Your gut is key in supporting important bodily functions. It breaks down the foods you eat, absorbs nutrients and promotes energy production, hormone balance and more. But in order for your gut to function properly, your ‘gut flora,’ or bacterial makeup within your gut, should contain a diverse range of bacteria. 

An imbalance of good and bad gut bacteria can lead to serious health defects, like obesity, cancer and inflammation. To help you maintain a healthy gut, we put together a list of things that could affect your gut flora and become harmful to your overall health! 

1. Antibiotics 

Though antibiotics are vital for treating common diseases caused by bacteria, they can also affect the good bacteria in your gut and create long-term alterations in the gut flora. Be sure to use antibiotics only when necessary and in the correct dosage prescribed by a certified health professional. If you must take antibiotics, take a probiotic called Saccharomyces Boulardii while you are on antibiotics and for at least 2 weeks after your finish them to prevent antibiotic associated diarrhea.

2. A Restricted Diet 

A restricted diet can have various negative effects on your gut health, whereas an inclusive diet can increase the diversity of your gut flora. Try to incorporate different fruits, veggies and whole grains into your diet. Pay special attention to foods with “prebiotics,” a class of fiber that promotes the growth of friendly bacteria while reducing insulin and cholesterol levels. Foods with prebiotics include: oats, beans, onions, asparagus, leeks and garlic.  

3. Lack of Exercise 

A regular exercise routine can have a trove of health benefits, some of them being: weight loss, decreased stress and reduced risk of chronic diseases. What you may not have known, is that regular exercise can also improve gut health. Simple activities like walking, gardening, swimming and biking can help diversify your gut flora and increase levels of bacteria that improve your metabolism. 

4. Excessive Alcohol Intake 

Everything in moderation, right? It should come as no surprise that excessive alcohol consumption can wreak havoc on your gut health. Alcohol can decrease the amount of good bacteria in your gut and lead to dysbiosis, which has been linked to inflammatory bowel disease. 

That being said, a little red wine can actually increase the good bacteria and decrease the bad bacteria in your gut flora. 

5. Sleep Deprivation 

Studies show that sleep deprivation is linked to many diseases, including obesity and heart disease. Sleep deprivation not only disrupts your body’s internal clock, but it also increases the amount of unfriendly bacteria in your gut flora. It’s important that you make time for quality sleep. Try to go to bed at the same time every evening and get at least 7 hours of rest. 

6. Smoking Cigarettes 

Recent studies have found a significant difference between the gut flora compositions of non-smokers and smokers. Smoking cigarettes has a toxic effect on the body. It can not only increase your risk of heart disease and lung cancer, but it can also decrease the diversity of your gut flora and put your immune system at risk. 

7. Stress

High stress levels can negatively affect your overall gut health by leading to alterations in your gut flora. In order to keep your gut bacteria balanced, look for ways to manage and reduce stress. Some strategies may include meditation, exercise and scheduled visits to a health professional. 

Improve Your Gut Health! 

‘Good’ gut bacteria not only help with digestion, but also destroy harmful bacteria. When there’s an imbalance between good and bad bacteria, and harmful bacteria persists, dysbiosis occurs, which has been linked to health issues like insulin resistance, weight gain, obesity and cancer. 

To strike a balance within your gut flora and promote overall gut health, it’s important that you eat foods rich in prebiotics, regularly get a good night’s sleep, exercise on a daily basis, find ways to manage your stress and steer clear of excessive alcohol and nicotine consumption. 

Looking for more information regarding your gut flora and how you can improve your overall gut health? Dr. Lorraine Maita is a recognized and award-winning holistic, functional, and anti-aging physician and author. She transforms people’s lives by getting to the root cause of illness using the best of science and nature. Her approach is personalized, precision medicine where you are treated as the unique individual you are. If you’re ready to start your journey to a healthier, happier life, schedule your visit today!