5 Things to Remove to Improve Your Gut Microbiome
Last week I talked about why your gut microbiome (the bacteria that live in your gut) is so important. If you missed it, check it out here. There’s a lot of talk about the microbiome at the moment as well, so hopefully you’re now convinced that it is important. However, you’re probably wondering what on earth you do about it.
Well, there are 2 parts to balancing your gut and creating a healthy microbiome. First, you’ve got to reduce overgrowth of the bad bacteria (I.e. reduce the dysbiosis in your gut). Second, you’ve got to increase the good bacteria and improve the quality of your gut microbiome. Think of your gut like a garden..when it’s overgrown (in dysbiosis), you’ve got weeds all over the place and they’re stopping all your nice flowers from growing. To fix it, you’d first prune back all of the weeds (the bad bacteria) and then work on planting new flowers and feeding them so they grow nice and healthily (the good bacteria).
In this post, we’re going to talk about the first part - reducing the overgrowth of the bad bacteria. You’ll discover 5 things that you can remove from your diet or lifestyle to reduce any harm to your gut microbiome. They’re concrete things that you can start on straight away!
5 WAYS TO REDUCE GUT DYSBIOSIS
1. LIMIT THE AMOUNT OF NSAIDS YOU’RE TAKING
NSAIDs stand for Non-steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs, and they are things like ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen. So many of us take these all the time, pretty carelessly, without realizing they’re doing us any harm. I have always suffered from pretty bad headaches and migraines, and used to pop ibuprofen and aspirin all the time, without a second thought. I now realize that’s one of the things that lead to my gut becoming very unhappy. This is because, when you use NSAIDs for more than a few days in a row, or you use them consistently over time, they can significantly affect your microbiome.
I know it’s hard when you’re in pain to think about your gut, and not to take the pills (this is coming from someone who gets very painful headaches), but think twice next time. Do you really need the ibuprofen? Could you look at a more natural way of reducing pain, or could you just wait it out? I’m not saying that NSAIDs should never be taken, but try to be conscious of how much your taking them and think about whether you really need to. I used to take NSAIDs every time I had a headache, which was a lot, and now I VERY rarely take them (only if a headache pops up when I have something major on, like an interview) and I’ve noticed that my pain normally goes away by itself, it just takes a little bit longer. My gut is definitely thanking me for it though.
2. REDUCE ANTIBIOTICS WHERE POSSIBLE
On a similar note, antibiotics can have a huge impact on your gut microbiome. Even one round can cause significant damage. Antibiotics are great in that they kill harmful bacteria in our body, to rid us of illness. However, when they kill the harmful bacteria, they also kill the good bacteria living in our gut. This throws our gut off balance and can have long lasting effects. In fact, people who consistently take antibiotics are at a higher risk for developing IBS, if they don’t have it already. A few years ago, I had a lot of UTIs, one after the other, and I was prescribed one course after the other of antibiotics. I took them all, just wanting my UTIs to go away. I then started to notice my IBS symptoms had gotten significantly worse, but never connected the two until I learned about the effects of antibiotics much later on.
Now, obviously antibiotics are very much needed sometimes. However, they are very often over-prescribed and not really necessary. Have you even been given a round of antibiotics by your doctor ‘just in case,’ without any real evidence that you need it? Probably. In a lot of cases, your body will heal itself without antibiotics or there are more natural alternatives. Like I said with the NSAIDs, just be conscious of this, think about whether you really need antibiotics and only take them if you do. If you’re in a situation where there is no other option and you need to take them, make sure you take a good probiotic as well. This is will help to add good bacteria back into your gut, to replace the ones the antibiotics are killing.
3. STOP USING HARSH ANTIBACTERIALS
We’ve got to a point where we are so concerned about bad bacteria, that we use lots of harsh antibacterial soaps, cleansers and cleaning products. Who’s got anti-bac gel in their bag right now?! The problem with this harsh antibacterial products is that they kill all bacteria, not just the bad stuff. What this does is get rid of any healthy bacteria on our skin/surfaces, that would actually beneficial if they got into our system.
So, don’t go so crazy on the anti-bac! Wash your hands with plain soap and water, look for more natural cleaning and beauty products or find a workshop near you and learn how to make your own. You’ll still be cleaning, but won’t be killing all of that good bacteria that your gut needs.
4. EAT LESS MEAT, AND KEEP IT ORGANIC
The bacteria that flourish on a high meat diet are ‘bad’ bacteria that also lead to inflammation in your body. So, try to cut down on your meat intake, and have it as a side dish a few nights a week, rather than the main meal every night. You don’t have to become a vegetarian to have a healthy gut, you just need to make small changes like this to reduce the amount you’re eating.
On top of this, when you are eating meat, try to go organic and ethically grown if you can. Non-organic meat contains lots of nasty things like antibiotics and hormones, so when you eat it, you eat those things too…and we just talked about the damaging effects antibiotics can have on your gut. Organic meat is more expensive, yes, but it is worth it. The price of it might even help you cut down the amount you’re eating! Even if you can’t buy it very often, it’s much better to have meat less often, but to have good quality meat when you do.
5. AVOID ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS
They may not have calories, but they are not good for you and won’t help you maintain a healthy weight! They actually cause your blood sugar and your insulin to spike, which puts you at risk for insulin resistance and weight gain. This is probably the opposite of the reason you’re using artificial sweeteners in the first place! Our bodies are programmed to associate sweetness with lots of calories, so they become full quickly when eating sweet foods. Eating sweeteners with no calories teaches our bodies to break that connection, so we stay hungry even after eating lots of calories.
Try swapping to natural sugar alternatives. You can try Stevia or Lakanto, which are also calorie free but don’t cause these effects, or something like maple syrup or honey.
Creating a healthy gut microbiome has 2 parts to it - removing things that cause a dysbiosis and then adding things in to boost your good gut bacteria.
5 ways to reduce gut dysbiosis:
Limit the amount of NSAIDs you’re taking
Reduce antibiotics where possible
Stop using harsh antibacterials
Eat less meat, and keep it organic
Avoid Artificial Sweeteners
Which one of these are you going to try and cut back on? Let me know in the comments below.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and I hope it’s helped you on your journey to taking control of your gut, eating well and living your life.