Healthy Digestion/Surprising Habits That Harm Your Gut
Surprising Habits That Harm Your GutLily Harmon ● 18/01/2022 ● 9 min read
Do you have a gut feeling that there’s something wrong with your gut?
If you do, chances are you’re right.
And while you can blame it on last night’s dinner or your 3rd cup of coffee, research indicates that what we’re doing -- or not -- is also a significant factor in the state of our gut health, which in turn influences our overall well-being.
So today, let’s take a look at the list below to see if any of these familiar habits might be keeping your tummy a little bit grumpy.
Hopefully, you can address these habits right away for a healthier, happier gut.
Avoid These 5 Gut-Wrenching Habits At All Cost
Eating Meals Too Close Together
Let’s start with a term called the Migrating Motor Complex or MMC.
It’s a periodic wave of forward movement that acts like a broom, so harmful bacteria don’t root inside the intestine.
MMC is also responsible for making sure food particles move forward through the gut.
On average, MMC may take up to 90 to 230 minutes.
But there’s a catch.
MMC only happens when you’re not eating.
That’s why eating constantly or eating meals too close together is a risky habit because disruptions in your MMC may lead to bloating, gas, and indigestion.
You may also suffer from acid reflux or constipation because food doesn’t push through as fast as it should.
Disruption in the MMC also means you don’t get the most out of your food because the bacteria trapped inside the intestine absorb the nutrients instead.
So even if you keep on eating, you don’t feel satisfied or energized.
Over time, you might suffer from nutrient deficiencies.
Plus, not spacing out meals means your insulin remains high throughout the day.
And if you haven’t heard yet, insulin’s task is to escort excess, unused blood sugar to the liver as fat.
In other words, the busier your insulin is, the fatter you become.
So, to avoid the risk of inflammation, gut issues, and high insulin, you need to give your gut a break for a few hours at a time for the MMC to do its job well.
To optimize MMC, include an overnight fast of at least 12 hours.
Not Getting Enough Sleep
In one of their studies, researchers from Nova Southeastern University pointed out that poor sleep habits can negatively affect your gut microbiome.
Jaime Tartar, Ph.D., research director in NSU’s College of Psychology and part of the research team, explains, “Given the strong gut-brain bidirectional communication, they likely influence each other.”
The professor continues, “Based on previous reports, we think that poor sleep probably exerts a strong negative effect on gut health/microbiome diversity.”
Their study involved subjects who wore a device that monitors their sleep quality.
The result suggests that those who had a goodnight’s sleep had a more diverse or better gut microbiome.
"Getting a good night's sleep can lead to improved health, and a lack of sleep can have detrimental effects. We've all seen reports that show not getting proper sleep can lead to short-term (stress, psychosocial issues) and long-term (cardiovascular disease, cancer) health problems. We know that the deepest stages of sleep are when the brain 'takes out the trash since the brain and gut communicate with each other. Quality sleep impacts so many other facets of human health,” Dr. Tartar said.
Another study published in Nature Magazine examined how sleep deprivation affects the participants’ gut bacteria.
The researchers found that the intestinal barrier of sleep-deprived participants was letting more bad bacteria leak out of the gut, which causes inflammation and insulin resistance.
Other studies pointed out that sleep deprivation altered the balance of bacteria in the gut. Researchers linked this change to metabolic conditions, including obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
Alright, enough bad news.
How do you get enough sleep, then?
CDC recently published an article about the different ways to improve sleep.
Here they are:
- Have a consistent bedtime schedule. Follow it even on weekends.
- Make sure your bedroom is conducive to sleep.
- Remove any electronic devices from your bedroom.
- Avoid large meals, alcoholic beverages, or caffeine before bedtime.
- Don’t smoke.
- Exercise regularly.
The CDC recommends 8-10 hours of sleep per night for teenagers (13-18 years old) and seven or more hours per night for adults (18-60 years old).
Practicing Bad Eating Habits
Let’s take a look at some eating habits that affect your gut health and some fixes you can do right away.
Mindless Eating - Have you ever caught yourself eating chips while surfing only to discover a few minutes later that half of the bag is gone?
Mindless eating is when you are eating just for the sake of it and not because you’re hungry.
Mindless eating happens when you’re sad, bored, angry, or stressed.
The best way to prevent this is to portion your servings to a minimum.
So instead of eating out of a big bag, pour a few chips into a smaller bowl before sitting down to surf the net.
Better yet, practice the habit of putting food a few distances away from you.
By doing this, you have to work extra hard to grab your food, so you’re less likely to eat more than you should.
Last but not least, maximize your meals by filling up your plate with fiber-rich vegetables, so you feel fuller for hours.
Late Night snacking - This habit happens when you eat within 3 hours before bedtime. Medical studies have shown that late-night snacking could lead to poor sleep quality, digestive issues, and weight gain.
You can curb late-night snacking with a few simple tricks such as:
- Loading up on dietary fiber and protein at meal times
- Turning off the screen before eating to reduce food intake
- Following a structured eating and sleeping plan
- Practicing relaxation techniques to prevent stress eating
- Distracting yourself by going for a walk, calling a friend, or reading
Eating Too Quickly - What happens when you’re always rushing to finish your meals?
