In this article:

  1. You’re not getting enough sleep
  2. You’re always stressed out
  3. You don’t eat a lot of plants
  4. You’re dehydrated
  5. You drink too much alcohol
  6. You aren’t exercising enough
  7. You smoke

Your gut microbiome is home to trillions of tiny bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms that affects just about every facet and function of your body — skin, mood, sleep, bones, heart, and weight. The state of your gut can be the reason you feel fantastic or why you feel “bleh”; the reason you sleep through the night or why you toss and turn; the reason you crush a workout or why you feel like you’re dragging your feet through mud.

So it really would behoove all of us to take good care of our gut. Problem is, life is life and we all do some things — intentionally or not — that aren’t exactly good for our guts. Watch out for these seven common lifestyle mistakes that you should avoid for better gut health.

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1. You’re not getting enough sleep.

The relationship between sleep and gut health is a two-way street; sleep quality affects your microbiome, and your microbiome affects your sleep quality.

When you sleep poorly, it’s not just your brain and body that feel the effects — all the little microbes in your digestive tract feel it, too, and they react by not doing their jobs efficiently. Your gut also produces hormones that help us sleep, like melatonin, and runs on a circadian rhythm that influences your sleep patterns.

2. You’re always stressed out.

You should take steps to manage your stress for all sorts of reasons, like that lower stress levels can improve heart health and prevent burnout. But you should also manage stress levels to keep your gut health under control.

Stress and gut health have a complex relationship, and stressors of all kinds — psychological, environmental, and physical — can disrupt your microbiome.

Oh, and friendly bacteria may also protect against stress in the first place, so that’s one big reason to stay stress-free.

3. You don’t eat a lot of plants.

If there was a cure-all for gut health, we’re pretty certain it would be fiber. In fact, most of the top foods for gut health are fruits and vegetables with ample fiber. Bonus points if they’re fermented!

We’re big fans of incorporating lean proteins and quality dairy into our diets, but if you’re eating mostly animal foods, you’re missing out on tons of prebiotics that can help fill your microbiome up with friendly microbes.

4. You’re dehydrated.

You probably know the signs of dehydration: fatigue, mood swings, lightheadedness, trouble focusing, headaches. Turns out the little guys in your gut are crying for water, too.

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Drinking plenty of water can support your microbiome by keeping your intestinal lining strong and healthy and keeping your digestive movements regular.

But don’t worry; we won’t make you give up your daily coffee — moderate coffee consumption has hydrating effects similar to plain ol’ water.

5. You drink too much alcohol.

We readily admit that we’re big fans of the occasional glass of red wine, but drinking too much alcohol too often can seriously upset your gut microbiome. Studies show that too much alcohol can cause harmful conditions like dysbiosis, an imbalance of healthy and unhealthy bacteria in the microbiome.

So if you do drink, try to acquire a taste for red wine (there are plenty to try out!) and keep consumption to a healthy minimum.

6. You aren’t exercising enough.

Regular exercise contributes to a healthy heart, healthy brain, better mood, weight loss, and healthy gut microbiome. Research tells us that implementing a consistent workout routine may improve gut health and that working out may increase the diversity of species in your gut, a top marker of good gut health!

You don’t have to run five miles a day or lift heavy weights. Something as simple as walking for 30 minutes each day can have a huge impact. The federal Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week.

7. You smoke.

It’s no secret that smoking cigarettes significantly increases your risk of cancer and affects the health of your heart and lungs, but it also damages your gut microbiome. Research has shown that smoking alters the gut flora in the exact way we don’t want: by increasing the potentially harmful species and decreasing the helpful ones.

A word from Dr. G

We’re not trying to make you feel bad about your habits here. We want everyone to live life happily, have fun, and let loose every so often — your mood can affect your gut, after all.

But we want to open your mind up to the potential damage you could inflict on your microbiome without even knowing it. The key to good gut health is finding routines and rhythms that work for you. Experiment with sleeping patterns, recipes, workout classes, stress-reducing techniques to create long-lasting healthy habits!

Editor’s note: This post has been updated for relevancy. Its first publish date was September 27, 2019.

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