An expert weighs in!
As seen in Metro Style, April 10, 2023
If you’re anywhere near social media right now, especially TikTok, it might seem like all your problems might be solved by improving your gut health. From bloating, brain fog, weight loss (of course), to bad skin, low energy and even mental health. Just throw in a greens powder, try bone broth, or drink some olive oil and all of your symptoms will resolve, right?
Gut health is a fairly new area, and a lot of research is still emerging. Gut health mainly refers to the health and function of your digestive system: your esophagus, stomach, and small and large intestines. Gut health also includes the balance of bacteria that live inside our intestines. A healthy gut is essential for breaking down food, absorbing nutrients, and eliminating waste. When your gut works properly, you can expect bowel regularity, minimal discomfort after eating, and good overall health.
We are learning that the gut also plays a big role in areas like immune health, chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers, asthma, eczema, and even mood and mental health. So it makes sense that gut health is worth paying attention to. Some common gut issues might be bloating or gas, abdominal pain or acid reflux, frequent constipation or diarrhea, food intolerances, low mood, energy, and even skin problems.
That said, you might not want to listen to just anyone on Tiktok, especially “experts” with no credentials, influencers posting just for views, and anyone who says that one food will solve your problems. Also, if you are having a gut issue, a band aid solution to improve symptoms might not be what you need, and you might want to consider addressing underlying causes.
5 TikTok Trends to Skip and What to Try Instead
Depending on the issue you’re having, these “hacks” may not be the best solution for you.
SKIP: Greens powders - These are usually made from ground, dried veggies, and might have some nutrients, but are not the same as eating actual veggies. Supplements are made to be, well, a supplement, and don’t replace a strong foundation of an actually healthy diet.
TRY INSTEAD: Eating actual fruits and veggies - You get the fiber from plants which actually supports your gut health, and the benefits of whole foods like the satisfaction of chewing, and the bulk of food and water content that helps you feel full.
SKIP: Bone broth - Don’t let Gwyneth Paltrow fool you, you don't need this special food to “heal your gut.” Bone broth does have nutrients, but it’s often expensive, hard to find or make, and not a necessity to maintain good gut health.
TRY INSTEAD: Eating enough good quality protein - Eating enough protein from plants, fish, and lean sources can give your gut the amino acids it needs. Skip very fatty meats and fried proteins as these can make you feel more bloated and worsen digestion.
Photo by Akshay Chauhan on Unsplash
SKIP: “Internal shower” drink - This trendy beverage is basically adding a ton of chia seeds into a glass of lemon water and downing it to “jumpstart your digestion.” But it doesn’t look like a very pleasant experience, and if you aren’t already having enough fiber, might actually make your digestive issues worse.
TRY INSTEAD: Adding chia seeds slowly into your diet - Chia seeds are nutritious, pretty easy to find, and it might be a lot more pleasant and sustainable to use chia seeds in recipes. Try them in smoothies, yogurt, oatmeal or overnight oats, baking, salad dressings or salads to gradually increase the fiber in your diet over time and improve your bowel regularity.
SKIP: Drinking olive oil - TikTok claims this will solve issues like bloating or give you a flat stomach. If you are having issues like bloating, drinking olive oil likely doesn't get to the cause behind it or the big picture of your digestive health. And also might not do anything about the bloating either!
TRY INSTEAD: Cook with olive oil - Olive oil does have benefits, with strong anti-inflammatory properties that link it to heart health, brain health, and more. But you can use it in other ways like cooking or in salads instead of drinking it, and that’s probably more sustainable too.
SKIP: Probiotic supplements - Probiotics are the live microorganisms like bacteria that have a beneficial effect in the body and supposedly boost our health. If you can get your hands on a good quality supplement, it may be worth a try, but they are often very expensive, and supplements are not regulated so you never really know what's actually in them.
TRY: Fermented foods - Foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, atchara, kimchi, and miso are also good sources of probiotics too. Eating these foods regularly helps add to and maintain the good bacteria that already live in your gut too without having to remember to take another pill.
Photo by Portugese Gravity on Unsplash
TRY! The basics - Beyond all these small hacks, reducing your stress, exercising regularly, sleeping enough, and eating a variety of foods, especially plants, are the bigger things that have an impact on your gut health and overall health too. Studies link these practices to a healthier and more diverse gut microbiome, so if you’re looking for better digestion, reduced bloating, and to feel better overall, don't forget to look at the big picture!