5 Habits That Hurt Gut Health
Could your daily habits *unknowingly* be hurting your gut health?
From your morning coffee to mindless eating… today we’re honing in on some of the most common daily habits that could be hurting your gut.
Chances are, you may be guilty of one (or all!) of these sneaky little habits.
It’s possible that you’re not even aware you’re doing them!
And while seemingly harmless at first, over time they can steer our gut health in the wrong direction + contribute to a number of not-so-comfortable symptoms (more on the signs of an unhealthy gut here).
The good news: you can start breaking these habits today + with a few simple tweaks, you’ll be on the right track towards a healthier, happier gut!
Let’s dive into the 5 habits that hurt gut health:
#1 – Eating Too Often
Do you find that you graze constantly throughout the day… even when you’re not hungry? Maybe you use food as a comfort on those days that are extra stressful. Or maybe you turn to food when you’re bored. For many of us, this habit is almost unconscious + automatic… I mean, how many times have you found yourself with a snack in your hand and no idea how it got there?! 😶
But the problem with eating too often is that our digestive system never gets a break! Rather than putting energy towards repair, our gut is working all-day-long to break down + absorb nutrition from our food. Add to this that you may already experience compromised gut health in the form of low stomach acid or digestive enzymes… and we have the perfect storm. Even though our gut is trying its best, it cannot keep up with the constant workload. As a result, carbohydrates and other nutrients may not be broken down effectively in the stomach, leading to fermentation and other uncomfortable symptoms further down the line.
This is one reason why intermittent fasting is often considered beneficial on the gut healing journey. This makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, as we didn’t always have access to food… let alone 3 regular meals plus snacks on a daily basis! Fasting essentially takes a load off our digestion and sends our body into “rest and repair” mode (triggering our cells to “spring clean” through a process called autophagy) (1). Now, that’s not to say that fasting is for everyone. In fact, there are a number of situations where intermittent fasting may not be appropriate. What we would encourage is that you start by tuning into your own hunger signals and paying attention to when you truly do (and don’t!) need to eat!
#2 – Mindless Eating or Eating Too Fast
Who here’s guilty of scrolling through instagram while eating?! 🙋🏽 It’s a hard habit to break (I know!) but mindless eating is another way that we might be unknowingly hurting our gut health!
This is because our digestion doesn’t start in the stomach, but actually begins before food even enters out mouth. The act of seeing, smelling and even thinking about food sends our gut the message: food is coming. This essentially “wakes up” our digestive system which responds by increasing motility and secreting substances that prepare us to digest our meal. Similarly, as we chew our food, and enzyme in our saliva (known as amylase) gets to work on breaking down our carbohydrates. When our attention is diverted elsewhere or when we chew too fast, we essentially bypass these vital first steps of digestion.
So next time you sit down to a meal, we challenge you to step away from instagram, turn your phone on silent, and practice mindful eating! This means slowing down and fully experiencing your food by becoming aware of smell, tastes and textures of your meal. By doing so, you might be surprised at just how much more you’ll appreciate + enjoy your food, and your gut will be thanking you!
#3 – Consuming Too Much Caffeine
If you know either of us, you’ll know we love our coffee… so it pains us just as much, when we say that your coffee habit could actually be hurting your gut!
As most of us know, caffeine activates our stress response system and stimulates the release of stress hormones including adrenaline and cortisol. These stress hormones take us out of “rest and digest” mode and activate our “fight or flight” response. In this state, the body directs energy away from non-essential functions (i.e. digesting your lunch) and towards the heart and muscles in preparation for a quick getaway. Our heart rate picks up. We become more alert. But for our poor gut – this involves shutting down digestive secretions and motility temporarily (or speeding it up like crazy!). Over time, chronic stress can even contribute to dysbiosis and leaky gut (2, 3).
So what does this mean for your daily coffee habit? If you’re a coffee drinker, you’ll know that it can quickly add up. It only takes one in the morning to start your day, and a few mid-morning and afternoon pick-me-ups… and all of a sudden you’re consuming 3++ cups of coffee each day. Add this to an already stressful day, and we have a recipe for trouble! Here, we would encourage you to gauge your own stress levels and consider whether coffee (or other caffeinated beverages!) are really helping or hindering your overall health. If you suspect that you have poor gut health, eliminating or limiting caffeine for a period of time could be beneficial!
Related: Is Coffee Bad For You?
#4 – Sitting All Day
Not only is a sedentary lifestyle damaging to our joints, muscles and cardiovascular health – but it can also hurt our gut.
This is because sitting all day compresses our internal organs and can reduce intestinal motility (i.e. our food cannot pass through our digestive system as easily!). Put simply – as humans, we were not designed to sit all day! In fact, throughout our evolution we spent much of our time upright and walking or in a natural squatting position. This is in complete contrast to our current lifestyle, where many of us work a 9-5 job, sitting doubled-over at a desk for the majority of our waking hours.
So how do we combat this sitting epidemic? Unfortunately, a designated 30 minute workout probably won’t be enough to balance out a whole day of sitting. Instead, it’s important to factor movement into your entire day. This could be as simple as taking lunchtime walk, or standing up to refill your water every hour. Of course, getting in some exercise is also fantastic and one of our favourites is yoga. Not only is yoga perfect for improving mobility, posture and flexibility, but it is also a great mindfulness practice that helps ease an overstimulated nervous system (that we know can harm your gut from #3!).
#5 – Holding On To Negative Emotions
Have you ever felt an intense emotion such as fear or anxiety in your gut? If so, it may not surprise you to hear that negative emotions can have very real effects on our physical health – and our gut health is no exception!
As humans, we have the incredible gift + ability to think forwards and to recall the past. While this allows us to achieve so many amazing things, this also allows us to relive stressful situations over and over again in our mind. We need not even be in a stressful event to experience stress! Holding onto grudges, reliving negative events or even working yourself up over circumstances that you can’t change can really add to our overall stress levels and impact our gut.
So whether you’ve been holding onto anger or a grudge for too long – it’s time to purge that emotion (for good!). This might mean doing some journalling to release some thoughts… or maybe even joining a boxing class! 😉
Start Healing Your Gut, For Good!
Healing your gut is the #1 thing you can do for your physical health + wellbeing, so don’t leave it a day longer!
If you’re ready to start breaking these habits + healing your gut, be sure to download our FREE Week 1 Plan. It includes all our essential tips and tricks to start the gut healing journey, plus a detailed Meal Plan outlining breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for your first week!