It goes without saying that gut health is extremely important. The bug world in our guts not only provides us with essential vitamins and minerals, but they also speak directly to our immune system, have their own brain and meddle with our genes. The recent scrutiny into the significance of gut health has revealed a few unpleasant surprises. Yes, the food and drugs we consume affect our gut bacteria, but not always in a predictable way.
The pandemic has got all of us to obsessively carry around a tiny bottle of smelly gels and do everything we can to get away from Covid. We didn’t really hate germs so much before, did we? Pre-pandemic, experts used to insist on letting kids play in the dirt or get a pet when they are born to increase the microbiome diversity in a developing gut. Well, the sad reality of today speaks a different story. Forget about playing in the dirt, we are scared to even let our kids breathe the outside air. Although much has changed in 2 years, the factors that affect our gut bacteria remain to be true to the very day. Whether your sanitiser works well or not, interestingly, the germs inside your digestive tract sure do help build greater immunity to tackle new viruses. Here are some foods and habits that could be killing your soldiers(1).
More than food, medication is the biggest threat of them all. Antibiotics are directly linked to lower gut microbe diversity. Popping that dolo every time you have a scare might be counterintuitive. Yes, antibiotics do their job when we are sick but overdosing on them as a preventive treatment is wiping out your good bacteria in the gut. Just one course of antibiotics can negatively affect your gut for up to a year or more (2).
2. Refined Sugar
Can something this sweet kill? Sometimes the devil doesn’t show up with red horns, he enters like everything you have wished for. Refined sugar can be detrimental to your gut health. It has the worst side effects than fat, deep-fried cheese fries are probably more healthier than sugar. A diet with less fibre and high refined sugar contains bad bacteria and they can impair your memory and learning abilities by harming your gut bacteria.
3. Birth Control Pills
Your sexual liberty should not come at the price of your health. Birth control pills deplete your nutrition and cause havoc in your gut. It creates a perfect environment for bad bacteria to grow and slaughters your gut integrity. It is shown to cause inflammation in the digestive tract and an increased risk of leaky gut (3).
4. Lack of Stress
Ah! Stress - the age-old enemy irrespective of age. When we are kids - it’s the exam stress, the assignments and societal stress as a teenager, work pressure and relationships as an adult. The economy, petrol prices, rent, personal health problems, nosy relatives, issues with loved ones - just about everything causes stress (only if you let it). It’s not surprising we feel the butterflies in our stomach when we are anxious. You might literally be working yourself sick by poor management of stress. When you are in that “fight-or-flight mode” your body doesn’t bother about digestion anymore. Stress can cause bloating and affect your digestion process. It also increases the growth of harmful bacteria like clostridium.
5. Frequent Snacking
Do you think the Neanderthals ate breakfast? Eating breakfast was actually frowned upon by the Romans. Modern lifestyle changes brought along this vogue of eating 6 meals a day. Eating triggers our immune system to produce a transient inflammatory response. This is a normal response but for people eating round the clock, your body is constantly in the inflammatory stage.
Adequate sleep could be a simple solution for your stubborn gut. Not getting enough sleep can make you frustrated, gassy and bloated. Sleep deprivation can interfere with your hormones and genes and your gut health is compromised because of it. Is stalking your ex late at night really worth having inflammation the next morning?
7. Smoking and Drinking
Smoking and drinking cause harm to almost every organ in your body, so no doubt that it affects your gut. Smokers and alcoholics are twice as likely to develop digestive problems as those who don’t. Except for red wine, it has positive effects on your gut health because of its polyphenol content.
Keep the tiny bugs in your gut happy with a good diet and lifestyle. Taking probiotics and other gut-healing foods are more important than ever to face the challenges of our everyday lives.