Sitting too long can lead to an array of health problems (obesity and poor posture, for example), but the impact on gut health is often overlooked. In this article, we’ll dig deeper into how digestion and gut health are affected by too much sitting, and what to do about it.
While its effects can be profound, its causes are quite simple. The two primary factors that negatively impact your gut health from too much sitting are decreased blood flow and increased pressure on your digestive tract.
Decreased Blood Flow
We know that blood flow is lessened when we spend a long time sitting, and the gut is just one of many systems negatively affected. Since sitting compresses the organs and blood flow is decreased, it is common for bowel function to suffer.
In fact, a sedentary lifestyle has been positively linked with inflammatory bowel disease and other digestive problems. A sedentary lifestyle can also be a leading cause of constipation, which leads to a myriad of complications if not quickly addressed.
Increased Pressure on Your Digestive Tract
One of the worst things you can do after a big meal is sit for a long period of time. Sitting in general causes the contents of your abdomen (which include your intestinal tract) to compress, which slows digestion. Health professionals will agree that sluggish digestion is a major culprit of excess bloating and gas, cramps, heartburn and general discomfort after eating.
While further research is needed, one study suggests that too much sitting can even have negative impacts on our gut microbiome, which refers to the levels of bacteria that populate your gut. The study goes on to say that this resulting dysbiosis (improper balance of gut bacteria) can lead to intestinal problems such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Celiac Disease (CD), inflammatory bowel disease and more.
5 Things You Can Do About It Starting Today
Unfortunately, many people have a job that involves sitting for long periods every day, and this is largely unavoidable. If that’s you, try incorporating these habits into your daily routine:
- Sit with proper posture. This means having your shoulders relaxed, sitting up straight with arms close to your sides, positioning a computer so that you’re looking straight at it (not up or down), elbows bent at 90 degrees, feet flat on the floor and something behind your low back for support (a small, rolled up towel works).
- Take advantage of your breaks to move around. Whether this is a 30-minute walk on your lunch break, five minutes of stair climbs, or stretching, try to incorporate as much movement as possible into your day.
- Set your alarm! Set your alarm once every hour (or two) to get up and move around for five minutes.
- In the morning or at night (or both), make sure to stretch. Especially target hip flexors and stretches that allow you to move your back, like cat/cow pose.
- Alternate between sitting and standing while you work.
Do your best to avoid digestive (and other) issues by getting as much movement as possible throughout the day. And learn more about gut health from DiaResQ, a food for special dietary use that contains colostrum and provides important nutrients to the digestive tract.