Simply put, artificial sweeteners cause belly fat. A 2015 study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that increasing diet soda intake is directly linked to greater abdominal obesity. In the study of older adults, researchers found those who drank diet soda each day experienced more than triple the increase in waist size over the course of nine years, so put down the Diet Coke and don’t even think about reaching for some Equal to put in your morning coffee.
The pooch is bad enough, but what's worse is the back problems an overworked rectus can create—anything from general pain to degenerative or herniated disks, says Wells. "The stronger muscles in the front of your body take over and your back muscles turn off ," he says. With nothing to hold your spine in place, the disks can shift and squish together.
Your body needs some sodium to function, but too much can lead to fluid retention in the gut, Henderiks says. Put down the shaker and forgo processed and prepared foods as much as possible in favor of homemade meals so you can control the salt. Experts recommend maxing out at 2,400 milligrams of sodium a day, but this is one time when less is better.

In this book, we look at all of the ways you can improve your own gut health, starting with the food you eat. My diet recommendations, meal plans, and recipes will help feed and protect your gut microbes. And we look at the many other steps you can take to support your beneficial bacteria, from avoiding unnecessary antibiotics to changing the way you think about dirt and germs. Even the choices you make about how you bring your children into the world can have an impact on your family’s microbiomes.

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