How Are Your Go-To Energy Sources Affecting Your Gut?—Why You Need a Healthy Gut Full of Prebiotic Foods To Boost Your Energy
Between work, family, sports, outdoor adventures, traveling, and hobbies, you’re bound to need a pick-me-up at some point during your day. What do you choose to give you a boost of energy? Diet soda, energy drinks, caffeine, candy?
These go-to energy sources might give you the small burst of energy you need to tackle the next task of the day, but do you know how they’re affecting your gut?
We’re putting the most common unhealthy energy sources in their place. Let’s tackle the reasons why you need a healthy gut full of probiotics and inulin prebiotics to sustain energy all day long.
The Effects of Caffeine on the Gut
Coffee, soda, tea, energy drinks … they’re all loaded with caffeine and we rely on them to pull us out of those groggy mornings and afternoon energy dips. What you might not be thinking about is how that caffeine is affecting the health of your gut.
Caffeine is highly acidic and thins the lining of your stomach and your intestines which can cause leaky gut over time.
Digestion is slowed when you drink caffeine too. Caffeine increases the production of the stress hormones cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine which makes your heart beat faster. When your stress hormones rise and your heartbeat increases, it gives you energy, but it likely results in indigestion too.
Caffeine also acts as a diuretic. This means it takes water from your body to bring into your digestive system, causing dehydration. If you are a coffee drinker, make sure to drink plenty of water to replenish your body and gut with the hydration it needs.
As a diuretic, caffeine also increases peristalsis and gets things moving inside your digestive system. Whether you find this to be helpful or harmful really depends on you and your body. Some people drink coffee to assist with bowel movements and some find the drink leads to emergency bathroom breaks and abdominal pain.
Energy Drinks—The Gut Busters
Are you one to stop into the Quick Mart while getting gas to grab your favorite energy drink? Or maybe you habitually opt for the energy drink in the vending machine instead of the water in the break room? You’re not alone. The energy drink industry has grown over 600% since 1999 and hasn’t shown signs of stopping. Energy drinks from RedBull to Rockstar are full of caffeine, sugar, and excess vitamins—many have more than 50 grams of processed sugar per drink. That’s the same thing as scooping 12 teaspoons of white sugar into your mouth every time you drink an energy drink. Yuck! These drinks may give you energy, but these harmful ingredients damage the delicate (but essential) good bacteria in your gut.
Energy drinks can cause gastritis in people who consume them regularly. Gastritis can lead to symptoms like inflammation in the gut, discomfort, bleeding, and ulcers.
Because of their extremely high levels of caffeine, the stomach produces excess acid to compensate for energy drinks. When the stomach has too much acid, it causes heartburn and can damage the lining of the gut.
Too much caffeine can also overwhelm your digestive system. Energy drinks can cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and sweating. Even the labels warn you to not drink more than one per day because of the high levels of caffeine and excess vitamins. You may think vitamins are gut-healthy, but overdosing on them regularly can harm your gut and lead to liver toxicity.
How Sugar Is Throwing Off Your Healthy Gut Bacteria
When you think of sugar, the first thing that probably comes to mind is a sugar-filled candy bar. But you know that specialty, flavored coffee drink that you have to have every time you go through the coffee shop drive-thru? It’s filled with unhealthy, refined sugar too. Although that type of sugar is bad, not all sugars are actually unhealthy sugars. There are two different kinds—natural and processed.
Natural sugars are found in fruits, veggies, and complex carbs. They’re full of antioxidants, vitamins, and many are even full of inulin soluble fiber. Natural sugars are slowly digested and the body is able to enjoy more of their energy for a longer period of time.
Processed sugars, on the other hand, are found in junk foods, candies, and sugary drinks. Processed sugars are just that—processed. They have little to no nutritional value and lack fiber, which means the body absorbs this type of sugar way too fast. When processed sugars are quickly digested and immediately absorbed into the bloodstream, there is a spike in blood sugar followed by a crash.
Healthy bacteria in the gut feeds off of fibers for food (inulin prebiotics) while pathogenic bacteria relies on sugar and refined carbohydrates for food and energy. When you feed the gut excess processed sugars and not enough inulin soluble fiber, the pathogenic bacteria thrives and the healthy balance of the gut is thrown off. This leads to leaky gut.
Leaky gut can cause digestive problems such as gas, bloating, and constipation as well as problems in other parts of the body. Those symptoms include brain fog, headaches, and sugar cravings. You might feel an instant burst of energy from processed sugar, but it’s only temporary and you’re likely to crash. Plus, you’re really messing with your gut, which contributes to poor nutrient absorption and low energy levels.
Fake sugars like aspartame are gut busters too. Aspartame is found in “sugar-free” and “healthy” processed foods. Diet soda, sugar-free ice cream, chewing gum, and sugar-free candy are all examples of this. This fake sugar is a confusion serum for our brain. It messes up our body's natural satiety signals and actually makes us crave more sugar.
How a Healthy Gut Can Give You More Energy
The gut has a huge impact on our overall health, so it’s not a surprise that it goes hand-in-hand with the body’s energy too. Food is energy, and food is absorbed in the gut. Makes plenty of sense right? But what happens when the gut is unhealthy and full of bad bacteria?
Like we already know, a healthy, balanced gut absorbs nutrients much more efficiently than an unhealthy one does. Since food = energy, a healthy gut is able to properly absorb the nutrients in the food we eat and turn it into energy.
Healthy, balanced bacteria inside the gut helps our bodies create energy in many different ways:
- The production of B-Vitamins - B-Vitamins work to produce extra energy for the body.
- The regulation of blood sugar - Regulated blood sugar prevents the body from changing energy levels drastically throughout the day.
- The regulation of serotonin and tryptophan - Serotonin and tryptophan are chemicals that are responsible for our happiness, sleep, and overall motivation—all of which have a direct relationship with the energy we feel day-to-day.
In order to build a healthy gut and keep it balanced with good bacteria, you need inulin soluble fiber (prebiotics) and probiotics every day. Check out some of the best prebiotic foods here.
Boost Your Energy With These Healthy Snacks
Let’s not fall into the trap of unhealthy, go-to energy boosters. You’re halfway through your work day and you need a pick-me-up. Give these healthy energy sources a try instead of picking up an energy drink or pouring a cup of coffee.
- Dark chocolate - One of our favorite ingredients found in the Peanutty Dark Chocolate Rowdy Bar, dark chocolate is a natural energy booster. The delicious treat contains natural caffeine and increases endorphins to give you a mid-afternoon boost of energy. Plus the Peanutty Dark Chocolate Bar is packed with complex carbs and inulin soluble fiber (prebiotics), a powerful energy source for the gut.
- Almonds - Almonds are an easy mid-day snack that are loaded with important nutrients like magnesium and vitamin B. These two nutrients help the body convert the food you eat into instant energy. While magnesium plays an important role in metabolism, vitamin B fights against fatigue and irritability and helps the brain concentrate.
- Nut and seed butter - Nut and seed butters are full of healthy fats, protein, and fiber and help fight off hunger. Whether it’s covering your morning toast with peanut butter or munching on a Sunflower Butter N’ Berries Rowdy Bar as an afternoon snack, nut and seed butters keep blood sugar levels stable, giving you energy without a crash.
- Bananas - Bananas are packed full of potassium, fiber, and vitamin B6—all nutrients that sustain energy and muscle function. Bananas are great for breakfast, afternoon munchies, or as a pre-workout snack because of their energizing and muscle function properties.