Not drinking enough water

Dehydration is all around bad for your brain and body: it can cause dizziness, headaches, poor decision making and even kidney problems if left untreated. However, what you might not know is that drinking enough water is also essential for your gut health, as it’s adequate hydration that regulates bowel movements and aids digestion. Without it, you could experience bloating, inflammation and a less diverse gut microbiome.

Avoiding probiotics

The importance of probiotics cannot be overstated. Probiotic foods contain strains of living good bacteria that can breed and thrive in your gut, and a diverse gut microbiome is essential to feeling healthy and energised throughout the day. Probiotic foods that are easy to integrate into your diet include yoghurt, kimchi, kefir and tempeh, but you could also take a probiotic supplement to help kickstart things.

Not varying your diet enough

Your gut microbiome is an incredibly complex mini-ecosystem, which can vary from day to day based on how much you sleep, your stress levels, and most of all, your diet. Certain strains of good bacteria will only grow and thrive if you eat certain foods, and a varied microbiome is a happy microbiome, so mixing up your diet is crucial to keeping your gut in good nick.

Avoiding prebiotics

Just as probiotics help to increase the abundance of good bacteria in your gut by introducing new living strains, prebiotics create the ideal conditions for those bacteria to thrive, by giving them plenty of short-chain fatty acids like butyrate, acetate, and propionate to feed on. Good sources of prebiotics include garlic, onions, leeks and asparagus, so you might want to make some soup!

Consuming too many artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are fine in moderation, but if you’re a frequent enjoyer of diet sodas and sweets, it might be worth thinking about what that’s doing to your gut health. Some studies have shown a link between aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin intake and a less balanced and diverse gut microbiome, which could lead to inflammation, digestive discomfort, bloating and poor nutrient absorption.

Not sleeping properly

Your gut health isn’t just affected by what you put into your body, it’s also dependent on your wider lifestyle. If you spend most nights struggling to fall asleep or have a habit of powering through deadlines into the early hours, then you may have noticed symptoms like acid reflux, irritation or fatigue. These are all signs of a gut biome that’s out of sync and overworked.

Drinking too much alcohol

Everyone knows that drinking alcohol in high enough quantities has a whole host of negative consequences, from vomiting and headaches to liver damage and high blood pressure. With that said, drinking alcohol can also lead to an imbalance in the gut bacteria known as dysbiosis, which can have a knock-on effect on your stomach and intestinal health.

Getting too few polyphenols

Polyphenols are a substance that you’ve probably never heard of, but that can have a big impact on your overall health. These plant compounds are difficult to break down through most of the digestive process, so they are eventually processed by gut bacteria, improving the gut microbiome along the way. They have been linked to reduced blood pressure and improved cholesterol, and can be found in red wine and dark chocolate.

Not eating enough fibre

Getting enough dietary fibre is absolutely central to good gut health, but a staggering number of people aren’t consuming the correct amount. Not only does fibre help maintain the diversity of good gut microbes, but it also aids digestion and helps with nutrient absorption, reducing pain and bloating along the way. Good sources of dietary fibre include whole grains, chickpeas, veggies and nuts.

Exercising too little

No matter what your health goals are, some form of physical activity is likely to be helpful. However, what’s surprising is how crucial moving your body is to your gut health. People who exercise regularly have more butyrate-producing bacteria in their gut microbiome, more diverse gut flora and twice the number of bacterial families, all of which means a happier gut overall.