One of the first things I focus on when I join someone on a new journey towards better health with Align Health Coaching is tackling their gut health.

Gut health is at the center of everything we do. It’s quite literally central to your body’s health, and it doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. Many of us live with irritating, or sometimes painful, symptoms that can be a result of poor gut health without ever realizing it. Things like gas, bloating, and inflammation can all come down to a question of managing your gut.

You might be sabotaging your gut’s well-being without knowing it, or something in your environment could be the root cause of your gut-related symptoms. Here are 6 causes of gut-related health issues.

Eating too many refined or processed foods

Because these foods don’t actually nourish your gut microbes properly, your gut isn’t able to thrive and protect the rest of your system adequately. Make sure your diet is filled primarily with whole foods, and try to eat organic when you can.

Sustained use of antibiotics or other medicine

Antibiotics deplete bacteria in your gut. Your gut contains good and bad bacteria, and antibiotics deplete both. It’s not entirely understood why, but the bad bacteria is able to recover more quickly from antibiotic use than the good bacteria. Other medicines, like corticosteroids, birth control pills, aspirin, ibuprofin, and NSAIDs, can interfere with the gut’s mucus lining. That mucus lining is where good bacteria reproduce, so if your good bacteria levels are low, your medicine intake might be to blame.

Too much stress on a regular basis

Stress and anxiety can feel hard to avoid, especially after the past year we’ve all shared collectively. Too much stress, though, can deplete the good bacteria in your gut. When those levels of good bacteria get too low, our body can spike its own cortisol production and that just makes our stress levels higher. Talk about a never-ending cycle!

Not getting enough sleep

When you sleep, your gut bacteria sleep too. That means just one night of restless tossing and turning can lower the quantity and quality of your gut microbes. You can imagine what that means for your gut health if you have poor quality sleep regularly over many months, or even years! Keep your gut happy and get those zzz’s.

Swallowing your food without chewing enough (seriously!)

The secret to good digestive health is pretty simple: chewing! 45% of bacteria in your gut is seeded by the bacteria in your mouth. To make sure the bacteria is primarily beneficial, we have to secrete a lot of antic-microbial saliva to keep the bad bacteria levels low. Chewing stimulates saliva production, so make sure you chewing thoroughly!

Exercising too much… or too little

When your fitness routine isn’t balanced, your body has a difficult time maintaining good bacteria levels. Try to stick with moderate exercise on a regular basis.