• Bari Stricoff, MSc, RDN

The 3 Things You Are Doing That Are Harming Your Gut Bacteria

It is no secret that the “gut-health” movement has taken the wellness industry by storm. With every health food store lined with Kombucha, Kimchi and Kefir, consumers are eager to improve the quality of their gut microbiome – and for good measure! The gut microbiota, often coined “the forgotten organ”, is responsible for digestion, metabolism, immune function and mental and brain functions, and should be towards the top of your priority list for good health.

Greek Yogurt with Granola, Nuts and Fruit

Meanwhile, you can eat all the Sauerkraut you want, but your gut may remain in bad shape if you are doing these 3 things…

1. Being a creature of habit. It’s easy to get into a routine – overnight oats for breakfast, a pink lady apple, turkey wrap and hummus for lunch, the same RX bar for a snack, and then whatever you can put together for dinner after work. Go to bed, wake up, and REPEAT! And while this may make your life easier and your bank account plentiful, it may be hurting your gut microbiota. The bacteria that live in our gut are greatly impacted by the foods we eat, both in the long- and short-term. Thus, when we eat the same foods every day, not only are you getting the same nutrients day in and day out, but you are also minimizing your bacterial diversity. And, according the research, a healthy gut is defined as one that is bacterially diverse!

2. Not getting enough fiber. What is fiber? Dietary fiber is defined as the non-digestible form of carbohydrates found in plant based foods, including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes. Some fibers has been shown to have a beneficial effect on the gut microbiome by acting as prebiotics, which are essentially the food for the existing bacteria. When prebiotics are metabolized, they produce small chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which have a whole host of benefits on the gut and body. For example, SCFAs are responsible to mainting gut pH levels, regulating hunger/satiety hormones, energy metabolism, blood sugar levels and more !

For adults, the recommendation for Fiber is 25-35g/day, and per the USDA, the average American Fiber intake is a meagre 16g/day! So, moral of the story, increase your plant intake and aim for whole grains to adequately support all those lovely gut bugs!

3. Not getting enough sleep. Ever hear of the gut-brain axis? It’s the bidirectional communication pathway between the gut and the central nervous system. When one side of the pathway is compromised, it has a direct result on the other. Gut bacteria are responsible for producing neurotransmitters and hormones that affect sleep, such as GABA, dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, specifically the Lactobacillus and Bifideobacterium species, two categories of bacteria that are present in a healthy gut. Thus, a sub-par gut microbiota composition can affect your sleep, but the opposite reaction can exist as well (poor sleep leads to altered gut bacteria). A 2016 study (randomized within subject crossover study), demonstrated that short-term sleep loss induces subtle effects on the bacterial composition of the gut. The study also observed changes in bacteria specie ratios after restricted sleep that are also present in obese or insulin resistant individuals.

That may seem a bit technical, but to sum it all up, your sleep can affect your gut health and vice a versa! So, keep that gut healthy and make sure you are getting adequate amounts of sleep!

A Good Nights Sleep

Although these 3 things may be killing your positive gut health vibes, simple solutions exist! Switch up your meals and make sure you are getting plenty of plants and plant based foods in your diet, in addition to a good night’s sleep! These are not novel recommendations, yet they are often ‘easier said than done’. Avoid falling victim to this trifecta of poor gut health, and you will on your way to healthy and thriving gut microbiota!

Fiber-Rich Salad With Sourdough

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