Gut health is a hot topic among the health and wellness industry, and for good reason.
Research continues to show that gut health is an integral factor in our overall health. Our gut bacteria influence pretty much everything – from our energy levels, sleep, mood, and of course, digestion.
While there are many factors that go into gut health, here are 5 unexpected reasons your gut may be off-kilter.
1. Not drinking enough water
Hydration is key for optimal gut health.
Feeling bloating? Dehydration can in fact play a role. When you’re dehydrated, the body holds onto more water, and therefore also holds onto byproducts of natural body processes. Drinking adequate water helps the body flush out waste and toxins, therefore reducing water retention and bloat.
Not drinking enough water can also contribute to constipation, but staying well hydrated has been shown to lead to more regular digestion and bowel movements.
Plus, proper hydration can help you stay fuller for longer, which reduces cravings for junk food that may impact the health of the gut lining.
What’s more, hydration has been shown to have a positive effect on gut bacteria. The more good bacteria our gut has, the better it functions and supports our health.
Tip: Aim for at least 64 ounces of water daily to support hydration and gut health. To take your hydration to the next level, try our electrolytes powder Nakedade, especially after a sweaty exercise session.
2. Too much stress
Stress can negatively affect us in many ways, which is why it’s important to consciously make an effort to reduce it.
For one, high-stress levels can increase cravings for sugar and processed foods, which gut bacteria thrive off of.
Unfortunately, when gut bacteria are fueled with highly processed foods and sugars, more sugar-feeding bacteria are produced, leading to an unfavorable gut environment. Without enough healthy gut bacteria, proper digestion can be impacted.
Plus, stress and depression alter gut bacteria through the production of hormones and increased inflammation (1).
In fact, research shows that there is a strong correlation between inflammatory bowel conditions such as IBS and high-stress levels (1).
Tip: To help manage stress levels, find moments in your routine to practice self-care. Some ways to do this include:
- Walks in nature
- Time with family and friends
3. Eating too quickly
When we’re running around trying to keep up with our busy lifestyles, it’s easy to quickly scarf down a meal before jumping to the next thing on our to-do list.
However, there are implications of eating too quickly, such as impaired digestion, increased gas, and bloating.
Plus, when we eat too quickly, it’s likely we’re not chewing our food well enough. Chewing well helps us break down the food we are eating so that when it finally reaches our intestines, the body can more easily digest and absorb the food.
In addition to improving digestion, taking time to finish a meal promotes fullness, which can help prevent overeating. Because overeating can be a contributor to slowed digestion and an upset stomach, it’s important to eat slowly to feel your best.
Tip: Aim to put your fork down between bites and chew your food well. Challenge yourself to take 15 minutes to finish a meal.
4. Skipping too many meals
In addition to disrupting blood sugar stabilization, altering mood, and increasing cravings, skipping too many meals can also impact the health of our gut.
Metabolism can slow down, which in turn slows digestion and increases the likelihood of constipation.
When we don’t get adequate nutrition, irritability and cravings spike, causing us to reach for energy-dense foods which are often high in sugar and simple carbohydrates.
Foods like these tend to feed the “bad” gut bacteria, leading to inflammation and digestive upset.
Plus, when our eating schedule is disrupted, cortisol – the body’s “stress hormone” – is released. This too, can cause inflammation and bloating in the digestive system.
Tip: Listen to how your body feels, aim to maintain a consistent eating schedule, and avoid processed foods as much as possible.
5. Inadequate sleep
A lack of sleep has been shown to increase whole-body stress levels, which of course affects the gut. Not getting enough sleep has been linked to bloating, inflammation, and food sensitivities.
Inadequate sleep can increase cravings for sweets, in part due to the rise in the body’s hunger hormone known as ghrelin.
A diet high in added sugars can reduce the amount of good gut bacteria, and contribute to inflammation.
Unfortunately, sleep and gut health are a two-way street. Not getting adequate sleep impacts gut health, and also, poor gut health impacts our ability to have a good night’s sleep.
Tip: Aim to work on a healthy sleep routine. It’s best to strive for 7-9 hours each night for optimal sleep and gut health.
How to get better sleep
But getting good sleep is often easier said than done. In theory, all of us want better sleep, but many times, we find ourselves tossing and turning in bed trying to doze off.
If that sounds like you, try one (or a few of these tips).
- Limit blue light from screens 2 hours before bed. Turn on "night shift" on your phone or download a "blue light blocker" app. Or better yet, avoid screens altogether if possible.
- Exercise daily. Not only will you sleep better, but it can arguably improve every aspect of your life inlcuding your mood, energy, focus, and more.
- Avoid coffee after 3 PM. If you need somethign to sip on later in the day, try something with low caffeine levels like oolong or black tea. They also contain L-theanine, something that has been shown to promote calmness, which can also help you fall asleep.
- Finally, try some white noise, like the sound of ocean, rain, or thunderstorms. Many people find these sounds relaxing and it helps them doze off.
How can we optimize gut health?
So, you’re staying hydrated, managing your stress, eating slowly, consuming regular meals, and sleeping well – but what else can you do?
L-glutamine is one of the best supplements for gut health. It is an amino acid that is needed throughout the body, including the gut.
Benefits of taking L-glutamine:
How to add L-glutamine into your routine?
Adding L-glutamine to your daily routine is easy. Simply blend 1 scoop into your daily protein shake or smoothie, or any other beverage of your choosing.
Try Naked Glutamine, which is naturally sourced and contains just one, pure ingredient: L-glutamine.
Take glutamine on an empty stomach for the best results.
A healthy gut is vital to our overall health. Although there are many factors that affect our gut health, there are some habits and practices that may be impacting our gut that we aren’t aware of.
After reading this article, it should be clear that not drinking enough water, inadequate sleep, high stress, skipping meals, and eating too quickly can all take a toll on the gut.
Luckily, these are simple lifestyle changes you can make to positively affect your gut health and your overall health as a result.
Keep in mind that it’s always best to check with a doctor about your specific gut health concerns so you can find the most individualized and tailored approach that’s right for you.