More recent research has shown that changes in physical activity can impact how to start healing your gut
Most of your patients are already aware of the importance of gut health. They likely already have some knowledge of how to start healing your gut and which types of foods, such as yogurt, that can help improve gut health.
Some of your patients may even be taking a daily probiotic. However, they may not be aware of some ways in which they may be unwittingly undermining their own gut health. Let’s take a look at some of the common ways in which the gut biome can become unbalanced, as well as what your patients can do to get it back on track.
Prolonged antibiotic use
Although the use of antibiotics is not a lifestyle habit, in and of itself, prolonged use can make it more difficult to recover from infections or restore normal gut function, both of which can have a detrimental effect on overall patient wellness.
There’s no question that antibiotics are vital to fight off certain pathogens. Unfortunately, they have now become such a mainstay of traditional medicine that many bacteria, such as those associated with the common cold, have now mutated to become resistant. Additionally, antibiotics do not discriminate between “good” and “bad” bacteria in the gut, so may result in a reduction of the former that could last as long as four weeks.
In fact, the American College of Physicians released a new set of best practices last year, recommending that doctors use short-term antibiotics (no more than five days) as much as possible, particularly for patients with a history of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or bronchitis.1 If possible, your patients should ask for a shorter course of antibiotics and try to increase their intake of foods high in good gut bacteria.
Lack of regular physical activity
There’s an abundance of research showing the effects of physical activity on weight, metabolism and cardiovascular health, among other wellness metrics. Interestingly, more recent research has shown that changes in physical activity can impact how to start healing your gut.
An article published in the journal Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity provided an overview of current research suggesting that the gut biome may actually work in a manner similar to an endocrine organ, such that it changes according to physiological state.2
In other words, less physical activity could negatively affect the gut biome, leading to chronic health issues, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
Lack of sleep
Sleep deprivation can adversely affect the gut biome in a manner similar to lack of exercise.
A small 2016 study in the journal Molecular Metabolism examined the effect of short-term sleep deprivation on the composition of the gut biome.3 For this study, researchers compared changes in gut flora of nine healthy males after two nights of sleep deprivation (approximately 4 hours each night) versus two nights of standard sleep (approximately 8.5 hours each night). The nights during which the study subjects were sleep deprived produced subtle changes in their gut biome. The researchers did note that future studies were needed, using subjects with metabolic health issues.
Increased stress levels
If you have ever had a queasy feeling in your stomach when you are under a great amount of stress, that feeling is not just in your head.
Recent research has shown that psychological stress can have the same effect on gut biome as physical stress by reducing blood flow and making the digestive system more sensitive. A 2008 article published in Biological Psychology studied the changes in gut bacteria among a group of 23 college students at the beginning and the end of a semester, during final exams.4 The students’ gut biomes became less favorable toward the end of the semester, as their final exams drew closer. Notably, there were reduced levels of the “good” Lactobacilli bacteria. Additionally, the students all rated themselves as experiencing higher stress levels toward the end of the school semester.
How to start healing your gut for patients
As noted previously, the gut biome is carefully balanced to keep the body working at peak performance. If a person gets sick or injured, the gut biome will acutely change in response. At the same time, poor lifestyle habits can also affect the gut biome over a longer period of time. When discussing how to start healing your gut for patients, cover both good and bad gut-wellness habits so that they will avoid chronic health issues in the future, as well as recover more easily from acute injury or illness.
- Lee RA, Centor RM, Humphrey LL, et al. Appropriate use of short-course antibiotics in common infections: Best practice advice from the American College of Physicians. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2021 Jun;174(6):822-827.
- Monda V, Villano I, Messina A, et al. Exercise modifies the gut microbiota with positive health effects. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. 2017;2017:3831972.
- Benedict C, Vogel H, Jonas W, et al. Gut microbiota and glucometabolic alterations in response to recurrent partial sleep deprivation in normal-weight young individuals. Molecular Metabolism. 2016;5(12):1175-1186.
- Knowles SR, Nelson EA, Palombo EA. Investigating the role of perceived stress on bacterial flora activity and salivary cortisol secretion: A possible mechanism underlying susceptibility to illness. Biological Psychology. 2008;77(2):132-137.