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5 things that are ruining your gut health

These five things could be ruining your gut health and they don't have anything to do with what you're eating.

5 things that are ruining your gut health

Staying healthy can be a challenge in the modern world. Our bodies have a natural ability to get rid of harmful substances through the liver, kidneys, gastrointestinal tract (stomach and bowel) and the skin. However, modern lifestyles expose us to a lot of toxins, through food (additives, preservatives, processed and junk foods), drink (alcohol, soft drinks), cigarettes, recreational drugs, medicines, environmental pollutants, cleaning products, make-up and more. This abundance of toxins in our modern lives can place stress on our bodies.

To fight these toxins, our immune system needs to be working efficiently. About 70 per cent of the immune system is located in the gut, as this is where protection is needed most from the onslaught of daily toxins. Food and water are the most common sources of toxic invasion.

When immunity is down and inflammation is up, it’s harder for our bodies to respond to toxic parasites. And when there is damage to the gut, there is more strain on the liver.

Good gut health can address many symptoms, underlying causes and inflammatory processes of illness. Improving digestion also reduces reactivity to foods that can impact health and wellbeing.

Conditions associated with poor gut health:

  • Bloating can be caused by weak digestion, lack of digestive juices, parasites, fungus, food intolerances, fluid retention, small intestine bacterial overgrowth, gas and cancer.
  • Irritable bowel can result in a range of symptoms, including cramping, bloating and constipation alternating with diarrhoea and gas. This can be caused by stress, food intolerances, a poor diet and lack of nutrients, e.g. magnesium.
  • Leaky Gut is a common condition that people often don’t know they have. Over time, the gut lining can become disrupted from constant irritation, allowing bacteria, toxins and food to leak into the bloodstream via the cells of the gut lining. This can lead to food intolerances, candida, parasites, fatty acid and mineral deficiencies and overall gut inflammation.

Other conditions associated with poor gut health include appendicitis, candida, colitis, constipation, diarrhoea, fissures, flatulence, hypoglycaemia, reflux, ulcers, insulin resistance and weight gain.

While there are foods to avoid and include for better gut health and improved vitality, there are also external factors that can influence our gut health that have nothing to do with the food we eat.


Antibiotics can cause havoc in the gut as they kill off the good, as well as the bad bacteria. When we have good bacteria there is a 40 per cent increase in mineral uptake from the diet. After a course of antibiotics, it may take six months of probiotic supplements to return to the same state of good gut bacteria.


Stress in small  bursts can help boost the immune system, allowing your body to produce the antibodies and hormones needed to fight infection and promote cellular growth and repair. When the stress continues, your immune system can suffer. Aside from slowing your body’s ability to heal, stress can also aggravate skin conditions like eczema, hives and psoriasis.

Never ending stress can have terrible effects on your digestive system. From indigestion, nausea and gas to diarrhoea and constipation, you can begin to feel very real and very uncomfortable symptoms.

Long-term effects can also heighten your risk of developing irritable bowel syndrome, heartburn and stomach ulcers.

According to Neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter: “We have two ways of absorbing nutrients from the gut into the systemic circulation. Through the cell, which is called transcellular, and between the gut lining cells, which are called paracellular,” Perlmutter says. “The gut lining cells are kept tightly together by what’s called the tight junction. But we now understand that a variety of factors, like stress, infection, drugs, toxins, gliadin and even AGEs, which are proteins bound by sugar, can ultimately lead to destruction of that tight junction. And that leads to separation of these cells and that makes the gut leaky. We then have the ability for various proteins to gain entrance into the systemic circulation and when they do so, they stimulate various immune system cells and that leads to inflammation.”


A new study published in Science Advances has shed some light on what these close friendships are really doing for the gut health of chimpanzees.

The study looked into the microbiome system  – basically the ecosystem of bacteria, fungi and archaea that live on our skin, within our mouths and in our gastrointestinal tract. Like an ecosystem in the wild, your microbiome is at its healthiest when there are a variety of ‘species’ present within it.

“The more diverse people’s microbiomes are, the more resistant they seem to be to opportunistic infections,” said Andrew Moeller, research fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, who co-authored the study.

“One of the main reasons that we started studying the microbiomes of chimpanzees was that it allowed us to do studies that have not or cannot be done in humans,” said study co-author Howard Ochman of the University of Texas at Austin. “It’s really an amazing and previously underexploited resource.”


Medications like Ibuprofens, whilst coined as anti-inflammatory, can actually reek havoc on your gut health, causing inflammatory responses in the gut and a higher likelihood of developing stomach ulcers.

There is growing evidence that shows the use of anti-inflammatory drugs should be avoided for 48 hours after an injury, due to their interference in the critical healing process.

Studies show that ibuprofen can slow down the healing process when it is at its peak in the two days following a soft tissue injury. Clinicians suggest the use of paracetamol instead, as the initial pain relief, to allow the body to heal naturally. Both paracetamol and codeine are shown not to have any effect on the body’s natural healing processes.

More about ibuprofen here.

Spending too much time indoors

“Shinrin Yoku” or “Forest Bathing” is defined as the ability to take in the forest atmosphere. Developed in Japan in the 1980’s, the natural form of therapy calls for a return to nature to improve mental health.

The idea is that “forest bathing” can have a huge amount of emotional and physical benefits and works by inducing a form of mindfulness much like meditation.

According to those who initiated the practice, nature helps to calm the nervous system, promote positivity and also aids in lowering blood pressure and increasing mindfulness.

“Research tells us that spending time in anything to do with nature – forests, the sea, wildlife – restores us, and can help us to effectively manage stress. Studies show that even having an indoor plant or pictures of nature on the wall makes a difference to our wellbeing. One even found that people at a nursing home lived longer [when they were given a plant to care for],” says psychologist Sarah-Jayne Whiston.

In a study conducted by Yoshifumi Miyazaki, director of the Center for Environment Health and Field Sciences at Chiba University, those who were exposed to nature for just 20 minutes a day, reported a 13.4 per cent drop in salivary cortisol – our stress hormone.


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