Five Things That Are Hurting Your Gut Health

Well the New Year is around the corner do you want to feel better in 2022, check out some of the advice from A few tips to save you discomfort and maybe a trip to the doctor in the near future:

The wrong foods or a lack of exercise could be contributing to your digestive distress. Your gut health relies on the presence of certain healthy bacteria in your stomach, which is why people consume probiotic supplements and drink kombucha. “Bacteria in your gut are a reflection of your overall health,” says Dr. Shaham Mumtaz, a gastroenterologist at Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital, “and improving gut health is more often about your lifestyle.”

But how do you know if you’re experiencing a normal stomachache or if you should talk to a doctor about a more serious issue? Constipation and consistent pain in specific parts of the abdomen can be symptoms, says registered dietitian Melissa Halas, MA RDN CDE. Unintentional weight loss, tarry or bloody stool, persistent vomiting, fevers, difficulty swallowing, yellower skin, and night sweats can also be signs of a larger problem, notes Dr. Mumtaz. You may be diagnosed with treatable conditions, including Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). When you visit a doctor, they’ll rule out underlying health concerns including cancer, inflammatory diseases, and ulcers. “But if we learn that you don’t have any of those conditions,” Dr. Mumtaz says, “what it often comes down to is lifestyle: diet, exercise, sleep, and other stressors.” Ahead, five things that absolutely could be hurting your gut health—and how to fix them.


“In my experience, diet is the biggest culprit of GI issues,” explains Halas, who is a partner with MyMenuUSA. Particularly, patients who aren’t consuming enough fluid and fiber will experience discomfort. “When you haven’t been getting enough fiber for years and years, you’re creating this unhealthy microbiome [in your stomach].” And foods you do eat are as important as the foods you don’t. Registered dietitian Melissa Nieves, LND, RD, MPH points to fried and heavily seasoned foods, caffeine, and alcohol as common factors impacting gut health—especially if patients already have certain medical conditions. Dr. Mumtaz advises patients to reduce the amount of sweets and processed sugars they consume, since some studies show “they can increase the amount of bacteria in the gut.”

Thankfully, incorporating balancing foods into your diet can help treat GI issues. Dr. Mumtaz suggests fruit, vegetables, chicken, and fish to nurture healthy gut bacteria. Halas often recommends the FODMAP diet, a short-term eating plan that eliminates certain sugars to help you figure out exactly which foods may be upsetting your stomach, to patients; it’s best to attempt this diet under the supervision of a professional.


If you aren’t sleeping well or find yourself in stressful situations at work or at home, the effects can show up in your gut health. “When you get less sleep or experience higher stress,” Dr. Mumtaz says, “some studies show there is a negative outcome in terms of the quality of the bacteria in your system.” Stress hormones and inflammation can change this bacteria, but stress can also drive you to eat larger amounts of the foods known to affect gut health.

Lack of Exercise

Dr. Mumtaz explains the exact correlation between minimal physical movement and gut health is currently being studied, but we know enough to understand that there is a connection. “When there is more blood flow through the body, it can change the bacteria that will live in your gut,” he says. Moderate aerobic exercises are especially effective at promoting healthy bacteria, and Dr. Mumtaz advises patients to work out for at least 115 minutes per week.

Certain Medical Conditions

While diet, alcohol consumption, stress, and other lifestyle factors can affect any person’s gut health, Nieves emphasizes that people with certain medical conditions can be especially sensitive to these factors—particularly if you have esophagitis, gastritis, IBS, celiac disease, acid reflux, H.pylori infection, or diverticulitis.


“Only use antibiotics when prescribed and as necessary,” Dr. Mumtaz stresses, since the overuse of this medication can disrupt the amount of healthy bacteria in your gut and lead to a serious condition called Clostridium difficile, or C. diff, which requires medical intervention to treat severe diarrhea and colon inflammation.

Now let’s take it a step further thanks again to

Five Gut-Healing Foods to Add to Your Diet

Try these probiotic rich foods to help your general health.

We have all heard the expression, “You are what you eat,” but we could also take this one step further and say, “You are what you feed the bacteria that live in your gut.” The lining of your gut is mostly covered with bacteria, otherwise known as tiny organisms that create a micro-ecosystem called a microbiome. In fact, the healthier your microbiome is, the healthier you are. Balance in the microbiome depends on two things: stimulating the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut by giving them the foods they like (prebiotic) and adding living microbes directly to your system with foods rich in probiotics. Here are five gut healing and probiotic-rich foods that you can start to include in your diet.


Yogurt is one of the most well-known food sources for gut health—and for good reason. Yogurt is formed when bacterial cultures are added to milk, resulting in a fermented or cultured milk product. Not all yogurts contain probiotics, however, as they can be destroyed during the pasteurization process; look for “live and active cultures” on the ingredient label. Look for the strains Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Streptococcus—they have been widely researched and linked to better health outcomes, including improved immune system function and better digestive health.ADVERTISING


Kimch is a spicy, fermented Korean side dish made of cabbage, other vegetables, and ingredients like ginger, garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes. Kimchi can contain many different strains of probiotics, with lactic acid bacteria being the dominant strain. Research has shown that kimchi can boost cognitive and immune health and aid in weight loss, among other benefits. Enjoy kimchi alongside typical Korean dishes like spicy tofu soup or bibimbap, a rice dish with plenty of vegetables, meat, and a fried egg; you could also add it to your own soups or stir-fries.


When you hear “miso,” do you think first of miso soup? If you do, you’re not alone, but it’s far more than just a type of broth. Miso, a Japanese seasoning, is actually a paste made from fermented soybeans, salt, and koji (a type of fungus). The main strain in miso is called Aspergillus oryzae and has been shown to reduce gastrointestinal symptoms. Miso soup is the go-to option for including miso in your diet, but you can also use it to flavor other broths, marinades, sauces, or spreads.


Your favorite burger topping also has probiotics! Just make sure to choose pickles whose brine is made from a salt and water solution that naturally ferments and forms probiotics, as opposed to vinegar, which does not contain probiotics. Look for “live and active cultures” on the label.


Kefir is made by adding kefir grains—cultures of lactic acid bacteria and yeast—to milk. While yogurt might be the better known probiotic-rich dairy food, kefir actually contains many more strains of probiotics and has been linked to improved digestive health.

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