Your gut is home to trillions of bacteria, some good ones and some bad ones. Together, these are known as the gut flora or microbiome and are vital for your health. While the bad one plays havoc on the digestive health, the good ones restore it. But you cannot expect to have all the good bacteria in there and eliminate all the bad ones. The key to a healthy gut lies in a balance between the two. When the harmful bacteria outnumber the good ones, you may fall prey to disease.
An imbalance is, therefore, the last thing that you would want to come across. It often happens due to environmental and lifestyle factors. This means that you should steer clear of these factors and maintain healthy habits all the time. Awareness regarding such habits is crucial so that you can avoid them and keep your gut in good shape. Here are some unhealthy habits that can harm your microbiome.
Not eating a diverse diet
Diverse gut flora is the secret to good health. It is easy to bring diversity in your microbiome with a diet that contains a variety of whole foods such as whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. Not eating a diverse diet, on the other hand, limits the kinds of bacteria in there. The food you consume provides the nutrients which enable the bacteria to thrive. A diverse diet offers a range of nutrients that fuels the growth of different bacteria. Obviously, the more diversity there is in the bacteria in there, the healthier your microbiome becomes.
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Not consuming enough prebiotics
Essentially, prebiotics is a type of fiber that passes through the body undigested. Apart from regulating your bowel, they have the potential for promoting the growth of the friendly bacteria in your gut. If you are not including enough of prebiotics in your daily diet, you are not doing a great favor to your microbiome. Bananas, oats, lentils, beans, chickpeas, garlic, onions, asparagus and nuts are some prebiotic-high foods. The best part is that these healthy foods are readily available and you can include them in your diet without much effort.
Missing out on probiotics
Another unhealthy habit that may be ruining your microbiome without a warning is not having enough of probiotics. These are the live bacteria that can do wonders for your gut health. You can find them in foods such as yogurt, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, kefir, and kombucha. If you cannot get enough from food sources, switch to supplements for covering the gap. But make sure that you absolutely have probiotics to keep your microbiome healthy.
Drinking too much alcohol
Everyone knows about the harmful side effects of excessive alcohol consumption. It is toxic and addictive in nature and can have a dire effect on the body and brain. An imbalance in your microbiome is one of the effects that you may not be aware of. Prolonged consumption of alcohol is associated with dysbiosis, a condition characterized by a much larger population of unfriendly bacteria in comparison to the healthy ones in the gut.
Like overdrinking, excessive cigarette smoking is another lifestyle habit that can damage your microbiome. Beyond elevating the risk of diseases such as stroke, heart disease, and lung cancer, tobacco smoke can cause a number of digestive ailments as well. At the same time, it can also create an imbalance in the gut microbiome and deprive it of diversity. So if you are still not ready to ditch the habit, you have one more reason to do it sooner rather than later.
Antibiotics are widely used to treat infectious diseases but they may end up doing more harm than good if you abuse them. Basically, these medicines work by killing the disease-causing bacteria. At the same time, they can kill the good ones too. You need to use them sparingly, only when it is absolutely necessary. Additionally, a periodic cleanse is recommended to cleanse the kidneys and flush the toxins from the gut if you suspect antibiotic abuse. Switching to herbal remedies instead of antibiotic treatment is also a good idea.
Lack of physical activity
Another unhealthy habit that can wreak havoc on your microbiome is the lack of regular physical activity. If you fail to exercise regularly, you have a greater probability of accumulating toxins in your body. Regular workout, on the other hand, eliminates toxic wastes through sweating. A lower toxin level promotes gut health and stimulates the growth of good bacteria in your gut. So you should surely invest time in any physical activity you enjoy.
Not getting enough sleep
There is more than one way in which a lack of enough sleep can harm your health and an imbalance in your microbiome is a surprising one. When you sleep, the gut-friendly bacteria get rest and become stronger for performing optimally the next day. Absence of enough sleep, conversely, makes them work harder and they may gradually become weak over time. Sleep deprivation is, therefore, something you should avoid if you want to have a healthy microbiome.
Being stressed out
Stress is an invisible enemy that the body encounters and your microbiome is also not an exception. Still, it is also something that people tend to consider less seriously because it is not a disease with visible symptoms. High-stress levels increase gut sensitivity, decrease blood flow and even alter gut bacteria. So you will probably end up with fewer good bacteria if you stress out. Follow a healthy routine with meditation, yoga and deep breathing to keep stress at bay. Spend time outdoors and do activities that make you feel relaxed.
Now that you clearly know the habits that may harm your microbiome, you can make conscious efforts to cut them from your life. Focus on keeping your body and mind healthy because your microbiome is about both, rather than only about what you eat. At the same time, follow a weekly or bi-monthly detox routine to clear out the wastes from your body. Preventing constipation and keeping your bowel regular is another aspect that you should pay attention to.