Beware of These Six Gut (gastrointestinal tract) Killers

Lady holding gut
Woman heaving belly ache, on white background

The gut (gastrointestinal tract) is one of the essential organ systems in the body. It processes food – by breaking it down, absorbing it for nutrients and energy, and passing the remaining waste as feces. The nutrients it absorbs is essential to our overall health. 

Countless studies link gut health to mood, mental health, autoimmune diseases, endocrine disorders, cancer, and skin conditions. Furthermore, up to 500 species of microorganisms live in our intestines, which are beneficial and even necessary to a healthy body.

Additionally, approximately 70 percent of the immune system lives in the gut, so maintaining a healthy digestive system is vital to addressing many ills.

As we can see, the gut is essential, and keeping it optimal is even more critical. In this article, we will discuss six gut killers.


Some scientists have nicknamed the gut the “second brain.” Connected to it are multiple neurons that make up the enteric nervous system. This system allows us to experience that “gut feeling” or “butterflies.” And because the enteric nervous system connects to our brain, our gut’s condition may influence our emotional well-being, and vice versa, feelings of anger, anxiety, and happiness may trigger symptoms in the gut.

The gastrointestinal function is also significantly influenced by stress. Common gastrointestinal symptoms due to stress are heartburn, indigestion, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and associated abdominal pain. 

A variety of human studies indicate that stress slows down digestion and accelerates excretion from the large intestines. The longer the food stays in the stomach, the more it putrefies, and the more gastric juices accumulate, which may explain the increase in heartburn symptoms. 

So, it might be better to skip a meal if stressed or avoid stressful situations while eating, like avoid answering the phone or watching things that may promote stress.

Animal Protein and Saturated Fats

High consumption of animal protein and saturated fats from animal-based foods like beef, whole-fat milk, cheese, and butter harms our gut microbes. It may cause obesity-related inflammation, type 2 diabetes, and many other cardiometabolic diseases.

A study published in the gut medical journal found that a high-fat diet was associated with unfavorable gut microbiome changes, which may hurt your health in the long-run.

On the other hand, a plant-based diet has proven to benefit the microbiome. It was found that the short-chain fatty acids in plant foods increased the presence of good bacteria called bacteroidetes. In contrast, a high-fat diet reduces beneficial bacteria levels and increases harmful microbes known as firmicutes. A plant-based diet also decreases obesity-related inflammation.

Poor Sleep

We all need to sleep to live. Lack of sleep may affect our microbial composition. A study conducted among older adults showed that those who got better sleep had a better gut microbiome. And therefore, they experienced an increase in a strain of bacteria, verrucomicrobia, which is believed to be correlated to better cognitive function. 

Data shows that our circadian rhythm is similar to our microbial populations’ rhythms and how we metabolize nutrients. And one study even found a link between its disruption and leaky gut.

According to a study conducted on mice, chronic sleep disruption alters the gut microbiome – also promotes obesity, inflammation, and insulin resistance.


According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 70 percent of adults over 18 admitted to consuming alcohol within the past year. That is almost three-quarters of adults in the USA. But what could this mean for the gut of those who consume this beverage?

Alcohol may interfere with the structure as well as the function of the various parts of our GI-tract. It may cause heartburn, increase the risk of esophageal cancer, interfere with gastric acid secretion, impair the peristalsis movement, contribute to diarrhea, inhibit the absorption of nutrients, and much more. 

Also, in alcoholics, certain harmful bacteria may crowd out the friendly bacteria in the small intestine. Including the gut leakiness, overgrowth may cause endotoxins to escape into the blood vessels leading to the liver and increase liver injury risk.

Studies found that alcohol significantly reduced the frequency and strength of muscle contractions in the colon. These effects could reduce transit time and cause constipation leading to diarrhea in alcoholics.


Sugar, primarily refined sugars, is an empty caloric food. It is stripped of most, if not all, of its nutrients, minerals, protein, fat, and fiber by the refining process. It also feeds “bad” bacteria, firmicutes, also known to grow rampantly in sugar factories.

Refined sugars are in almost everything we eat, from table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, to packaged foods, sodas, pastries, cereals, white bread, white flour, and more.

Refined sugar should not be mistaken, however, with natural sugars found in fruit and complex carbohydrates, which benefit your gut microbiome along with a plant-based diet. It also comes with fiber and a diversity of minerals, vitamins, and other useful compounds.


Anti (against) biotics (living organisms) are as the name implies. It kills all bacteria, both the “good” known as probiotics and the “bad.” And since most of the immune system is found within the intestinal walls, we wipe out the immune system by taking it.

Research has revealed that antibiotics can potentially reduce your gut flora to one-tenth of its previous level. That is a 90 percent reduction in your gut microbiome.

We need a proper balance of bacteria to maintain optimal health. Some research found that it can take upwards to six months for our gut to get back to normal after taking antibiotics. But other studies had different results. Your gut may never get back to normal. It is vital to weigh out the benefits before taking antibiotics, and if you do, take steps to increase your gut’s diversity afterward.


A healthy gut supports a healthy body. Gut killers not only affect your gut but your overall well being. Keeping it healthy may improve mood, contribute to strong immunity, promote healthy sleep, prevent some cancers, enhance the digestive process, prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes, and more. It is, therefore, essential to maintain a healthy gut to affect your overall health positively.

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