How Modern Life Is Destroying Your Gut Microbes – And 10 Things You Can Do About It

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How Modern Life Is Destroying Your Gut Microbes
How Modern Life Is Destroying Your Gut Microbes. Graphic © Image © AdobeStock 41397331 (under license).

Our bodies are highly complex machines; astonishingly resilient but also sensitive to the myriad of things we encounter. It’s important to live a healthy lifestyle to keep our bodies in top shape. But what if the modern world becomes the enemy?

Our stomach and intestines have a delicate “ecosystem” of trillions of bacteria called a microbiome. Our immune systems are directly affected by this as 70% of immune cells live in the intestine. Microbes in the gut shed proteins, carbohydrates and other molecules that play a critical role in either permitting or suppressing disease – so maintaining a healthy balance of gut flora is more vital than most people realize. [1]

We are in an era of what could easily be called ‘bacteriophobia’. We’ve been made afraid of germs (often by people who have a product to sell us) and while in some senses there is a rationale there, this mindset has actually caused some big problems. There are “good bacteria” that are vital to our health and taking a “blunderbuss” approach to killing bacteria is a bad idea. Why? Because trillions of good bacteria live inside us and are meant to be there. Our relationship with the world of bacteria is complex. They are interwoven with our lives.

This isn’t just theory. A 2009 scientific study revealed that modern lifestyle has dramatically altered people’s microbiome. The increased intake of processed foods and antibiotics (considered the world’s most overprescribed medicine) would seem to be damaging the range of beneficial microbes inside our body. It’s also been discovered that “good bacteria”, when colonizing properly, do their own work getting rid of bad bacteria. The system was originally “designed” to be self-maintaining in a natural life. It’s been demonstrated that “attacking” bugs may provide short term benefits but at a price of

Other factors that can have an effect on the balance of bacteria in the gut are over-exposure to pesticides, reliance on antimicrobial products and consumption of conventionally raised meats. [2]

The following are the ten tips for keeping your gut healthy and maintaining a balanced microbiome:

1. Eat More Fiber

Failing to get enough fiber will cause a drop in the number of bacteria in your gut. If you are not able to consume the needed amount of fiber your body requires, the microbes will begin feeding on the mucus lining of your stomach triggering inflammation. [3]

2. Take Probiotic Supplements

Probiotics are the opposite of antibiotics as they introduce live, good bacteria into your gut. [4]

3. Opt To Wash Your Dishes By Hand

This one falls into the “eating dirt is good for you” category: It’s been shown that washing dishes by hand versus running them through the dishwasher leaves more bacteria behind and that eating off less-than-sterile dishes may actually decrease your risk of allergies because it stimulates the immune system. [3]

4. Incorporate Fermented Foods Into Your Diet

Fermented vegetables are rich in probiotics. Incorporating them into your diet will boost the population of health-promoting bacteria, thereby forbidding the potentially pathogenic colonies from taking over. [3]

5. Avoid Over-Sanitizing

When our bodies are overly deprived of bad bacteria our immune system can become confused on what is genuinely threatening. Ingesting germs stimulates our immune system naturally and strengthens it. [3] There is also recent evidence that chemicals in antibacterial soaps may be harming us. Washing hands after potential exposure to germs and prior to eating are good common sense. Over-sanitizing appears to both weaken our immune systems and potentially encourage bacteria to develop resistance, leading to the rise of new superbugs.

6. Avoid Use Of Antibiotics Unless Necessary

Antibiotics are a type of drugs that are very beneficial to us when used correctly. The overuse of antibiotics is nowadays. The numbers of antibiotic-resistant bacteria are growing so we are seeing new conditions that are difficult to treat. Antibiotics don’t discriminate; they attack the bad bacteria as well as the good ones. [5]

7. Avoid Processed Foods

Processed foods are full of unnecessary sugar, empty calories, dyes, possibly harmful chemicals, and offer little nutritional value. The sugars, dyes, and other ingredients combined with a lack of nutrients means that processed foods are a poor choice for a good diet. [3]

8. Drink Enough Water

Our bodies need to be well hydrated to feel our best. Being well hydrated also helps us to avoid constipation which is an important part of intestinal health.

9. Get Fresh Air

Now how can the air affect your gut microbes?? Well, you are in for a surprise… today, we spend 90 percent of our lives indoors. And, although keeping the outside out does have its advantages; scientists have learned that it has also changed the microbiome of your home. When you open your window, there is an increase in natural airflow that will improve the diversity of microbes in your home. [6] So open up the window and breathe in that fresh air.

10. Eat Organic Foods

Let’s look at what appears to have been established by science here. 1) Non-organic produce has been demonstrated to be more highly contaminated with pesticide residues. 2) Pesticides such as Roundup have been found by researchers not only to kill weeds but also to have a negative effect on various bacterial colonies. [7] This stands to reason. Animal studies have indicated changes to bacteria from pesticide exposure – therefore it’s quite likely that a similar case occurs with humans. Can someone explain to me how introducing “chemicals of death” into our own ecosystem, the one we partake of, can possibly improve the world? I do not see how. For now, it would appear to be safer to eat organic.




[3] Johansson, M.E., et. al., “Bacteria penetrate the normally impenetrable inner colon mucus layer in both murine colitis models and patients with ulcerative colitis” (Gut, 2014).



[6] Architectural design influences the diversity and structure of the built environment microbiome. (ISME, 2012).

[7] Effects of Roundup(¨) and glyphosate on three food microorganisms: Geotrichum candidum, Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris and Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus. (2012).

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