You might not know it, but there are probably a few things you’ve been doing for years that could be hurting your gastrointestinal tract. Your gut health has a lot to do with your overall health. Some of your bad habits could be doing some severe damage.
Here’s just a bit of background about how the bacteria in your body play a role in your gut health – and how your bad habits might be causing big problems.
What’s Going On Down There?
The gut is home to trillions of bacteria. Some of them are bad for you, but some of them are actually very good for you. When you’ve got the right balance between your good and bad microbes, your digestive tract will work as it should.
But, when there are too many bad bacteria, that’s when your gut health can suffer. As a result, you could end up at a high risk for a lot of different digestive problems.
Now, your gut microbiome is the collection of bacteria and other microbes in your gastrointestinal tract. And your gut health is extremely important because it has a lot to do with how you feel every day. You see, if your microbiome is disrupted it can lead to problems like leaky gut or intestinal permeability. That’s where the walls of your intestines become weak and allow toxic bacteria and bad microbes to enter. When this happens, you’ll probably have to deal with a lot of problems in your digestive tract.
Seven Common Habits that Damage Your Gut
Not all habits are bad, of course. Showering and brushing your teeth every day are clearly great habits. But far too many of us fall into unhealthy routines that can harm our gut health.
1. Using Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs –
When you have a headache or some other type of body pain, it’s only natural to reach for an over-the-counter drug. It’s the easiest thing to do when you’ve got pain and want to stop it fast. But, the most common OTC drugs are ibuprofen and aspirin, known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). While these can be very effective medicines, they can also do quite a number on your gut health.
Turns out, NSAIDs work by blocking the cyclo-oxygenase (COX) enzyme. This enzyme is largely responsible for causing inflammation that can lead to pain.
However, COX also plays an important role in gut health. The stomach produces powerful, corrosive acid. And this acid can actually do a lot of damage your stomach. But COX helps protect your stomach from its own acid. So, when an NSAID inhibits COX, the enzyme can’t do its job. As a result, you’ll be at a higher risk of developing leaky gut. NSAIDs have also been linked to the development of ulcers.1
2. Using antibiotics –
Antibiotics are extremely effective medicines that have saved the lives of millions of people around the world. But unfortunately, they not only kill harmful bacteria and other microbes but beneficial microbes as well. This can have a major impact on your gut health.
So, if you take antibiotics you should also take steps to replenish the good bacteria in your system. One way to do this is to take a probiotic supplement. Your doctor can tell you more about how probiotics can help maintain your gut health during your antibiotic regimen.2
3. Stress –
While you already know that stress isn’t good for you, you might not know the role it can play in damaging your gut health. Stress can weaken your immune system, which is responsible for helping to keep you protected from infections and other problems. But it can also disrupt what is known as the “gut-brain axis.”
Now, a lot of the same hormones that work in the brain also work in the intestines. In fact, scientists often refer to the gut as “the second brain.”3 This is a large reason why when something is wrong in the gut it can affect your entire body.
4. Drinking too much alcohol –
Overindulging in alcohol can be especially damaging to your gut. Drinking too much can lead to the accumulation of harmful bacteria and that can lead to a leaky gut.4
If you do drink, make sure you do so in moderation. In moderation, there’s evidence that drinking a moderate amount of red wine could actually help your gut health. In fact, one study shows that red wine can increase the supply of a beneficial form of bacteria known as bifidobacterium.5
5. Eating too many grains –
There’s evidence that even gluten-free grains contain substances that can make it very hard for you to obtain nutrients from the food you eat. The lectins found in these grains bind to your intestines and inhibit your body’s ability to absorb important nutrients.6
6. Eating too often throughout the day –
You might be damaging your gut health if you tend to snack a lot at different times over the course of your typical day. Eating when you’re not hungry can disrupt your gut bacteria. The reason is that you’re putting your digestive tract under a ton of stress. It has to work very hard to break down all the food you’re consuming.
But taking a break can be really good for you. Research indicates that intermittent fasting helps ease the workload of your digestive tract. It promotes a process known as autophagy. In a nutshell, autophagy helps cells detoxify themselves. It even helps remove unneeded proteins and clear out damaged cell components.7
7. Overdoing it with caffeine –
As much as you might love your coffee (or soda), when you take in too much caffeine it can wreak havoc on your gut. Overindulgence in caffeine stimulates stress hormones. These hormones contribute to a “fight or flight” response in your body. This diverts energy to the heart – increasing your heart rate – and taking it away from the gut. And this type of stress response – over time – can lead to an imbalance between good and bad bacteria in your gut.8
Kicking Bad Habits that Wreck Your Gut
Now, eliminating a bad habit is no joke – it can be really tough. Issues such as alcohol abuse and overeating develop over years and years. As a result, it can take some time to break them.
You see, research indicates that bad habits are an odd way of “rewarding” yourself. They release a chemical in the brain known as dopamine. The more dopamine you get, the more you want. It’s a vicious cycle. In fact, studies show that in many cases you don’t even derive any pleasure from the habit itself. You get your pleasure from the dopamine instead.9
So how can you help yourself? Well, exercise is one way you can get rid of bad habits. Studies suggest that physical activity releases endorphins – chemicals in your brain that also bring pleasure.10 Exercise can also help suppress a hormone known as ghrelin, which plays a major role in making you hungry.11
Increasing Your Supply of Good Bacteria
In addition to working out regularly, you can also promote good gut health by consuming more good bacteria. Certain foods are good sources of beneficial bacteria. But it can be hard to get the amount you need through food alone.
That’s why a lot of people turn to probiotic supplements. These are products filled with beneficial bacteria. They come in a lot of different forms, but capsules are the most efficient. The reason is, they protect microbes from the harsh environment of the stomach. The good bacteria survive so they can reach the gut and do their jobs.
Wrapping it Up
If you work on eliminating the bad habits that can damage your gut health, it won’t be long until you’re reaping serious benefits. But since it can be tough to go it alone, be sure to talk to your doctor first.
More ways to add probiotics to your diet: