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Fermented foods & lifestyle factors that adversely affect our gut health

October, 2019
Brooke larkKim daniels

Holistic Nutrition & Lifestyle Coach

“Gut Health is the key to overall health.”

Gut health affects our immunity, mood and ability to digest and absorb nutrients from the food we consume. In recent times, gut health is being talked about more often in the context of not just physical health but mental health as well. Consumption of refined and processed foods, refined sugars, milk, milk products, meat and other animal-based foods (which do not contain fibre, which is very crucial for good gut health) and the frequent use of medications and antibiotics all adversely affect our gut flora. This in turn leads to the microbiome being in a compromised state which manifests as frequent issues in digestion or bloating as well as more serious conditions such as Leaky Gut Syndrome, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Celiac disease.

There are, however, various ways in which gut health can be taken care of. For example, by alleviating the consumption of top-quality probiotic foods. There are local, indigenous fermented foods as well as internationally known ferments.

All forms of ferments are great sources of probiotics. Kefir requires starter grains while Sauerkraut and Kanji do not. Most indigenous cultures have some element of fermentation in their diet. Even in India, every state has its own local fermented dishes. Including these local and regional ferments in our diet would be ideal for taking care of the gut.

There are various Ayurveda teachings that talk about gut health. They say that fermented or cultured foods are heating or pitta-aggravating and, in excess, may cause overheating and/or inflammation. However, fermented foods can be consumed in small amounts during summers and increasingly boost digestive strength. Winters are an ideal time for consuming fermented foods. People with Pitta as their dominant dosha are to avoid sour foods. They can choose fermented foods which haven’t been fermented for very long periods to suit their palate before the ferments get overtly sour. As per Ayurveda, small amounts of fermented foods can be consumed by all dosha (Vata, Kapha, Pitta) types to increase Agni, the digestive fire.

I personally like sauerkraut and fermenting seasonal produce such as green peppers, and fresh turmeric as they have various other health benefits too.

We usually associate our food choices with how they impact our gut health. Refined food with not enough fibre and incorrect food combinations directly affect the gut flora but our lifestyle also plays a big role in the state of our gut.

Here are five lifestyle factors that adversely affect it.

Lack of Regular Physical Exercise

Being physically active has a number of health benefits. Recent studies suggest that physical activity may also alter gut bacteria to improve gut health.

Regular physical activity promotes the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and is linked to a greater abundance of butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that’s important for overall health.

Cigarette Smoking

Cigarette smoking is one of the most important risk factors for inflammatory bowel disease which results in ongoing inflammation of the digestive tract. People who stopped smoking had an increased gut flora diversity, which is a marker of a healthy gut.

Not getting enough sleep

The body has a 24-hour internal clock called the circadian rhythm. Sleep deprivation can disrupt the circadian rhythm, and this, in turn, has harmful effects on gut bacteria.


Excess stress has been shown to reduce gut flora diversity and alter it by increasing harmful bacteria and reducing beneficial bacteria like Lactobacilli.

Hand sanitisers

Every person has a proper balance of bacterial colonies that keeps the body in check. Using hand sanitisers does kill potentially dangerous microbes, but can also alter the communities of beneficial bacteria on the skin. We need to use hand sanitisers with caution and care.

In conclusion, while being aware and careful of what you eat, one should also look at making lifestyle changes to help support your gut and overall health. Factors such as stress, consumption of alcohol, and use of toxic home and personal care products all affect gut health. Lifestyle changes, stress management and dietary changes would go a long way in taking care of the gut.


Vinita Contractor is a Holistic Nutrition & Lifestyle Coach. She is a Certified Holistic Nutritionist from American Fitness Professionals & Associates, US. and has completed the Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from eCornell and T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, New York, US. as well as other courses in Wellness Culinary, Nature Cure and Ayurveda Diet. She has been featured several times in publications such as Mumbai Mirror, Midday, Asian Age, The Hindu, Hindustan Times, Live Mint, VeganFirst, LBB etc.

Vinita can be reached at +919987431913
Insta, fb, youtube, linkedin- @vinitacontractor