So, you take a probiotic, eat your yogurt, and get enough fiber… so why are you still experiencing gut health issues? More and more research is starting to show that our gut health controls much more than our digestive system. In fact, gut health has been linked to everything from heart health to even our mental health! So if you feel that you’re doing everything “correctly” but you’re still experiencing discomfort, what gives? You could be making these common gut health mistakes. Keep reading for some common gut health mistakes and what you can do to resolve them.
This is perhaps the easiest gut health mistake to correct. Sometimes we get so caught up in gut-healthy foods that we forget about what to drink! So don’t get hung up on fancy kombuchas or additives — just regular H2O is fine. Not drinking enough water will make you more susceptible to stomach cramps, bloating, and a multitude of other stomach issues. It’s also important to keep your water intake in mind if you’re increasing your fiber intake. Not drinking enough will usually leave you feeling bloating and gassy.
Research has shown that a common cause of bloating is eating too quickly. This is another common habit that Dr. Sonpal says can lead to feeling bloated. “It’s often something many of us do when we’re eating while working at our desks,” he says. “Eating too fast can cause acid reflux and, in addition, not allow your body to signal to your brain that it is full.” Eating slower and chewing food completely before swallowing makes it easier to digest—and will minimize bloating and other digestive discomforts.
Sure, we don’t want to consume a ton of sugary products — it can kill the good bacteria in our gut! But sugar-free products aren’t great either. Sugar alcohols bring fluid into our digestive tract through osmosis, which results in gas, bloating, and diarrhea. In fact, the American Diabetes Association has reported that these sugar alcohol may act as a laxative, in as little as 10 grams! And it’s not just present in traditional sweets — these sugar alcohols are present in low-calorie foods, baked goods, multivitamins, and more. Check the nutrition labels for the words “sugar alcohols”. They’re usually found in the subcategory of carbohydrates. If you’re sensitive to sugar alcohols or artificial sweeteners, opt for stevia, honey, or dates.
We all love that morning cup of coffee and there’s nothing wrong with that! But keeping your mug full throughout the day isn’t helping your gut. Caffeine is a stimulant that increases gut mobility, meaning your muscles are contracting to propel contents into your gastrointestinal tract. Overactive gut mobility can lead to loose stools, diarrhea, and dehydration. In addition to the jitteriness and anxiety that accompanies too much caffeine, stress and anxiety can also exacerbate gastrointestinal conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Everything in moderation!
So how much caffeine is too much? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends only allowing yourself 400 milligrams of caffeine a day, but there’s a wide variation in sensitivity and how different bodies metabolize caffeine. Listen to your body — if you feel wonky and bloated after that second cup of coffee, you may want to switch to something else.
We’ve all heard that yogurt is rich in probiotics. Unfortunately, most yogurts have little to no bacteria and are loaded with sugar — sometimes even more than a can of soda! In addition to the high sugar content and little-to-no probiotic presence, many milk products can further inflame the gut if you are lactose intolerant. Check the ingredient list on your favorite yogurt and keep an eye out for any added ingredients, like artificial flavors, dyes, stabilizers, and preservatives. As a general rule, you’ll want to choose a yogurt with very few ingredients (milk, bacterial cultures, and not much else).
If you don’t notice any gastrointestinal discomfort or side effects when you eat dairy, then you’re probably fine! However, if indulging in a gorgeous cheese board leaves you feeling less-than-stellar, you may want to keep reading.
Lactose intolerance affects between 30 to 50 million Americans, and many more don’t even realize that they’re lactose intolerant! If consuming dairy causes gastrointestinal discomfort, it’s because you may lack the proper enzyme to digest lactose, a type of sugar that occurs naturally in milk. Signs of this common intolerance include stomach bloating and pain, gas, nausea, and diarrhea after consuming dairy products.
Raw veggies can provide a ton of nutrients but for those of us with digestive issues, it can be counterproductive. As our bodies produce enzymes to digest our food, too many raw vegetables can leave us working too hard to digest them. In fact, many people do not produce the enzymes needed to digest these vegetables. And when the body can’t absorb the nutrients from the food, why subject yourself to raw vegetables at all!? In all seriousness, when our bodies work too hard to digest something, it can cause an inflammatory reaction. Instead, lightly cook your vegetables in a heart-healthy oil when you can.
If you’re experiencing more bloating than usual, don’t freak out and order a ton of probiotics or overhaul your entire diet. Bloating is caused by a multitude of things, but if you’re experiencing it on a regular basis, you may want to schedule an appointment with your doctor and/or opt for a food allergy test. It also helps to keep a food journal leading up to your appointment, so you can easily pinpoint the foods that may be the cause.
Related Article: Now that we’ve covered gut health mistakes, are you one of the many that struggle with getting a good night’s sleep? Many different things can cause a poor night’s sleep. But did you know that gut health is closely associated with lack of sleep? You may be wondering how these two conditions can be associated. Let’s look at how gut health and sleep are closely connected.