Constant stomach issues may have more to do with your gut health than you believe. If the microorganisms that live inside your digestive system are not doing what they are supposed to, you could be spending more time in the bathroom than you’d like. Read on to find out about your gut health and the five simple steps to ensuring it is healthy.
External and internal factors, believe it or not, have an impact on your gut health. Some illnesses, such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and celiac disease, can be passed down through families. Medication, stress, and, yes, your diet can all have an impact on the bacteria in your system.
Taking care of your digestive system requires that you pay attention to the signs of an unhealthy gut microorganism balance, also referred to as gut dysbiosis. These signs can be frequent upset stomachs, fatigue, cravings- especially sugar, and even food intolerances. Don’t fret though, there are five simple steps to get your gut health back in balance!
Probiotic supplements help to replace the good bacteria and yeasts in your digestive system. Taken regularly, you should see the symptoms of an unhealthy gut diminish. There are several forms of probiotics including prescription pills, over-the-counter pills, and some yogurts and smoothies. Read the labels of over the counter and food-based probiotic supplements to determine which has the highest number of bacteria per serving. Aim for 5 to 10 billion colony-forming units (CFU) per day.
Stress really places a physical load on the body. Gastrointestinal function is particularly influenced by stress. High-stress situations can cause issues like diarrhea, acid reflux, and even constipation. Nausea and vomiting are frequent side effects of stress as well. The simple solution is to take time for yourself and figure out how to manage your stress more effectively.
Managing stress can be done by implementing meditation time, time away from screens, deep breathing, yoga, and avoiding triggers if possible. If these do not help, may be able to advise you on other ways to reduce stress or possibly prescribe medications for chronic stress.
Exercise isn’t just for heart health and staying thin! Just 30 minutes of exercise three times a week can help reduce the side effects of an unhealthy gut. Regular activity can help constipation and get your bowels moving better. Start off slowly if you are not used to the extra work on your body. Keep up with the movement and make it fun!
Exercise doesn’t have to be running on a treadmill, lifting weights, or walking in the park. You can do a variety of fun activities like yard volleyball, walking the dog, playing with the children or grandchildren outside, dancing, or a new favorite- using the virtual reality devices for exercise routines. Find something you love to do to keep you moving!
Changing your diet can help your gut recover from the difficulties associated with eating processed foods. Change should take place slowly so that you do not shock the system. Frequently changing your diet can cause more stomach issues than sticking with one diet.
Avoid crash diets that only have you eat certain foods. A good diet consists of lean meats paired with fresh fruits and vegetables. Steamed, broiled, and pan-seared vegetables are great. Try to avoid excess oil by frying veggies or excess sugar by baking fruits.
Liquids also are an integral component of your diet. Water is best, clear liquids are a close second, but processed drinks like soda, energy drinks, and liquor should be taken in sparingly. Flavor your water with the fruits you love to enhance the taste. Drink chicken broth, hot tea with honey, and liquids you can see through to give your gut a small break.
Antibiotics are made to fight bacterial infections. However, these medications cannot distinguish between “good” and “bad” bacteria. Therefore, when you are prescribed antibiotics to treat an infection, you may experience several negative effects on your gut due to a disruption in your microbiome.
Overuse of antibiotics or the use of very strong antibiotics can result in the elimination of the gut’s good bacteria. Use antibiotics only when necessary, and do not use antibiotics for viral infections, it does not help. Ask your physician if it is necessary to take antibiotics to heal the infection and listen to your gut.
There are many gastro-related side effects from taking strong antibiotics. These can include diarrhea, upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, indigestion, acid reflux, and even yeast infections. Too many antibiotics within a small amount of time can a cause “C. diff” (Clostridioides difficile). C. diff is a very contagious infection of the intestines caused by the absence of good bacteria in the gut. If not treated right away, C diff can lead to serious medical problems for the person who has it. Treatment includes introducing probiotics, taking an antibiotic that targets the C. diff organism specifically, and isolating the patient.
Changing your diet, taking some “me time”, starting probiotics, exercising, and avoiding antibiotics can all help increase the number of good microorganisms in your gut. However, there are things beyond over-the-counter remedies that will need to be addressed by a professional.
Minor gastro issues can be solved with acid-reducing medications, changes in the environment, and even a change in the other medications that you take. Ask your physician about your symptoms to determine what might be the cause. Depending on your symptoms you may need to see a specialist- a gastroenterologist- to assess and treat your condition. As your physician for a referral to get your gut health back on track!
You can also use Atlantic Coast Gastroenterology Association‘s online search to find a GI doctor near you. The sooner you find a solution to the problem the faster you and your gut can rest easy with the balance restored.