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Common lifestyle choices throwing off good intestinal flora and how you can combat them
How to combat common lifestyle choices affecting our intestinal flora
Gut health extends further than just healthy gastrointestinal function or digestive system health. Your immune system starts in your gut. Your immune system must learn to adapt to a new and changing gut bacteria and microbiome, and in turn the gut microbiome needs to learn how to function optimally 2. A diverse and plentiful gut microbiome is understood to support your immune system 1,2,3.
Gut microbiome is the term used to describe all the trillions of microorganisms living in our gastrointestinal tract. This includes mostly intestinal bacteria (both good and bad) 4. You will likely see the words gut microbiome, flora, microbiota or microbes used interchangeably. These microorganisms naturally play a key role in a healthy digestion, but it is now understood that a healthy gut microbiome helps to support the immune system, and general health and wellbeing.
Gut dysbiosis is the alteration in your gut flora that results in decreased good bacteria and microbiome diversity, and has been linked to symptoms of abdominal bloating, intestinal gas and challenged bowel regularity.
Many lifestyle factors lead to gut dysbiosis including stress, illness, being overweight, inadequate exercise, poor sleep and having a poor diet 1.
A diet high in plant foods and fibre helps increase the diversity in your gut microbiome 6. Similarly, a diet high in energy dense but nutrient poor processed foods can decrease microbe diversity and compromise your gut. Weaker gut mucosa bacterial adherence means it is easier for bacteria to escape the gut into the bloodstream, which then may trigger an immune response 1,3.
Overcoming lifestyle factors of stress levels, poor sleep and physical inactivity will contribute to restoring gut health 1,3,6. Aiming to lose weight, if you are carrying excess weight, will help – along with consuming a healthy diet which includes plenty of fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, nuts and seeds – foods rich in fibre which help to fuel to production of good bacteria in your gut 6. Hydration is also important, and aiming for 2L or more of water per day aids to keep your digestive system moving. Probiotics are the living good bacteria that reside in the intestine, aid healthy digestion and help keep the gut healthy. A probiotic supplement is beneficial for helping to restore digestive balance and supporting relief of gut health symptoms such as abdominal bloating and intestinal gas7,8,9.
Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional.
1. Shreiner, A,B, Kao, J, Y, Young, V, B, 2016. The gut microbiome in health and in disease, Current Opinion in Gastroenterology. Vol 31 (1) pg 69-75
2. Thurnsby, E and Juge, N, 2017. Introduction to the human gut microbiota, Biochemical Journal. Vol 474 (11) pg1823-1836
3. Manley, G, Lee, Y and Zhang Y, 2020. Chapter 4 – Gut microbiota and immunology of the gastrointestinal tract. Clinical and Basic Neurogastroenterology and Motility. Academic Press 2020
4. Cresci, G & Izzo, K, 2018 Chapter 4: Gut Microbiome “Adult Short Bowel Syndrome Nutritional, Medical and Surgical Management”, American Press
5. Trakada et al 2007. Sleep Apnea and its associations with the stress system, inflammation, insulin resistance and visceral obesity, Sleep Medicine Clinics, Vol 2 (2) pg 251-261
6. Valdes et al 2018. Role of the gut microbiome in nutrition and health, BMJ, Vol 361 pg 2179
7. Ducrotté P, Sawant P, Jayanthi V. 2012. Clinical trial: Lactobacillus plantarum 299v (DSM 9843) improves symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. World J Gastroenterol. 2012; Vol18 pg4012–4018
8. Guglielmetti S, Mora D, Gschwender M, Popp K. 2011. Randomised clinical trial: Bifidobacterium bifidumMIMBb75 significantly alleviates irritable bowel syndrome and improves quality of life – a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2011; Vol 33 pg1123–1132
9. Whorwell PJ, et al. 2006. Efficacy of an encapsulated probiotic Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 in women with irritable bowel syndrome. Am J Gastroenterol. 2006; Vol 101 pg1581–1590