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Poor Habits That Harm Your Gut Bacteria

By Chelsea Dolan

Medically Reviewed by Patty Weasler, RN

The digestive system contains trillions of bacteria that are both good and bad. Collectively they are called gut microbiota and it’s something that has a direct role in your overall well-being. In fact, your daily habits contribute directly to the quality of your gut health.

Something you do every day could be harmful and give bad bacteria a chance to thrive at the expense of your health. Here are some poor habits you should kick to the curb if you want to take care of your gut bacteria.

Why Gut Health Is Important

Your gut contains tons of bacteria that can help indicate the status of your health. WebMD says your gut bacteria is directly linked to your probability of being diagnosed with certain conditions.

If you have too much bad bacteria, then you lack good bacteria that could protect you against some ailments. Some conditions scientists have linked between the bacteria in your gut include:

The good bacteria help keep the bad bacteria in check. But certain lifestyle choices can result in an unhealthy balance. Let’s take a look at these poor habits next.

Lack of Exercise

The amount of exercise you get can impact your gut bacteria. A study published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine found that exercise enriched the diversity of gut microflora. The diversity helps maintain a healthier intestinal environment. This could contribute to weight loss, reduce the incidence of metabolic diseases, help protect against colon cancer, and more.

Without exercise, you could be missing out on these health benefits. Decreased diversity is linked to health conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and obesity-associated inflammatory characteristics.

Not Drinking Enough Water

Our bodies are made up of 60-percent water, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that water intake also has an impact on our gut health.

When you’re drinking lots of water throughout the day, there is a balance of good bacteria in the gut. An article on Healthline says there is also a beneficial effect on the mucosal lining of the intestines. Keep a bottle of water with you throughout the day to ensure you’re getting a good intake.

Consuming a High Sugar Diet

Something that can determine good or bad gut health is how much sugar you’re eating. The body loses good gut bacteria when you eat too much processed foods and added sugars. That’s because the liver and stomach are not designed to process many of the chemicals that make up these foods.

Be on the lookout for the signs that indicate you’re eating too much sugar such as low mood, sleeping problems, and intense sugar cravings. Experts suggest cutting out as much excess sugar and processed foods as you can from your diet.

Not Getting Enough Sleep

If you’re not getting enough sleep each night, it might be time to start making that a priority. Healthline explains that short-term sleep deprivation can interrupt the circadian rhythm. This can negatively affect gut bacteria.

Scientists found that a lack of sleep leads to an abundance of bacteria linked to weight gain, type 2 diabetes, fat metabolism, and obesity. Check out these tips for a better night’s sleep!

Not Eating a Diverse Range of Foods

Another diet faux-pas you could be making is not eating a diverse range of foods. Your meals should include a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains every day. These foods provide nutrients and help different types of bacteria grow.

Healthline says that a lack of diversity in your diet can alter your gut flora profile after just a few days. Western diets are especially lacking diversity since 75-percent of the world’s food supply comes from only 12 plants and five animal species.

Signs of Poor Gut Health

If any of these habits are part of your daily lifestyle, there’s a chance your gut health isn’t at its best. You might even be experiencing some uncomfortable side effects. Here are some common signs that your gut bacteria are unhealthy, according to Everyday Health:

  • Stomach discomfort
  • Fatigue
  • Unintentional weight changes
  • Skin irritation such as acne, psoriasis, or eczema
  • Allergies
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Mood issues
  • Migraines

Talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing these symptoms. They can help you come up with a health plan to improve your well-being and suggest ways to get your gut health back on track.


Patty is a freelance health writer and nurse (BSN, CCRN). She has worked as a critical care nurse for over 10 years and loves educating people about their health. When she's not working, Patty enjoys any outdoor activity that she can do with her husband and three kids.

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