The gut ecosystem is made up of trillions of tiny microbes that collectively form what we call ‘the gut flora’. A bunch of things can disrupt this delicate balance of a variety of gut bacteria that the human digestive system needs.
Most people know that a lack of hydration, fiber, nutrition, and consuming processed food can wreak havoc on these microbes. But, there are many unusual things too that can harm the gut bacteria. Unfortunately, most of them are not talked about.
Let’s see what those unique things are:
NSAIDs like ibuprofen can hurt the lining of your GI tract. It can also disrupt the composition of gut bacteria. That’s why people often experience gas, bloating, and gastritis which are signs of unhealthy gut when they pop a pill to fix headaches or back pains. While these medicines are fine once in a while, consuming them on a long-term basis can lead to major health issues.
It is therefore best if you pop these NSAIDs once in a while or only when your doctor prescribes them for some medical condition. Ask your doctor if he can prescribe something milder that’s light on the stomach. Additionally, try to seek herbal and natural routes whenever it is possible. In the end, it’s best to work with your doctor.
You need a good 8 hours of uninterrupted, sound sleep. Failure to achieve that rest can affect the circadian rhythm of your body which can lead to an increase in cortisol (the stress hormone). An excess of this hormone can make you crave bloat-promoting, gut-disrupting foods that are high in refined fats and processed sugars like candies, soda, chips, donuts, etc.
The link between gut microbes and sleep is two-way. Meaning, not only do the gut microbes affect your sleep quality, but the quality of sleep also impacts how well a diverse range of bacteria can thrive in your stomach. Sleep deprivation can make you lose those essential microbes.
Unequivocally, you NEED 7-9 hours of sleep. And while it’s easier said than done, a few exercises like yoga, relaxation techniques, and meditation should help you fall asleep more quickly.
Who would have guessed that too much exercise can also disrupt gut health! While exercising is excellent for gut health, too much of it can backfire. Avoid strenuous or intense exercise as it can be more harmful than helpful. What constitutes ‘strenuous’ will mean differently to different individuals. Like other stressors such as work deadlines and sleep deprivation – an intense workout can increase cortisol levels leading to impaired digestion.
Intense physical stress can lead to a condition called ‘leaky gut’. Being constantly out of breath can lead to restlessness which can make it hard to fall asleep. If you want to work out intensely, be sure to slowly build up to it instead of going at it the very first day.
When it comes to exercise, make it a routine to stick with a regime that supports gut health; not disrupt it. With that said, always remember that a balanced exercise regime is one of the best things for gut health.
Everything is good for you as long as it’s in balance. The same goes for stress. Stress keeps you on your toes and helps you get things done. But, you need to counterbalance activity with rest. To counterbalance stress, you need to relax. It’s when you have a hard time relaxing and when you let stress overwhelm you that your stomach health is taxed.
Overwhelming amounts of stress can keep you in a constant fight or flight mode. Too much stress can redirect blood from the GI tract to other body organs leading to slowed stomach secretions and impaired gut functioning.
Exercise and sleep are two of the most potent tools for managing stress and getting the zzz’s you need.
While traveling is good for mental health and well-being; it can be particularly stressful for the body. It’s so for a bunch of reasons. First of all, the preparation that goes into planning for travel can stress out the digestive system.
On top of that, during travel, most people aren’t following their sleep schedule and their routine is disrupted. Let’s not forget you’re exposed to a brand new environment (in the case of abroad). Your stomach has to handle unfamiliar microbes and foods that the stomach has a hard time getting used to and digesting. That’s why people normally experience gas, bloating, and diarrhea when traveling.
So, what’s the fix? Well, the solution is to always carry a probiotic with you during travel. This is particularly important if you’re traveling aboard or on a plane. It’s best to start a probiotic diet a week before the actual travel date. Also, as soon as you reach the destination try and get into a fixed route as per the local time zone. Also make sure to eat healthily, consume probiotics, hit the gym, and relax.
Scientific research tells us that sunlight can alter the gut ecosystem for the good. Therefore, sun exposure is essential for Vitamin D as well as for improving the diversity of the gut microbiome. Lack of direct sunlight on the skin can disrupt the gut flora; particularly the diversity of the bacteria which can lead to gut inflammation.
The only fix to the lack of sunlight is to get out in the Sun as much as possible. While it’s tempting to stay indoors during the winters and even summers, you should make it a point to absorb the goodness of sunlight which is a natural healer and a known antiseptic. It’s good to go outside of the building for a walk during lunch breaks. Plan for a hike nearby whenever you can and explore outdoorsy workout options.
Did you find any of these points surprising? What new information on gut health did you take away from the post? Do share it with others if you found it helpful.