10 signs of an unhealthy gut and how to fix it
Signs of an unhealthy gut and how to fix it! The incredible complexity of the gut and its importance to our overall health is a topic of increasing research in the medical community.
Numerous studies in the past two decades have demonstrated links between gut health and the immune system, mood, mental health, autoimmune diseases, endocrine disorders, skin conditions, and cancer.
Your gut is home to trillions of bacteria along with yeast and viruses that live among this bacteria. Collectively, these microorganisms are called your gut microbiome.
When the bacteria, yeast, and viruses that live in your gut are in balance, the rest of your body is in harmony too.
However, when things go awry, and the bad bacteria are able to take over the good, it can lead to an unhealthy gut called ‘gut dysbiosis’, which negatively affects the rest of your body. Here are some of the signs to look for:
1. Gas and bloating
Gas is produced as a normal part of the digestion and fermentation process in the gut. Howeve, some strains of gut bacteria naturally produce more gas than others. If you have more of these super-gas producing “bad” strains, it could lead to excessive fermentation, trapping gas in the gut and creating bloat.
Although researchers haven’t been able to pinpoint a single underlying cause of constipation, one scientific review points out that functional constipation and irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS-C) is connected to gut imbalance.
People who suffer from constipation typically have lower levels of certain types of bacteria, including Bifidobacteria, in their stool samples.
Occasional loose stool affects everyone at some point, but chronic or acute diarrhea can be a sign of bacterial overgrowth or an infection with Clostridioides difficile, a type of bacteria that lives in the gut in small numbers, but can create problems when it multiples.
Diarrhea can also make gut health worse by pushing out the good bacteria in your gut, contributing to even more gut dysbiosis.
4. Mood disorders
Your microbiome plays a vital role in your mental health and the way you respond to stress.
Although the exact mechanisms aren’t totally clear, there’s evidence that certain hormones that are made in the gut—collectively called gut peptides—control the signaling between your gut and brain (and vice versa). If this hormonal balance is thrown off, it can contribute to anxiety, and other mood disorders.
5. Skin inflammation and acne
Topical skin care products are often recommended for eczema, psoriasis, acne and other inflammatory skin problems, but in many cases, an unhealthy gut is to blame. Your gut is in direct communication with your skin through what’s called the gut-skin axis.
6. A high-sugar diet
A diet high in processed foods and added sugars can decrease the amount of good bacteria in your gut.
This imbalance can cause increased sugar cravings, which can damage your gut still further. High amounts of refined sugars, particularly high-fructose corn syrup, have been linked to increased inflammation in the body. Inflammation can be the precursor to a number of diseases and even cancers.
7. Unintentional weight changes
Gaining or losing weight without making changes to your diet or exercise habits may be a sign of an unhealthy gut. An imbalanced gut can impair your body’s ability to absorb nutrients, regulate blood sugar, and store fat.
Weight loss may be caused by small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), while weight gain may be caused by insulin resistance or the urge to overeat due to decreased nutrient absorption.
8. Sleep disturbances or constant fatigue
An unhealthy gut may contribute to sleep disturbances such as insomnia or poor sleep, and therefore lead to chronic fatigue.
The majority of the body’s serotonin, a hormone that affects mood and sleep, is produced in the gut. So gut damage can impair your ability to sleep well. Some sleep disturbances have also been linked to risk for fibromyalgia.
9. Autoimmune conditions
Medical researchers are continually finding new evidence of the impact of the gut on the immune system.
It’s thought that an unhealthy gut may increase systemic inflammation and alter the proper functioning of the immune system. This can lead to autoimmune diseases, where the body attacks itself rather than harmful invaders.
10. Food intolerances
Food intolerances are the result of difficulty digesting certain foods (this is different than a food allergy, which is caused by an immune system reaction to certain foods). It’s thought that food intolerances may be caused by poor quality of bacteria in the gut.
This can lead to difficulty digesting the trigger foods and unpleasant symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and nausea. There is some evidence that food allergies may also be related to gut health.
8 Things you can do for your gut health
Manage stress levels
Stress wreaks havoc on your entire system, and your gut is especially susceptible. Chronic stress causes an inflammatory response that contributes to gut dysbiosis and intestinal permeability, a condition more commonly known as “leaky gut.”
Move your body regularly
Getting regular exercise is also an important step in getting your gut back into balance. According to one review on the effects of exercise on the microbiome, aerobic exercise can increase the amount of bacteria in your gut and contribute to overall bacterial diversity.
Get enough sleep
Not getting enough or sufficient quality of sleep can have serious impacts on your gut health, which can in turn contribute to more sleep issues. Try to prioritize getting at least 7–8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. Your doctor may be able to help if you have trouble sleeping.
Drinking plenty of water has been shown to have a beneficial effect on the mucosal lining of the intestines, as well as on the balance of good bacteria in the gut. Staying hydrated is a simple way to promote a healthy gut.
Chewing your food thoroughly and eating your meals more slowly can help promote full digestion and absorption of nutrients. This may help you reduce digestive discomfort and maintain a healthy gut.
Take a prebiotic or probiotic
Adding a prebiotic or probiotic supplement to your diet may be a great way to improve your gut health. Prebiotics provide “food” meant to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, while probiotics are live good bacteria.
People with bacterial overgrowth, such as SIBO, should not take probiotics. Not all probiotic supplements are of high quality or will actually provide benefit. It’s best to consult your healthcare provider when choosing a probiotic or prebiotic supplement to ensure the best health benefit.
Check for food intolerances
If you have symptoms such as cramping, bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, rashes, nausea, fatigue, and acid reflux, you may be suffering from a food intolerance.
You can try eliminating common trigger foods to see if your symptoms improve. If you are able to identify food or foods that are contributing to your symptoms, you may see a positive change in your digestive health by changing your eating habits.
Change your diet
Reducing the amount of processed, high-sugar, and high-fat foods that you eat can contribute to better gut health. Additionally, eating plenty of plant-based foods and lean protein can positively impact your gut. A diet high in fiber has been shown to contribute tremendously to a healthy gut microbiome.
4 Types of food for gut health
Diet and gut health are very closely linked. Avoiding processed foods, high-fat foods, and foods high in refined sugars is extremely important to maintaining a healthy microbiome, as these foods destroy good bacteria and promote the growth of damaging bacteria. There are also a number of foods you can eat that actively promote the growth of beneficial bacteria, contributing to your overall health.
These foods include:
1. High-fiber foods
High-fiber foods such as legumes, beans, peas, oats, bananas, berries, asparagus, and leeks have shown a positive impact on gut health in numerous studies.
2. Garlic and onion
Garlic and onion may have some anti-cancer and immune system-enhancing properties based on various studies, which are closely tied to some of the primary functions of the gut. Some of these benefits are anecdotal, although some research has been done.
3. Fermented foods
Fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt, tempeh, miso, and kefir are great dietary sources of probiotics. While the quality of these foods may vary, their benefits on the gut microbiome are well studied.
4. Collagen-boosting foods
Collagen-rich foods such as bone broth and salmon may be beneficial to overall health and gut health specifically. Many of these benefits are anecdotal conclusions and further research could be done. You could also try to boost your body’s own collagen production through foods. Try adding a variety of foods, like mushrooms, good dairy, or certain meats.
Eat, sleep, and be healthy
The human gut is more complex than previously thought and has a huge impact on whole-body health. A healthy gut contributes to a strong immune system, heart health, brain health, improved mood, healthy sleep, and effective digestion, and it may help prevent some cancers and autoimmune diseases. There are a number of lifestyle changes you can make to positively affect your gut health and your overall health as a result.