and truly enjoy the food.
4. Having a sweet tooth.
If your diet includes only processed foods, your overall health will suffer but your gut will be the hardest hit. Eating food products that are high in sugar can send your gut into an imbalance. This poor condition can lead to excessive sugar cravings that can cause inflammation in the body. And inflammation leads to disease, so you can see why it’s a dangerous proposition to eat a lot of sweets all the time.
5. Not drinking enough water.
You enjoy your morning latte, but do you make a point to get in enough water, too?
Water is important for your overall health. Drinking a good amount of water at regular intervals aids digestion improves skin as well as regulates bowel movements. Make a point to drink half your body weight in ounces and limit caffeine and alcohol intake. Herbal teas are hydrating, too.
6. Leading a sedentary lifestyle.
Exercise is very important for a fit and healthy body. Breaking a sweat is not only good for losing weight but also improves heart health and blood circulation in the body. Any form of physical activity — from walking to lifting weights— causes movement in the body, which is also good for the gut.
7. Abusing alcohol.
Drinking too much alcohol regularly leads to an imbalance in the gut bacteria. Drinking moderately and occasionally is preferable to ensure you keep the good bacteria happy and fend off disease. Cheers to that!
8. Not maintaining a healthy sleep routine.
An irregular sleep cycle leads to severe problems like constant fatigue, irritation as well as acidity. Not maintaining a healthy sleep cycle puts a strain on your body and makes you more susceptible to getting sick.
9. Taking antibiotics too often.
Antibiotics are necessary and important medicines used to treat infections and diseases caused by bacteria. They work by either killing bacteria or preventing them from multiplying and have saved millions of lives since their introduction.
However, one of their drawbacks is that they affect both good and bad bacteria. It’s known that a single antibiotic treatment can lead to harmful changes in the composition and diversity of the gut flora. Read: Your stomach might not be happy for some time.
10. You smoke cigarettes.
You might not think your smoking habit would have far-reaching effects beyond increasing your risk of cancer, but you’d be wrong. Smoking causes harm to nearly every organ in the body, including your stomach.
Cigarette smoking is also one of the most important environmental risk factors for inflammatory bowel disease. Worse yet, smokers are twice as likely to have Crohn’s disease, a common type of inflammatory bowel disease, compared to non-smokers.
The good news? The damage is not irreversible. In one study, smoking cessation increased gut flora diversity, which is a marker of a healthy gut.
If you have specific questions or concerns about gut health, please feel free to contact us at (703) 822-5003. We’re here to walk alongside your health journey however we can.