You tend to take in too many calories more than you need, leading to faster weight gain.
- You end up less satisfied with your meals.
- You could potentially increase your risk of suffering from an upset stomach.
Slowing down your pace can be a challenge, but it’s doable.
All you have to do is to follow a few tactics:
- Eat without distractions so you can focus on your meals.
- Take smaller bites.
- Chew each mouthful of food 20 to 30 times.
- Give yourself a break after every bite by putting your utensils down.
- Pay attention to the food you’re eating.
Lastly, give yourself at least 20 minutes to finish your meal.
That length allows your brain to catch up with your stomach, so you don’t overeat.
Over-reliance on NSAIDs
Also known as pain-relievers, NSAID (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) is a group of drugs known to relieve minor aches, inflammation, and chronic pains.
You can buy them over the counter or by prescription.
But while NSAIDs help you recover from nagging pains, they can potentially harm your gut if you use them regularly.
Recent studies show that as many as 50% of people cannot take NSAIDs because they suffer from abdominal pain, diarrhea, or upset stomach.
Worse, long-term use of NSAIDs can increase your risk of developing an ulcer in either the stomach or your bowel by up to 25%.
Experts estimate that more than 100,000 hospital admissions resulted from ulcer-related bleeding due to NSAID use in the past few years.
How do NSAIDs work, and how do they harm the gut?
It all starts with hormone-like chemicals called Prostaglandins.
When you’re injured -- say a sprain -- the affected tissue releases prostaglandins to tell the body it needs help. These chemicals cause the surrounding area to swell and increase the level of pain you feel.
NSAIDs block special enzymes called Cox-1 and Cox-2. These enzymes are critical ingredients in making prostaglandins.
And by blocking these enzymes, your body stops producing prostaglandins.
You experience less pain and swelling.
Here’s the catch, though.
Prostaglandins not only cause swelling and pain.
A specific type of prostaglandin protects the lining of your GI tract from the corrosive effects of stomach acid.
In other words, taking NSAIDs may inhibit Cox-1 enzymes from creating this type of prostaglandin, which leads to ulcers and bleeding.
Talk to your doctor so they can recommend the proper dosage of NSAIDs without affecting your gut.
You may ask your doctor about NSAIDs called selective Cox2-inhibitors.
These NSAIDs block the Cox-2 enzyme responsible for pain and swelling without stopping Cox-1.
Lastly, take NSAIDs with meals to minimize the effects of an upset stomach.
Not Getting Enough Sunshine
These are popular terms we came to love these past few years.
And while restrictions are starting to loosen up in certain areas, some folks are still stuck inside their homes.
Instead, go outside, smell some fresh air, and take a hefty dose of good, old sunshine.
You see, sunshine isn’t just good for the skin. It’s also good for your gut.
Canadian researchers wanted to determine how sunlight/UVB light can alter the human gut microbiome.
So they invited 21 healthy females for an experiment.
Nine volunteers took Vitamin D supplements three months leading up to the experiment.
The remaining 12 volunteers did not.
Each volunteer received three one-minute UVB (Ultraviolet B) sessions for seven days.
The researchers took stool samples before and after treatment to analyze gut bacteria.
They also took blood samples to measure the vitamin D levels of the volunteers.
The result of the study confirmed that exposure to sunlight/UVB increases the gut microbial diversity among participants.
“Before UVB exposure, these women had a less diverse and balanced gut microbiome than those taking regular vitamin D supplements,” stated Bruce Vallance, Ph.D. investigator at the BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute, University of British Columbia.
“UVB exposure boosted the richness and evenness of their microbiome to levels indistinguishable from the supplemented group, whose microbiome was not significantly changed.”
In a separate interview, lead study author and researcher Else Bosman explains, “We found that vitamin D production was the main diver of the shift in the microbiome.”
“It is well known that UVB light produces Vitamin D, and we now start to understand that vitamin D is important to maintain a healthy gut.”
How do you get enough Vitamin D for your gut?
Check out these quick and easy tips:
- Expose your skin to sunlight for 10-30 minutes at least three times a week. That duration will give you enough UVB to produce around 10,000 IU of Vitamin D. If you have darker skin, you may have to spend 30 minutes or more to get sufficient Vitamin D.
Midday is the most efficient time to get sunlight because you don’t need to stay outside that long to receive an ample amount of UVB to create Vitamin D. Just go outside, walk around the block, and get a good dose of Vitamin D after a hearty lunch.
- Your body uses cholesterol in your skin to create Vitamin D. So it makes sense to expose lots of skin to sunlight so you can absorb enough UVB. The best body parts to expose are your arms, legs, back, and abdomen.
Happy Gut. Happy Life
If you think about it, keeping your gut healthy is like running a business where the gut bacteria are your customers.
It’s in your best interest to keep your customers happy by avoiding bad habits which we listed here.
By doing so, you can guarantee a lifetime of healthy physique, unbridled energy, and strong immunity.