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Things that put your gut bacteria at risk

Things that put your gut bacteria at risk

Over 100 trillion bacteria, known as “gut flora,” live in the human gut. Having healthy gut flora is critical to your overall health.

Surprisingly, many dietary, lifestyle, and environmental factors can all have a negative impact on your gut bacteria.

The What and the Why

Your gut contains hundreds of different types of bacteria. Some are pleasant, while others are not.

The majority of bacteria in the gut are classified as Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, Actinobacteria, or Proteobacteria.

Each group has an impact on your health and requires different nutrients to thrive.

Friendly gut bacteria are essential for digestion. They kill harmful bacteria and microorganisms while also producing vitamin K, folate, and short-chain fatty acids.

An imbalance can occur when the gut flora contains too many harmful bacteria and not enough friendly bacteria. This is referred to as dysbiosis.

Insulin resistance, weight gain, inflammation, obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, and colorectal cancer have all been linked to dysbiosis and a reduction in gut flora diversity.

As a result, it’s critical to keep your gut bacteria as friendly and plentiful as possible.

                  8 unexpected things that can harm your gut bacteria.
  1. Not Consuming a Variety of Foods

In general, a healthy gut flora is one that is rich and diverse.

A lack of diversity among gut bacteria limits recovery from potentially harmful influences such as infection or antibiotics.

A diet rich in whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, can result in more diverse gut flora. In fact, changing your diet can change your gut flora profile in as little as a few days.

This is because the food you eat contains nutrients that aid in the growth of bacteria. A diet high in whole foods provides your gut with a wide range of nutrients that promote the growth of various types of bacteria, resulting in more diverse gut flora.

Unfortunately, much of the diversity in the Western diet has been lost over the last 50 years. Today, only 12 plant and five animal species provide 75% of the world’s food supply.

Surprisingly, studies show that people living in rural Africa and South America have a more diverse gut flora than people living in the United States and Europe.

Their diets are generally unaffected by Western influences and are high in fiber and plant protein sources.

Summary: A diet deficient in a variety of whole foods can lead to a loss of gut flora diversity. This could have a number of negative health consequences.

2. Prebiotic Deficiency in the Diet

Prebiotics are fibers that pass through the body undigested, promoting the growth and activity of beneficial gut bacteria.

Prebiotic fiber is naturally found in many foods, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

A lack of them in your diet may be detrimental to your digestive health.

Prebiotic-rich foods include:

  • Lentils, chickpeas, and beans
  • Oats
  • Bananas
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Garlic
  • Leeks
  • Onions
  • Nuts

In one study of 30 obese women, taking a daily prebiotic supplement for three months promoted the growth of the healthy bacteria Bifidobacterium and Faecalibacterium.

Prebiotic fiber supplements also increase the production of short-chain fatty acids.

These fatty acids are the primary nutrient source for the cells in your colon. They can be absorbed into your bloodstream, where they promote metabolic and digestive health, reduce inflammation, and may lower your risk of colorectal cancer.

Furthermore, foods high in prebiotic fiber may help lower insulin and cholesterol levels.

Summary: Prebiotics are fibers that can be found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. They are necessary for the growth of beneficial gut bacteria such as Bifidobacterium.

3. Excessive Alcohol Consumption

When consumed in large quantities, alcohol is addictive, highly toxic, and can have negative physical and mental effects.

Chronic alcohol consumption can lead to serious problems with gut health, including dysbiosis.

One study compared the gut flora of 41 alcoholics to that of 10 healthy people who drank little to no alcohol. Dysbiosis was found in 27% of the alcoholic population, but not in any of the healthy people.

Another study looked at the effects of three types of alcohol on gut health.

Each person consumed 9.2 ounces (272 ml) of red wine, the same amount of de-alcoholized red wine, or 3.4 ounces (100 ml) of gin every day for 20 days.

Gin reduced the number of beneficial gut bacteria while red wine increased the abundance of bacteria known to promote gut health while decreasing the number of harmful gut bacteria such as Clostridium.

The polyphenol content of moderate red wine appears to be responsible for its beneficial effect on gut bacteria.

Polyphenols are plant compounds that do not pass through digestion and are broken down by gut bacteria. They may also help lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

Summary: In general, alcohol consumption is detrimental to gut bacteria. However, when consumed in moderation, the polyphenol content of red wine may have a protective effect on gut bacteria.

4. Antibiotic Utilization

Antibiotics are important medications used to treat bacterial infections and diseases such as urinary tract infections and strep throat. They have saved millions of lives over the last 80 years by either killing bacteria or preventing them from multiplying.

One disadvantage is that they affect both good and bad bacteria. Indeed, even a single antibiotic treatment can cause detrimental changes in the composition and diversity of the gut flora.

Antibiotics typically cause a temporary decrease in beneficial bacteria such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli while temporarily increasing harmful bacteria such as Clostridium.

Antibiotics, on the other hand, can cause long-term changes in gut flora. Most bacteria return after a dose of antibiotics is finished, but their numbers rarely return to pre-antibiotic levels.

In fact, one study discovered that a single antibiotic dose reduced the diversity of Bacteroides, one of the most dominant bacterial groups, while increasing the number of resistant strains. These effects lasted up to two years.

Summary: Even when used for a short period of time, antibiotics can alter the diversity and composition of the gut flora. This can have long-term negative effects on gut bacteria.

5. Inactivity on a regular basis

Physical activity is simply any movement of the body that consumes energy. This activity includes things like walking, gardening, swimming, and cycling.

