Did you know that there are 300-500 different species that make up the gut? It is estimated that the number of cells in your microbiome is 10x more than the number of cells that make up the human body. (1) Research is just beginning to scratch the surface on how important these hitchhikers are to the overall function of the human body. That complex ecosystem plays a part in digestion, immunity and helps with a number of metabolic processes. Many illnesses and common symptoms can be connected to habits that harm the gut.

One survey found that 74% of Americans are suffering from a digestive symptoms like gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation or abdominal pain. (2) That’s a lot of us. Most people are too embarrassed to ask their doctor about these symptoms. Because of the important role the gut plays in immunity, metabolism and the creation of neurotransmitters, this can be connected to long term health impacts such as cancer, depression, obesity, ADHD, diabetes and others we are beginning to learn more about.

It’s important to ask your doctor the questions most people are too embarrassed to ask a doctor and to avoid the common habits that harm the gut. Many people are aware that antibiotics can be harmful to the microbiome and will take a probiotic to offset the impact. That is a great start. Unfortunately, many aren’t aware of these 5 common habits that can mess up the gut.

5 Common Habits That Harm the Gut

  1. Taking Heartburn Medication
  2. Skipping the Organic Aisle
  3. Eating Processed Foods
  4. Staying Out of the Sun
  5. Being a Couch Potato

1 – Taking Heartburn Medication

This is a big one. There are so many problems with heartburn medication and that includes messing with your microbiome. Many people need to take a close look at the heartburn medications they are taking regularly to find the source of their digestive problems. If you look at the side effects of PPIs, you will see a list of digestive problems like diarrhea, gas, constipation and abdominal pain along with a lot of other unfortunate side effects.

PPIs reduce the amount of acid produced by the stomach by blocking an enzyme in the lining of your stomach. This is a problem because you need stomach acid to sterilize your food. If your food isn’t properly sterilized that can cause bad bacteria to overtake the good bacteria in your microbiome and seriously mess with your gut.

2 – Skipping the Organic Aisle

You might think it’s not worth the extra money for organic, so you have made it a habit to skip the organic aisle. This is a bad habit that’s bad for your gut. It is commonly known that antibiotics are bad for your gut. Well, guess what? Pesticides are basically antibiotics for plants. When you eat all those pesticides, they destroy the health of your microbiome. We recommend always choosing organic but if you are trying to start somewhere then start with avoiding the dirty dozen. The dirty dozen is a list of produce that has the highest pesticide residue. Your gut will thank you!

3 – Eating Processed Foods

Processed foods are another gut killer. These foods are commonly full of the crops that are grown with pesticides. That’s not all. Processed foods are also full of sugar which is not only inflammatory it also feeds yeast and other bad bacteria that take over the microbiome crowding out the good bacteria. Your body, along with the gut, needs a healthy, varied diet of whole foods that includes ones with fiber, resistant starches, probiotics and prebiotics. Avoid eating processed foods and other inflammatory foods for a healthy gut.

4 – Staying Out of the Sun

We have been told to stay out of the sun for so long and now many of us are missing out on the benefits of Vitamin D and soaking up some rays. Those benefits extend to healthy gut benefits. Wait…what does the sun have to do with my stomach?

Well, according to one recent study, vitamin D can lead to a richer and more diverse microbiome. They tested the microbiomes of volunteers who spent the winter in Canada. They compared the microbiomes of those who were sufficient in vitamin D with those who weren’t both before and after 3 treatments of UVB exposure. Those who were deficient had less microbiota before the treatments but after the UVB treatments their microbiomes were richer and more comparable to the group that was sufficient in Vitamin D. (3) Enjoy the sun for a healthy immune system and a healthy gut!

5 – Being a Couch Potato

For a healthy gut, eat your vegetables but don’t be one. Exercise is not just about muscle and losing weight. Getting up and getting moving can have a positive impact on the microbiome. Recent studies have shown exercise can increase the numbers and diversity of gut bacteria while encouraging bacteria that is beneficial for overall health. (4) One study found that athletes had a more diverse microbiome than nonathletes. (5) Another study found that rats who were allowed to exercise had increased levels of good bacteria and better metabolism. (6) Exercising is beneficial in so many ways, including helping keep your gut healthy by getting digestion moving, improving your immune system and supporting your metabolism.

Avoid the 5 Common Habits that Harm the Gut

The first steps to a healthy gut are to avoid the common habits that harm the gut and cause digestive problems. If you aren’t having regular bowel movements, it might be time for a poop check. Digestive problems can be a sign of bigger issues that need to be addressed. Find a doctor you can talk to about your digestive concerns. They can recommend additional testing to find out what is causing your individual gut problems.

Keep your gut and all those bacteria healthy! You can drink all the kombucha you want but if you have bad habits that harm the gut then you can’t have a healthy gut!

Resources for 5 Common Habits that Harm the Gut

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3983973/#targetText=Within%20the%20human%20gastrointestinal%20microbiota,million%20genes%20(the%20microbiome)
  2. https://www.foxnews.com/health/survey-shows-74-percent-of-americans-living-with-gi-discomfort
  3. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmicb.2019.02410/full
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28357027#targetText=Gut%20microbiota%20is%20involved%20in,and%20affects%20the%20immune%20system.
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25021423
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3665787/