5 habits that cause an unhealthy gut
Your gut is a lot more important for your overall health than you probably realise. In fact, research shows that maintaining a health gut microbiome is key to supporting numerous everyday functions of the body, and can decrease your risk of chronic diseases. That’s why it’s important to make sure you’re doing all you can to support your gut microbiome, and avoiding habits that hurt your gut health. Along with increased symptoms of depression, anxiety as well as gastrointestinal issues, your body is more prone to getting sick and even developing autoimmune diseases.
Reader’s Digest spoke with dietitian Patricia Kolesa about habits that hurt your gut health and small lifestyle tweaks to make that will benefit your gut microbiome for the long run.
1. Not drinking enough water
“Water helps deliver the nutrients from your food to different parts of the body and aids in removing waste,” says Kolesa. According to the Australian Government’s Health Direct website, the amount of water that someone should drink varies greatly from person to person as it depends on how each individual’s metabolism works, what the temperature is, what they eat, their age and whether they have a medical condition. But it’s especially important for children and older people to drink enough water.
“We get about one fifth of the water we need from food and the rest from drinking fluids. The body gets rid of water throughout the day through breathing and sweating, as well as by going to the toilet. As a general rule, men need about 10 cups* of fluids every day and women need about 8 cups* (add another cup a day if you are pregnant or breastfeeding),” states the website.
“Without adequate hydration, toxins can build up in the body and run the risk of dehydration and/or constipation,” says Kolesa. To increase your water intake throughout the day, Kolesa suggests:
- Use a water bottle with a fluid intake tracker to stay motivated
- Keep your water bottle nearby while you work so you’re reminded to take a sip
- Add lemon, limes or cucumbers to your water to give it a new, refreshing flavour
- Brew yourself a cup of hot decaffeinated tea at night.
2. Not consuming enough pre- and probiotics
“Probiotics are the ‘good bacteria’ found in your gut,” says Kolesa. “Probiotics can change intestinal bacteria to balance your gut flora. This boosts your immunity and overall gut health because the probiotics from your food are added to the gut. Prebiotics are non-digestible components to encourage the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut. When taken together, prebiotics and probiotics can improve gut health.”
Kolesa says adding in a balance of prebiotic foods (such as whole grains and a variety of fruit and vegetables) and probiotics (fermented foods and cultured yoghurts, for example) is a great place to start. As for taking supplements, Kolesa suggests talking to a registered dietitian before making the investment.