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12 Lifestyle Habits that Kill Good Gut Bacteria

Trying to nurture your microflora? If so, watch out for these modern lifestyle habits that are toxic to gut bacteria.

As early as birth, our gut health is at risk. Your first “inoculation” of good gut bacteria is supposed to occur as your eyes, nose, lips, and mouth slide through your mother’s birth canal. This transfer of flora plants the "seed" for the initial colonies that begin to populate your respiratory, urogenital, and gastrointestinal tracts.

But if you were born via cesarean section—as over 30 percent of babies born today are—you missed your first dose of beneficial bacteria!

The second inoculation comes from colostrum, the “first milk” expressed for the first few days following birth. Babies who aren’t breastfed or born vaginally start with a huge disadvantage when it comes to establishing good gut bacteria health.

Fortunately, as adults, there's a lot we can do to protect our gut bacteria health as long as you know what to look out for. Here are twelve dirty dozen modern habits that kill gut health.


1. Going nuclear with antibiotics

When used appropriately, antibiotics are lifesavers. However, most people take antibiotics too often and for the wrong conditions.

Antibiotics indiscriminately destroy all bacteria in the body as a way of eliminating disease. Use medical weaponry with care: Take antibiotics only when nothing else will do. After completing the full course of medication, make sure you restore your good gut bacteria by eating natural probiotic foods or taking a high-quality probiotic supplement every day.   

2. Too many trips to the drugstore

Mouthwashes, aspirin, antacids, painkillers, and laxatives can all be toxic to gut bacteria health. NSAIDs, in particular, promote stomach and intestinal bleeding and increase the permeability of the entire GI tract.

When the GI tract is more permeable, larger proteins, bacteria, and toxins are able to enter the bloodstream. This results in allergic reactions (food allergies), increased stress on the immune system, and the spread of toxins throughout the body. Researchers have also found that continued use of NSAIDs for rheumatoid arthritis can disrupt the intestinal mucus lining and flora and may even contribute to the continuance of the disease.

3. Using antibacterial soaps, shampoos, and creams

As with antibiotic use, the antibacterial agents in these cleansers kill healthy bacteria as well as the bad bugs and can lead to an imbalance of bad gut bacteria. Shop for products without antibacterial additives.

4. Drinking chlorinated water

Chlorinated drinking water can make it almost impossible to maintain ideal bacterial flora in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract because chlorine kills all bacteria, regardless of whether they are good or bad. I recommend distilling your water.

5. Fraternizing with bug and weed killers

Pesticides and herbicides spell death to gut microbes .If you've seen what pesticides do to actual bugs, then you know the harm it can do to the bugs in your stomach! Make sure to wash produce thoroughly before serving and never use toxic bug and weed killers in and around your home.

6. Using douches and excessive colon cleanses

Mother Nature takes good care of your privates all on her own. The vagina generally excels at balancing its own microbiome and the colon is home to billions of beneficial bacteria. Douches and colon cleanses rob the body of these “good” bacteria, allowing bad gut bacteria, yeast infections, and other pathogens to propagate.

7. Surgeries, colonoscopies, and chemotherapy/radiation therapy

Like antibiotics, many medical procedures can be lifesavers. I'm not suggesting anyone skip their essential surgeries—just remember to follow up with the right foods and supplements to nurture your gut bacteria back to health.

8. Polluting your smile

Pollutants are dangerous to the environment, including your personal microbiome. Mercury is an extremely toxic heavy metal that is frequently found in amalgam dental fillings. Having amalgam fillings in your mouth is like being hooked to up a mercury IV drip system! There’s little doubt that it disrupts the normal microflora in your mouth and affects the entire gut.

9. Consuming only sterilized foods

One hundred years ago, pasteurization was a healthy breakthrough, saving milk from pathogens and spoilage.  Today, however, nearly every food product in the grocery story has undergone some form of pasteurization or ultra-pasteurization – high heat processing to kill off bacteria. The result? Our modern diet is practically barren of natural, “live” beneficially probiotic foods. Make sure you shop for foods that are still alive with good bacteria (such as natural yogurt, kefir, and traditional fermented foods)

10. Consuming artificially colored foods

Food coloring is routinely added to make foods look more presentable. Research on these compounds has focused primarily on toxicity factors, but if you dig deeper, you’ll find that many food colorings have been shown to exhibit both antibacterial and antifungal properties. This is commonly considered a positive attribute and marketed as such. However, when we begin to concentrate these compounds synthetically, we run the risk of disrupting our gut bacteria health and throwing off the natural order of microflora in our bodies.

11. Taking antidepressants and sleeping pills

Antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and sleeping pills are all fat soluble which allows them to more easily penetrate the intestinal wall. When we mess around with the natural connection between our intestines and our brain, we put the balance in the rest of our body at risk.

12. Choosing margarine over good old fashioned butter

Fats are necessary for strong cell walls. Fats provide the barrier that keep many toxins, pathogens, and water-soluble compounds from freely crossing into the bloodstream. A diet containing artificial or poor-quality fats leads to permeable cell walls and the resulting difficulties with allergies, toxicity, and a chronic load on the immune system. 

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