5 Surprising Things That Influence Your Gut Health

Your gut is responsible for helping your body break down food and eliminate waste, but at the end of the day, a healthy gut is about a lot more than comfortable digestion–it impacts the wellbeing of your brain, skin, immune system, and nearly every other part of your body.

Why does your gut have such a large impact on your overall health and wellness? It’s all thanks to the trillions of bacteria that reside there. Collectively, these bacteria make up what is commonly referred to as the gut microbiome, and they are largely responsible for a number of important bodily functions. These beneficial bacteria have the capability to affect the way your body absorbs vitamins and minerals, digests food, regulates hormones, activates its immune response, gets rid of toxins and so much more.

When it comes to keeping your gut microbiome healthy, it’s important to focus on a balance of richness and diversity. In other words, you are striving for a large community of diverse bacteria. Maintaining this balance is the key to living a vibrant and healthy life.

You likely already know that the foods you eat and the supplements you choose to take can impact your gut health, but those aren’t the only factors at play. There are a number of things that can impact the balance of bacteria in your gut microbiome, and some of them may surprise you.

1.  Your Environment

Your body isn’t the only place that bacteria and other microorganisms reside–the ecosystems around your house just as many, if not more, microscopic organisms. The dirt under your feet, the plants in your garden, and the air you breathe all have their own unique microbiome just like your gut does, and your interactions with each of these different ecosystems can directly influence the composition of your gut microbiome.

For example, something as simple as the area you live in can impact the diversity of bacteria in your gut. Recent research has found that living somewhere that provides you with more direct exposure to nature, such as in a rural area or a suburb with diverse yard vegetation, is associated with having a healthier, more diverse gut microbiome. In addition to that, factors like the pollution in the air, the number or people you live with, the amount of space you have, and the number of pets you have in your home can all influence the composition of bacteria in your gut.

2.  Your Stress Levels

Your gut and your brain are intimately connected. In fact, there is a channel in your body, known as the gut-brain axis, that has the sole purpose of allowing your gut and brain to communicate with each other. Furthermore, the gut has also been called the body’s “second brain” because it is home to your body’s enteric nervous system, which helps control local blood flow and motor functions and helps regulate both immune and endocrine functions.

This intimate connection between your gut and brain means that feelings of stress and overwhelm impact more than just our mood and cognitive functions–these feelings also impact our gut. Recent studies suggest that psychological stress can alter the composition of bacteria in your gut microbiome. While even short periods of stress can harm colonies of good bacteria and cause an increase in bad gut bacteria, prolonged stress has a more lasting impact–it also decreases the variety of good gut microbes.

3.  Your Sleep Schedule

Remember how we said that your gut is sometimes referred to as your second brain? Well, just like your brain, your gut works off a circadian rhythm, which simply means it works off of a 24-hour cycle that it has created based on your sleep and wake periods. In fact, research has found that both the activity and composition of bacteria in your gut changes based on whether you are awake or asleep. This suggests that your sleep habits play an important role in maintaining a healthy gut. On top of that, lack of sleep is known to both increase stress and affect your diet choices, which can ultimately affect the microbes in your gut.

4.  Your Travel Plans

Now that you know more about how your environment, stress levels, and sleep schedule can impact your gut health, it may not come as a surprise to learn that traveling can also affect your gut. By nature, traveling involves spending time in a new environment. Plus, it also often comes with additional stress and a change to your sleep schedule, not to mention the fact that you’ll also be indulging in different cuisines. As you can imagine, all of these changes can quickly add up to alter your gut microbiome, and research backs this up. For example, one study found that people tend to pick up a variety of both good and bad microbes while they are on vacation.

5.  Your Activity Level

Exercise does a lot for your body. It increases your heart rate, pushes more oxygen through your bloodstream, raises your core body temperature, and redistributes blood flow. What’s more? Exercise can also help the bacteria in your gut microbiome flourish. While the exact reasons for this are still unknown, many researchers suspect that all the other changes in your body that happen during a workout play a role in creating the perfect environment for your gut microbes to not only survive but thrive. This has been proven by a number of different studies. For example, one study found that regular exercise can help increase the levels of health-promoting bacteria in your gut, but once that exercise routine stops, the composition of the gut microbiome goes back to looking like it did before they began working out regularly.  

The bottom line, your gut is always active and reacting to the decisions you make every day, whether you realize it or not. There is good news, though–supporting your gut doesn’t have to be difficult or complex. Simple daily habits add up to have a big impact on your gut health and we are here to help you implement them with our 30-Day Gut Reboot. This month-long challenge was designed to help you create sustainable daily habits to support a healthy gut and a healthy you. So go ahead, take the first step toward gut health by joining the challenge today

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