Gut health has been discussed extensively on various platforms recently. From the discrepancies regarding the definition of gut health to what it comprises, this is a hot topic for a healthy debate. Due to this inconsistency of information many misconceptions crop up. In this blog, we will debunk the ten common myths related to gut health for you.
Myth 1 Exercise has nothing to do with gut health
Studies have shown that people who are more physically active tend to have healthier guts, which support good immune health, digestion, and mental well-being.
Everyone is unique, and you need to find out which form of exercise works best for you! Some forms of exercise, like running, can exacerbate diarrhea in some people, while for others it has been proven to increase ‘good’ bacteria in the gut. Gentle exercises such as walking, yoga and Pilates are perfect for relieving stress as they emphasize calmness, meditation, deep breathing & stretching.
Myth 2 Everyone’s guts are the same
There are so many variables in everything to do with health, from someone’s genes to the environment they live in. When you also throw in the endless variations in the gut microbiota, it becomes clear that everyone’s gut is unique. This means that what works for one person may not work for the next and therefore treatment for gut health problems may need to be as individual as you are.
Myth 3 Probiotics have to alter my microbiota to be effective
A common misconception is that to be effective a probiotic must impact the composition of your gut microbiota. Probiotics typically do not take up residence in your gut and may not evoke any detectable change in the microbes that are normally present. As they pass through the gut, probiotics (and the substances they produce) interact with immune cells, our gut cells, dietary components in the gut, and the microbes that live in our gut, and that’s how they exert their benefits.
Myth 4 All fermented foods are probiotics
Fermented foods are made when live cultures, through their growth and metabolism, transform a food into a fermented food. Some of these fermented foods are consumed with no further processing, but others are processed by pasteurization, baking, smoking, or altering. These added processing steps can kill or remove the live cultures in them. Further, even if fermented food provides a source of live microbes, it may not have been tested for health benefits.
In contrast, probiotics are live microbes that have been shown to have a health effect when delivered in adequate amounts. So although fermented foods can be healthy foods and maybe a source of live microbes, they may not reach the bar required to be called ‘probiotics’.
Myth 5 Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) isn’t a medical condition
If you have ever been told that your symptoms are “just IBS” then you may be forgiven for thinking that it isn’t a medical condition. However, IBS has very definite diagnostic criteria and treatment guidelines. Many studies have been conducted investigating the signs, symptoms causes, and treatment of the same. The International Classification of Diseases WHO has classified IBS as a medical condition.
Myth 6 Fasting will improve my gut health
There is no evidence to support that extreme fasting can benefit gut health. However, there are a few ways that intermittent fasting may be beneficial for your gut. Fasting a few hours before going to sleep may be beneficial as your gut produces fewer substances to break down food overnight allowing your gut to function at its optimum internal rhythm.
Intermittent fasting can improve gut motility and allow food to move through the digestive tract. Fasting can give your gut a break from constant digestion. Allowing around 3 hours between meals allows full digestion of foods before restarting the process.
Myth 7 Bacteria are bad
There are trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms that live in our digestive tract, called the gut microbiota. Some bacteria are known to be harmful and cause infection but those peacefully living in our gut are involved in several functions that are of benefit to the gut.
Myth 8 You need to poop only once a day to be healthy
One of the criteria for constipation is bowel movements occurring less than three times a week and as a general rule bowel movements occurring three times a day to three times a week is “normal”. You can usually think of your bowel habit as normal if you have regular bowel movements (not necessarily once a day), you don’t have any ongoing symptoms of constipation or diarrhea and can have a bowel movement without straining or using laxatives.
Myth 9 Spicy foods cause ulcers.
This myth likely dates back to or even before your grandmother’s time, when spicy foods were considered too “exciting” for the system and the root of many health evils. “The more likely cause of ulcers is H pylori [Helicobacter pylori] and overuse of pain medications, which are tough on the stomach lining. Spicy foods may aggravate an ulcer but not cause it. National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that H pylori and anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen—not spicy foods—are common causes of peptic ulcers.
Myth 10 Long-term restrictions are necessary for gut-related disorders.
People with digestive health concerns frequently wind up on overly restrictive diets. Foods are often inappropriately scratched off the “OK” list, resulting in not only a joyless diet but also nutritional compromise. Overzealous diet restrictions can lead to health problems, especially micronutrient deficiencies.
As much as gut health is important, it is also imperative to provide the right and scientifically backed information regarding the same. Consult your physician regarding any doubts and do not believe in hearsay information. Help to spread awareness regarding gut health and do not forward information that does not have any scientific backing.
Hope this blog will help you clear your concepts regarding gut health. Let us know your views on such blogs and what other myths would you want us to debunk in the comments section below.
Author: Dr Pooja Nilgar (Content writer and editor)
- Camilleri, M., 2021. Diagnosis and treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: a review. Jama, 325(9), pp.865-877.
- Longo, V.D. and Mattson, M.P., 2014. Fasting: molecular mechanisms and clinical applications. Cell metabolism, 19(2), pp.181-192.
- Thursby, E. and Juge, N., 2017. Introduction to the human gut microbiota. Biochemical journal, 474(11), pp.1823-1836.
- NHS (2018) Stomach Ulcer. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stomach-ulcer/causes/
- NICE (2020) Constipation. Available at: https://cks.nice.org.uk/topics/constipation/#!diagnosisSub
- LIEBMAN, B. (2013) ‘Gut Myths?’, Nutrition Action Health Letter, 40(1), pp. 1–7. Available at: https://login.ezproxy.endeavour.edu.au:2443/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rzh&AN=85016719&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
- Palmer, S. (2011) ‘Cracking myths: experts bust digestive health’s top misconceptions’, Today’s Dietitian, 13(4), pp. 24-31 7p. Available at: http://login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rzh&AN=104884494&site=ehost-live&scope=site%0Ahttp://login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rzh&AN=104884494&site=ehost-live&scope=site.