You know a healthy gut flora is critical for your overall health, but you might not know the choices you make throughout the day may be harming your digestive health.

There are diet and lifestyle choices that could be harming your gut health. You might be surprised by some of them.

1. A Limited Diet

Many of us get into our diet routines, eating the same two prices of toast every morning, the same salad at lunch, and a few different meals for dinner. But at the end of the day, our diets aren’t that varied. We stick to our favourites, often due to taste, lack of time, or lack of cooking knowledge. Unfortunately, a limited diet could be harming your gut health. The healthiest gut flora is one that’s diverse.

A lack of diversity in the foods you eat could be limiting your recovery from infection and other harmful influences. Give your gut the nutrients it needs with a diet rich in whole foods. It’ll help the promotion of different types of good gut bacteria.

2. Lack of Prebiotics

Prebiotics are a type of fiber that is naturally occurring in many healthy foods, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Prebiotics are known to promote both the activity and growth of good bacteria in the gut. If you’re not eating a good amount of bananas, oats, chickpeas, beans, lentils, asparagus, nuts, garlic, or onions, you may be lacking prebiotics in your diet, negatively affecting your gut health.

3. Smoking

Smoking is harmful to virtually every organ in your body, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that it’s also harming your gut health. Smokers are more likely to have inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease. Studies have shown that quitting smoking can increase the diversity of your gut flora, leading to a healthier digestive system.

4. Poor Sleep

Many of us suffer from poor sleep, whether we have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting enough sleep. Studies show that a lack of sleep can disrupt your body’s internal clock—your circadian rhythm. Disrupting this clock, whether by eating too late in the night, working shift work, or simply not getting enough sleep, has been shown to lead to harmful effects on digestive health.

5. Some Alcohol Use

Having a glass of red wine, which contains polyphenols, has been shown to increase good gut bacteria, decrease bad bacteria, and promote gut health. However, chronic alcohol consumption and drinking other types of alcohol can have the opposite effect, leading to an imbalance in your gut health.

6. Lack of Exercise

Exercising is great for your mental health and overall health—and it’s also a good idea if you’re looking to improve your digestive health, too. People who are active tend to have a greater abundance of good gut bacteria, including Bifidobacterium and Akkermansia. Whether intense or low, any type of regular physical activity can help your gut health.

7. Antibiotic Use

Sometimes, it’s impossible to avoid using antibiotics. If you have an infection caused by bacteria, you must treat it with medicine. Unfortunately, antibiotics have been shown to create harmful changes to the diversity and composition of gut flora, both in the short and long term. Antibiotic use has been associated with a decrease of beneficial bacteria and an increase in harmful bacteria.

8. Stress

Stress can have an effect on many aspects of your life, including your physical activity levels, your diet, and your sleep. It can also damage your digestive health by altering your gut bacteria and reducing blood flow, reducing diversity, and increasing harmful bacteria. Avoid these bad habits and choices to improve your digestive health. For more suggestions on improving your digestive health, visit Digestive Center for more information.

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