#Guttok: Are the gut health trends on Tik Tok legit?

By PYM STORE

#GutTok: Are the Gut Health Tik Tok Trends Helpful or Harmful?

The Internet is obsessed with gut health. The hashtag #guttok has over 900 million views and counting, and the hashtag #guthealth has 3 billion. Perhaps you've also seen the trend "Hot Girls have IBS"?

 And with good reason! A 2021 global survey of over 73,000 adults from 33 countries finding that almost half of respondents had gastrointestinal disorders, like irritable bowel syndrome or constipation.

PYM Co-Founder and Integrative Health Practitioner Olivia June Williams sat with Dr. Nicole Beurkens, a Holistic Psychologist, Board Certified Nutrition Specialist, and PYM Science Advisor on an IG Live to discuss how gut health is related to mental health, popular gut health trends to watch out for, and how to actually heal your gut.

The connection between gut health and mental health

Have you ever felt butterflies in your stomach when you were nervous? Or felt a lack of appetite when stressed? You have the gut-brain connection to thank for that!

The gut is often referred to as the “second brain.” But the more scientific name is “enteric nervous system” or ENS. 

The ENS is made up of over 100 million nerve cells that line your gastrointestinal tract, which reaches all the way from the mouth to the anus. 

The main function of this system is to keep your digestive system in check. That means that it aids with:

  • Swallowing
  • Enzyme release
  • Breaking down food
  • Controlling blood flow
  • Nutrient absorption
  • And more

So, if the ENS isn’t functioning correctly, you run the risk of digestive disorders. 

However, that’s not all the enteric nervous system does – it also communicates with the brain. And the neural connections that your gut has with your brain show that diseases that exist in the gut can spread to the brain and cause issues with mental health. And the same is true the other way around – disease in the brain can cause issues in the gut. 

    This provides evidence as to why a large number of people who have IBS and other bowel issues suffer from depression and anxiety. 

    Health Trends that may be Harming, Not Helping your Gut

    We love that these trends are bringing awareness to and de-stigmatizing gastrointestinal issues however, it’s important to note that what works for some people may not work for others, and not all advice out there is rooted in science. So let’s look at some popular gut health advice out there that may not be helpful for everyone.

    *PS: If some of these have helped you, then great! Keep it up😊

    *PPS: There's lots of good, scientific info out there on the interwebs too! Whenever you're taking advice from social media, check who is posting it and what their credentials are.

    Restrictive Diets

    Restrictive diets such as Keto, Paleo, low FODMAP, low calorie, low fat, intermittent fasting, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, etc. may help some in the short-term, but in the long run, may do more harm than good.  

    What we eat on a daily basis influences the bacteria that populates our guts (our microbiota), and it is the diversity of this bacteria that protects us from dysbiosis-related diseases.

    The more diverse our diet, the more diverse our gut microbes, and the better our gut health. In a study on the gut microbiome of healthy long-living people (90-100+ years of age), found that these people had more diverse and balanced gut microbiota.

    Dr. Beurkens adds, "Restricting fats for example on the surface may seem to make good sense, but we know now from the science that it actually backfires and has a negative impact on our gut. The microbes in our gut need specific types of healthy fats like omega-3s to allow the good bacteria to thrive."

    TOO MUCH fiber from fruits and vegetables

    It's estimated that 95% of Americans do not get enough fiber from their diet. To correct this, people sometimes go a bit overboard. There can be too much of a good thing!

    Fruits and vegetables contain fiber, which can help our digestive system to a certain point. But consuming excessive amounts of fruits and veggies, especially raw, uncooked ones, can lead to some negative consequences, such as:

    • Digestive discomfort (gas, bloating, etc.)
    • Diarrhea or loose stools
    • Nutrient malabsorption
    • Risk of dehydration (fiber absorbs water)

    Dr. Beurkens adds, "A good rule of thumb is to always eat your veggies well-cooked. You can even cook some fruits to make them easier to digest, such as apples and bananas."

    If you’re concerned about your fiber intake or considering a diet high in plant foods, talk to a registered dietitian or nutritionist. 

    Hyper-focusing on what you're eating

    There’s a lot of information out there about what we “shouldn’t” eat and what is “bad” for us. Add on the encouragement to count calories and restrict calories, and you've got the perfect recipe for creating a super stressed relationship with food.

    Feeling shame, guilt and stress around the foods you're eating can do more harm to your body than the food itself!

    If you find yourself struggling with your relationship with food, it's important to talk with a therapist who specializes in eating disorders.

    Over-doing it with probiotic-rich foods and supplements

    You'll find a lot of advice on #guttok to add a probiotic to your supplement routine or to eat probiotic-rich foods. It’s true, experts agree that adding more prebiotics and probiotics to your diet is great for your gut health!

    But just like everything else, we can over-do it and do too much too soon. 

    Dr. Beurkens says, “Patients will often tell me they tried a probiotic and it made them feel worse or they didn’t notice any effect, so they stop. When it comes to probiotics, more is not necessarily better. If you have pretty significant gastrointestinal symptoms and start putting a ton of probiotics in you through food and supplements, you’ll likely feel worse because you’ve basically overloaded your system.”

    So what's the expert-recommended approach to gut health?

    The moral of the story here is to not go too far to any extreme. Over-doing it with restrictive diets, fiber intake, probiotics, and obsessively focusing on what you're eating will be more harmful than helpful for your gut.

    Dr. Beurkens suggests to start slower when it comes to probiotic supplements. If the recommended dose is two capsules a day and you've got pretty significant GI or mental health symptoms, you may want to start with just one. Let your body adjust and see how you respond, and increase the dose as you go. 

    This is also true for fermented foods, gradually increase intake and give yourself a couple weeks for your body to acclimate. You may experience GI symptoms at first like gas or bloating as your body adjusts, but after a couple weeks you can settle into feeling really good.

    Be mindful of what you're eating, eat a variety of whole, nutritious foods, and also don't beat yourself up for enjoying a treat! 

    Mood Biotics for gut health AND mental wellness 

    We formulated Mood Biotics with 6 strains of prebiotics and probiotics that have been most studied for their positive effects on mood health.

    Some of these are:

    Lactobacillus Plantarum: To support serotonin production and brain health 

    Bifidobacterium longum: To improve mood and reduce feelings of anxiousness

    Address your digestive symptoms AND your mood symptoms all in one with Mood Biotics!