The truth behind these viral gut health hacks, according to a registered dietitian

This article originally appeared on Yoga Diary

For most of my life, my gut health never crossed my mind. I’ve (luckily) never had any major digestive issues or bowel issues, so I never had reason to think about it. Then, earlier this year, I started to see a proliferation of social media posts about gut health hacks. Apparently I had to focus on healing my gut. Uh, what?

Gut health issues are a real problem for many people. However, many of the current social media posts about gut health fail to discuss the medical nuances. Walk in: Jenna Werner, a registered dietitian. While scrolling on my TikTok recently, I came across a video of Werner’s dots. In it, she explains how the supposed symptoms of a “gut health problem” don’t necessarily have to do with your digestive system. Rather, these symptoms could be caused by a wide range of issues, from not drinking enough water to eating disorders.

After watching Werner’s video, I wanted to know more from his perspective. As a registered dietitian with a social media presence, she has come across (and debunked) several TikTok trends. And while gut health is one aspect of nutritional content on these platforms, it’s far from the only concept being dangerously amplified.

I’ve seen videos about healing my gut. Is this something I should be worried about?

The short – no.

Let’s go back. Information shared on social media platforms is not regulated. Anyone, whether or not they have a background in nutrition, can share nutrition-related information. Due to the viral nature of TikTok, some videos can be amplified fairly quickly to a wider audience, even if they contain inaccurate or potentially harmful health information, Werner says. And remember: these videos are not tailored to your individual health needs. So while you may see several posts about gut health, whether this is something you should be concerned about is between you and your health care providers.

“For example, this gut health videowhy is this so problematic, is anyone sitting there watching this video saying “I have all these symptoms, oh my god, my gut is leaking, I’m dying”, when in reality these symptoms are so common,” says Werner. Whether it’s having a newborn baby or not eating enough can cause these symptoms, she says.

On TikTok, many videos that go viral tend to be alarmist, Werner continues. When consuming content on social media, especially regarding nutritional advice, remember that the video you are watching may not be accurate or relevant to your body’s needs, no matter how many. views and likes she has.

OK, but what is gut health?

The gastrointestinal (GI) system in your body, commonly referred to as your gut, is responsible for your digestion. “It’s literally your body’s ability to take in food, digest it, and get rid of what’s not needed,” Werner explains.

How do I know if my gut is healthy or not?

For all aspects of your health — from your gut to your head, Werner recommends looking at your daily habits. If you’re feeling a little awkward, you might want to ask yourself these questions to see if there’s a habit you need to change.

  • Are you getting enough sleep?

  • Are you managing your stress?

  • Are you drinking enough water throughout the day?

  • Are you moving your body in a way that makes you feel good?

  • Do you eat regularly? Are you eating enough sources of protein and carbohydrates?

Werner says answering these questions can give you a good understanding of where your health stands. If you can’t identify a particular area of ​​focus or if you’re still confused about your health after answering these questions, that’s a sign to contact your doctor.

How can I keep my gut healthy without dangerous gut health hacks?

While you don’t want to follow the so-called gut health hacks you’ve seen on TikTok and Instagram, there are ways to protect your gut–and make sure he’s able to do his job. Here are some of Werner’s top tips for keeping your gut healthy.

  • Eat a variety of foods. Although you may think bacteria are inherently bad, your gut contains both good and bad bacteria, Werner says. By eating a variety of foods, you nourish your microbiome (the bacteria, genes and viruses inside your body) and allowing multiple strains of bacteria to exist. (And yes, that’s a good thing.) When you reduce the variety of foods you eat, one strain of bacteria may have the ability to take over, with negative consequences for your gut health.

  • Stay hydrated. Water is an essential part of your digestive system, says Werner. It helps move things through your digestive tract – from your mouth to your colon. She says fiber plays a similar role in your gut, helping whatever moves through your body.

  • Focus on prebiotics and probiotics. You may only know probiotics when it comes to your gut, but prebiotics are also essential, says Werner. “It’s like a Pac-Man,” she says. “Probiotics are Mr. or Mrs. Pac-Man, and prebiotics are food. They eat them, and then they get busy, and they can grow some more of the healthy bacteria in your gut.

  • Keep track of disruptors. Alcohol, lack of sleep, stress and limited movement can all upset your digestive system, Werner says. Try to keep each of these aspects under control when it comes to your gut health and overall health.

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