10 Surprising Ways You’re Causing an Unbalanced Gut Microbiota

Gut health is essential to overall wellbeing. An unbalanced gut microbiota can cause lack of energy, physical weakness, digestion issues, problems with your metabolism, even mental health issues and skin concerns.

person holding their stomach, where the gut microbiota is.
Gut health is vital to wellbeing – source

Learn the common ways you are causing an unbalanced gut microbiota that could be ruining your health today!

What is the Gut Health Microbiota

The gut microbiota is a colony of trillions of microscopic bacteria that, when balanced, contribute to overall health. The gut can have good and bad microbiota, depending on daily habits and what you eat.

Good bacteria are important for digestion, you can eat all the healthy food in the world but without good bacteria, you are unable to absorb the nutrients. Good bacteria also help defend the body, destroying bad microorganisms, helping to produce vitamins and minerals, and helping create energy for the body.

In fact, good microbiota health can even improve mental wellbeing, as 90% of serotonin is made in the gut. 

Too many harmful bacteria lead to an unbalanced gut microbiota, which can cause many issues such as inflammation, obesity, insulin resistance, digestion issues, mental health issues, skin issues like eczema, and even colon cancer.

Signs of an Unbalanced Gut Microbiota

Some signs of an unbalanced gut microbiota include

  • Getting sick often
  • High stress levels and declining mental health
  • Upset stomach
  • Unintentional weight changes
  • Lack of energy
  • Trouble building muscle
  • Skin irritation and concerns like psoriasis or eczema
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Food allergies

10 Habits that Cause an Unbalanced Gut Health

Here are 10 surprising, common habits we do that negatively affect the gut microbiota, and what to do instead!

1. Eating Gluten (in the US)

Gluten was thought to just affect those with celiac disease, but we now know that is not the case. This mostly applies to the US because the way the US processes wheat is different from the rest of the world. Wheat in the US is commonly sprayed with glyphosate, a chemical that kills weeds, and good bacteria in our gut. The deletion of soil nutrients also contributes to the change in wheat composition in the US.

Many people have found that while they have trouble processing wheat in the US, they have no problems in other countries like France and Italy.

How to Fix it:

Eat less wheat or try to splurge for the organic stuff! Usually organic and regular produce doesn’t matter, but in this case, it affects gut health greatly.

2. Using Seed Oils

Canola oil, vegetable oil, soybean oil; overly processed cheap oils commonly used in fast food production, and in your kitchen.

The oils themselves are safe, as explored in this breakdown of canola oil, but the problem comes from the oils’ effect on gut health. Seed oils are unbalanced, containing high amounts of omega 6 oil when most people are deficient in omega 3 oils. This lack of balance knocks ratios out of order, which in turn ruins gut health.

How to Fix it:

Stop using seed oils and remember to use oils like olive oil and avocado oil to keep the ratio right for gut health!

3. Drinking and Smoking

Drinking is fun socially, but in actuality is a habit that is addicting, toxic, and harmful to physical and mental health in large amounts. I mean, the byproduct of your body processing alcohol is a carcinogen (cancer causing) that causes that hangover headache.

Not all alcohol is equal though. This study found that hard liquor like gin negatively affects gut health while red wine may improve it.

Smoking had been found to cause inflammation of the bowls, damaging gut health greatly.

How to Fix it:

Stop smoking and only drink in moderation. Drink red wine with polyphenol, a plant compound that can improve gut health.

4. Not Eating Prebiotics and Probiotics

Prebiotics are a type of fiber that provide nutrients for the gut bacteria to flourish. A lack of prebiotics in the diet is bad for digestive health.

Probiotics are live bacteria that can help populate the gut with good bacteria. They can be found in supplements or foods like sauerkraut, live culture yogurt, and kimchi.

How to Fix it:

Eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fermented foods.

5. Not Sleeping Enough

Sleep is vital to gut health. Not sleeping enough can impact gut health, which can in turn cause more issues sleeping and may eventually lead to insomnia.

How to Fix it:

Sleep well and regularly. Have trouble sleeping? Check out this guide for sleep hygiene, this breathing technique that will help you fall asleep fast, and this guide on how to fix your circadian rhythm!

6. Not Eating the Rainbow

People always say you should have a rainbow on your plate (no, not Skittles). Eating a diverse range of fruits and vegetables allow for a diversity of bacteria to populate the gut. The food you eat also helps sustain the gut bacteria to grow.

Food diversity has gone down quite a bit as about 75% of the world’s food comes from 12 plants and 5 animals.

How to Fix it:

Try out a variety of foods, from different plants to healthier cuts of meat. Eat ‘superfoods’ like chia seeds, nuts, lentils, quinoa, sprouted grains, and more. Try wild rice, seitan, and tofu.

7. Taking Antibiotics

It is common knowledge that the overprescription of antibiotics has caused bacteria to be super resistant. 

This is an ongoing problem in the medical field today. Antibiotics cause an unbalanced gut microbiota as antibiotics kill both good and bad bacteria. These changes, especially in children, can have lasting consequences on gut health.

Antibiotics can even cause good bacteria to go bad, as shown in this study.

How to Fix it:

Use antibiotics only when you truly need to and have a serious condition. If a doctor gives you a choice (if an infection is not bad), choose not to take antibiotics. If advised to take one by your doctor, listen to your doctor. Antibiotics should be used for strong infections like strep throat, whooping cough, UTIs, etc. 

If you are prescribed an antibiotic, take it as prescribed, the full routine. DO NOT stop taking antibiotics early even if you feel better. This can leave trace bad bacteria that may become resistant to the antibiotic.

8. Stressing too Much

Stress creates damaging chemicals in the body like cortisol which may cause an unbalanced gut microbiota. Stress may even increase the number of bad gut bacteria, further causing problems and imbalances. Check out this quick guide to de-stressing your day.

How to Fix it:

Take up mental health activities that can calm you down like meditation, breathing, yoga, time in nature, and even making a gratitude journal.

9. Lack of Physical Exercise

Exercising doesn’t have to be about gaining or losing weight. There are reasons to exercise that have nothing to do with looks like better quality of sleep, increased heart health, and reduced stress.

Recent studies have found that regular exercise can even help contribute to a balanced gut microbiota too.

How to Fix it:

Work out a little bit each day. Any movement is good movement so take a walk, try some yoga, or do some quick HIIT cardio.

10. Consuming too Much Added Sugar

Studies have shown a direct link between added sugar and chronic illness. Added sugars cause inflammation in the body as well, which is detrimental to gut health.

How to Fix it:

Check the food labels always to see if anything you buy has added sugar. Check out these resources like how to read a nutrition label and the 56 pseudonyms for sugar. Look for safe sugar substitutes, like this one that can even help gut health.

The Takeaway

Gut health is super important to overall wellbeing. Gut microbiota affects mental health, physical health, skin, digestion, metabolism, the immune system, and much more.

Learn the common ways you are ruining gut health to fix them today with this guide and start to take your health into your hands. Check out all these free resources for microbiota today, like what foods to avoid, what foods to eat, and much more!

Remember that health starts from within, always. Small changes today can have huge impacts tomorrow!

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