gut bugs

Five common threats to your gut bugs

When you hear the word “bugs”, you immediately picture some nasty little creatures, which you never hope to find on your bed, pillows, or worse, your body and face, in particular. But not all bugs are dangerous. Several bugs, trillions – to be precise, are good. Some of these like the beneficial bacteria, which are better known as probiotics, are almost as good as the superheroes.

In our body, probiotics (live yeasts and bacteria) are found naturally, which support several of our overall bodily functions – starting from nutrient absorption and digestion, too fat metabolism, immunity, as well as balancing energy and mood.

Though these bugs are alive, they are fragile and can get easily killed by exposure to heat, light, stomach acid, as well as other facets of modern life.

If you want to maintain healthy gut bacteria, here are five common threats to it that you need to be aware of, along with some tips to fight them.


STRESS

Chronic stress triggers several adverse health conditions, your gut health being the newest addition to this list according to research. Yet, several individuals consider stress as an inevitable a part of their life, especially where it’s work-related. But stress isn’t always triggered by your job. Even emotional, mental, physical and environmental factors can cause stress. When you consider your personal life, work, diet, surroundings, and exercise, you will find you undergo a lot of stress daily, though you are often ignorant of it.

How to fight?
Fighting stress doesn’t mean taking refuge in an ashram or resigning from your job. Instead, you should try to find the triggers of your stress. For instance, you can begin by assessing your overall stress and take a closer look at how it’s at home, at work, and if you’re going to the gym too often and trying too hard. You should also take stock of the level of pollutants and chemicals your diet and your surroundings expose you to. Once you figure the origin of your stress, you can take small steps that add up to create a big difference. Such steps could include consuming fewer processed foods, substituting your boot camp or CrossFit class with restorative yoga once every week, switching your cleaning products to and eating a more natural brand (for the Environmental Working Group’s top choices, you can take a look at this). Even if all these sound too much to handle, you should try to squeeze out some quality “Me Time” – at least an hour, from your daily routine, where you do something purely for your own delight. Be it taking a spa session, enjoying non-stop videos of playful red pandas in the snow, or buying a coloring book for the adults, your planned activities don’t necessarily need to be rational or productive as long as they simply make you smile and feel happy.


ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS

Almost anyone above 20 years has consumed an artificial sweetener at some point in their lives. During the 1990s, these chemicals became extremely popular, driven by the notion that people could consume any amount of food and beverage that were labeled “sugar-free” without the worry of weight gain. Sadly, the later years proved this theory to be precisely what it appeared to be: too good to be correct.

Ironically, recent research has shown the chances of artificial sweeteners changing intestinal gut bacteria, which in turn influences metabolism.

Even the intake of calorie-free sugar substitutes could actually cause weight gain. What’s worse is the rapid popularity of artificial sweeteners, which has made them an integral part of millions of diverse food products – from English muffins and chewing gum to ice creams!

Tips to fight:
When choosing your foods, stay away from the ones packed in bags or boxes. In case you’re consuming packaged food, study the ingredient label and stay away from anything with the word “light”. Artificial sweeteners are also known by some other names such as aspartame, acesulfame K, sucralose, saccharin, and neotame. When placing order for a prepared beverage or food that’s sweetened, make sure to request for real honey or sugar.


INSUFFICIENT SLEEP

Everyone may offer you a health advice that’s different from others but one aspect where everyone agrees is sleep. Our bodies get revitalized during sleep, and scientists have now unearthed evidence of a symbiotic relationship between our gut bacteria and sleep. According to research, gut bacteria imbalance can influence sleep regulating hormones. Some animal studies have also found that inadequate sleep can cause the negative alteration in gut bacteria.

Sleep has an effect on our gut bugs and vice versa.

Tips to fight:
Despite your busy schedule, you always make time for something that’s important – be it catching your kid’s drama competition at school, hitting the gym, or taking your in-laws out for brunch. According to research, sleep is significantly important. So, it’s time you make arrangements to have some quality shuteye. We suggest you to start your sleep ritual by winding down at least an hour before you go to bed. Switching off your devices and screens – from computers, TV screens and smartphone to Kindles is the easiest way to do it. Light with blue wavelengths or blue light, which can cause sleep disruption at night, is emitted by these electronic devices. Research shows exposure to such blue light makes the brain cease melatonin production, which is harmful to your sleep since it’s the hormone melatonin that gives your body the signal that it’s time to sleep.

However, an ideal, digital detox every night may not be feasible for everyone. In case you have to gaze at your screens once or twice after the sunset, we suggest downloading f.lux to your PC and laptop, in addition to turning on the Night Shift feature on your iPhone. By automatically altering your screen displays, these two apps ensure your devices emit less blue, warmer lights.


SMOKING

Just like stress, this is another “S” word which you should stay away from if you seek overall well-being and good gut health. A German research team found when exposed to cigarette smoke, the gut bacteria in mice experienced an alteration in their composition along with some changes that happened to their intestinal lining. On the other hand, a study in 2014 found noticeable changes in the variety of gut bacteria for smokers who stopped smoking.

Tips to fight:
Quitting smoking is a tough battle and if we had some easy solution for it, we would be sipping a Pina Colada on the beach with Oprah. But it doesn’t mean this is an impossible task. Every year, almost 1.3 million people quit smoking successfully. You have a wide variety of options to take your pick from – hypnosis, the patch, cold turkey, the step-down approach, or many others. Don’t over think about which among these is the best (and get stressed as a result, which is bad for your health). Simply choose one, and if it doesn’t bring you the desired results, switch to another until you find a way that works for you!


ALCOHOL

Before you leave this page, taking us to be complete Debbie Downers, we want to say that we too enjoy having a blast, like everyone else. The good news is that some specific types of alcohol, when consumed in moderate quantity, can bring health benefits your way. However, it’s vital to know that alcohol can change your gut bacteria balance and cause deterioration in the integrity of your gut lining.

Tips to fight:
We won’t tell you to bid adieu to alcohol permanently and lament your inability to participate in all the fun or miss going to parties where adult beverage flows. Yet, just like stress, we would suggest you to take stock of your alcohol consumption. If there’s a place or time where you can bring down your alcohol intake, we would ask you to give it a try. In addition, you should help your good gut bacteria to thrive with other simple steps like by eating a clean diet and including probiotic foods in it, reducing stress, taking a probiotic supplement and getting quality sleep. Search online to read about how you can include more probiotics in your diet and the ways to select the ideal probiotic supplement.

If you know anyone whose gut bugs are affected by these common threats, share this article with them.

If you have any comments or questions, keep them coming for we would love to hear from you!

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