Physical activity has a number of health benefits, including weight loss, reduced stress, and a lower risk of chronic disease.
Furthermore, recent research suggests that physical activity may alter gut bacteria, thereby improving gut health.
Higher levels of fitness have been linked to higher levels of butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid important for overall health, and butyrate-producing bacteria.

According to one study, professional rugby players had a more diverse gut flora and twice the number of bacterial families than control groups matched for body size, age, and gender.

Athletes also had higher levels of Akkermansia, a bacteria that has been shown to play an important role in metabolic health and the prevention of obesity.

Similar findings have been reported in women.

A study compared the gut flora of 19 physically active women to 21 non-active women.

Active women had a higher abundance of health-promoting bacteria, such as Bifidobacterium and Akkermansia, implying that regular physical activity, even at low-to-moderate intensity, can be beneficial.

Summary: Physical activity encourages the growth of beneficial gut bacteria such as Bifidobacterium and Akkermansia. Individuals who are inactive do not experience these positive effects.

6. Smoking Cigarettes

Tobacco smoke contains thousands of chemicals, 70 of which are carcinogenic.

Cigarette smoking harms nearly every organ in the body and increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer.

Cigarette smoking is also a major environmental risk factor for inflammatory bowel disease, which is characterized by ongoing inflammation of the digestive tract.

Furthermore, smokers are twice as likely as nonsmokers to have Crohn’s disease, a common type of inflammatory bowel disease.

In one study, quitting smoking increased gut flora diversity, a sign of a healthy gut.

Summary: Almost every organ in the body suffers as a result of smoking. Quitting smoking can improve gut health by increasing the diversity of gut flora, and this can happen in as little as nine weeks.

7. Inadequate Sleep

Getting enough sleep is critical for overall health.

Sleep deprivation has been linked to a variety of diseases, including obesity and heart disease, according to research.

Sleep is so important that your body has its own clock, known as the circadian rhythm.

It’s a 24-hour internal clock that has an impact on your brain, body, and hormones. It can keep you alert and awake, but it can also tell your body when to sleep.

It appears that the gut has a daily circadian rhythm as well. Disrupting your body clock through lack of sleep, shift work, and late-night eating may be harmful to your gut bacteria.

A 2016 study was the first to explore the effects of short-term sleep deprivation on the composition of gut flora.

The study compared the effects of two nights of sleep deprivation (about 4 hours per night) versus two nights of normal sleep duration (8.5 hours) in nine men.

Sleep deprivation for two days altered the gut flora and increased the abundance of bacteria linked to weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and fat metabolism.

Nonetheless, the effects of sleep deprivation on gut bacteria are a new area of study. Further studies are required to determine the impact of sleep loss and poor sleep quality on gut health.

Summary: The circadian rhythm is the body's 24-hour internal clock. Sleep deprivation can disrupt the circadian rhythm, which appears to be detrimental to gut bacteria.

8. Excessive Stress

Being healthy entails more than just diet, physical activity, and enough sleep.

High levels of stress can also be harmful to the body. Stress can increase sensitivity, decrease blood flow, and alter gut bacteria in the gut.

Different types of stress, such as isolation, crowding, and heat stress, have been shown in mouse studies to reduce gut flora diversity and alter gut profiles.

Stress affects bacterial populations in mice, increasing potentially harmful bacteria like Clostridium and decreasing beneficial bacteria like Lactobacillus.

One human study examined the impact of stress on the composition of gut bacteria in 23 college students (75).

The composition of gut bacteria was studied at the start of the semester and again at the end of the semester during final exams.

The stress of final exams reduced the number of friendly bacteria, including Lactobacilli.

While promising, research on the relationship between stress and gut flora is fairly new, and human studies are currently limited.

Summary: Excessive stress has been shown to decrease gut flora diversity and alter gut flora profiles by increasing harmful bacteria such as Clostridium and decreasing beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacilli.

How to Improve Gut Health

A healthy gut flora with a high concentration of friendly bacteria is critical for overall health.

Here are some suggestions for improving your gut flora:

Eat more prebiotic foods: Consume plenty of prebiotic fiber-rich foods such as legumes, onions, asparagus, oats, bananas, and others.

Consume more probiotics: Probiotics have been shown to increase the abundance of beneficial gut bacteria. Fermented foods such as yogurt, kimchi, kefir, and tempeh are all high in probiotics. Start taking a probiotic supplement as well.

Make time for quality sleep: To improve sleep quality, avoid caffeine late in the day, sleep in complete darkness, and establish a structured sleep routine in which you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.

Reduce stress: Engage in regular exercise, meditation, and deep breathing exercises. If you are frequently overwhelmed by stress, you should consider seeing a psychologist.

Consume polyphenol-rich foods: These include blueberries, red wine, dark chocolate, and green tea. Polyphenols are poorly digested and frequently make their way to the colon, where bacteria digest them.

Summary: There are numerous ways to improve your gut health. Eating a diverse and healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and reducing stress are all excellent ways to improve your gut flora.


The bacteria in your gut play an important role in your overall health, and disruption to the gut flora has been linked to a variety of health issues.

Alternatively, the best way to ensure healthy gut flora is to live a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity, low stress, and a variety of whole foods.

Fermented foods and probiotic supplements may also be beneficial in many cases.

How Is Your Gut Health? 5 Signs Your Gut May Be… | GI Associates


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