With over 75 million US adults suffering from digestive issues, the phrase “listen to your gut” has transcended being a mere metaphor to become a vital health mantra! Far from being a fleeting health fad, gut health emerges as a cornerstone of overall wellness, playing a pivotal role not just in digestion but also in the operation of virtually every organ system in the body. While pinpointing an unhealthy gut isn’t straightforward, certain indicators can serve as red flags. This article discusses the 10 commonly observed signs of an unhealthy gut and some of the most effective lifestyle changes to fix your gut.
Why Is Gut Health So Important?
Calling the gut the body’s second brain would still be an understatement, considering the important roles it plays in our bodies.
By digesting the food consumed and absorbing the essential nutrients from it, the gut fuels and maintains the entire body.
Therefore, it is no surprise that the importance of the gut in maintaining overall health is increasingly becoming an important research topic in the medical community.
Newer studies suggest gut microbes may affect the functioning of every single organ in the body.
|TMAO is a substance made in our gut when we digest certain foods. High TMAO levels in our blood, influenced by our diet and gut bacteria, are linked to heart disease in humans. If we feed our bodies with certain kinds of food, it encourages the gut bacteria to produce more TMAP, thereby endangering our heart health.
|Uremic dysbiosis is a pathogenic condition that affects the ability of the kidney to filter properly due to an imbalance in the gut microbiome. Uremic dysbiosis can also be caused by excess plasma TMAO and lead to chronic kidney disease. Medical experts believe treating an unhealthy gut can help prevent uremic dysbiosis or reduce its severity.
|Did you know that 70-80% of immune cells are present in the gut? Therefore, the gut plays a direct role in influencing the immune system, which is why certain types of gut microbiota have been linked to autoimmune diseases.
|Studies report that a leaky gut may cause the movement of gut microbiota to the liver, resulting in the development of liver diseases. The composition of gut microbes can also influence bile metabolism. Issues with bile metabolism lead to liver disorders.
|Gut health directly affects skin inflammation and influences acne breakouts. The gut also helps in the absorption of essential nutrients like vitamins A, E, and C and fatty acids, all of which are important in maintaining skin health.
|The gut produces essential neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which affect mood, regulate sleep, and influence mental health. An unhealthy gut may lead to neurotransmitter imbalances, leading to various mental health issues.
|The gut produces hormones that control feelings of hunger and satiety. An unhealthy gut may lead to problems in regulating these hormones, causing overeating issues. The gut also determines how nutrients are absorbed, and fat is stored, which also affects body weight.
What Are The Factors That Affect Gut Health
The following are some of the factors that affect gut health.
One of the major factors that affect gut bacteria is the food consumed.
A diet rich in vegetables and fruits may help develop a more diverse microbiome in the gut while consuming excess processed food may lead to intestinal lining damage and the presence of only a limited species of gut microbes.
A 2008 study suggests that a Western diet, rich in saturated fats and sugar, causes a reduction in the levels of Bacteroides (beneficial gut microbes) and an increase in the level of firmicutes (bad gut microbes).
Several studies relate an increased ratio of firmicutes to Bacteroides to type II diabetes and obesity.
Some studies report that non-digestable dietary components called probiotics may help diversify gut microbiomes, improving gut health.
Aging is a factor that affects gut health. As people age, the gut microbe diversity decreases, marked by increased inflammation and digestive issues.
The gut microbiome makeup is also dependent on genetics.
Changes in certain genes can influence the presence or absence of certain gut microbes, thereby influencing gut health.
Long-term use of certain medications may affect gut health by altering the microbiome makeup.
For instance, antibiotics, used to treat bacterial infections, can destroy beneficial bacteria in the gut, leading to gut issues like inflammation and digestive problems.
Many studies report that the use of metformin to treat type II diabetes changes gut microbial patterns, affecting gut health in the long term.
Method Of Delivery At Birth
A 2016 study reports that the gut microbiome pattern is different between infants born via vaginal delivery and those born by cesarean section.
According to the study, infants born by vaginal delivery are exposed to the mother’s bacteria at birth, which isn’t the case for infants born through a cesarean section.
10 Signs Of An Unhealthy Gut
Here are ten notable signs of an unhealthy gut.
One of the common signs of an unhealthy gut is food sensitivities. The low quality of gut microbes may make it difficult to digest certain types of food, leading to post-meal problems like bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and nausea.
Migraines cause intense headaches and sensitivities to sound and light. Gut microbe imbalance may play a role in the development of migraines.
Frequent acne breakout
Acne is a skin inflammatory condition that causes skin breakouts.
Gut issues could be one reason for recurring acne breakouts.
A 2019 study reports that skin acne is closely connected with the gastrointestinal tract and that the gut microbiota may be involved in the development and severity of acne.
The gut plays a role in regulating the circadian rhythm in the body.
The circadian rhythm is the 24-hour internal clock that tells the body when to sleep and when to stay awake.
Sleep disorders like insomnia, difficulty falling asleep, or excessive daytime sleepiness may all be signs of an unhealthy gut.
Heartburn and GERD
Another telltale sign of an unhealthy gut is Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and frequent heartburn.
Gut dysbiosis is a condition caused by an imbalance in the gut microbes.
A 2019 study reports that gut dysbiosis is a common cause of conditions like GERD, irritable bowel syndrome, and colitis.
Bloating is an excess buildup of gas in the GI tract which can make the belly feel tight, full, and uncomfortable, especially after a meal.
It is mostly a result of digestive issues and hormonal imbalance, both of which are signs of an unhealthy gut.
Gut dysbiosis can be another cause of frequent or chronic constipation.
Studies suggest targeting gut dysbiosis using probiotics, prebiotics, synbiotics, and fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) to treat constipation.
Inflammation is the body’s way of handling an injury, infection, or sickness and is regulated by the immune system.
The presence of certain types of gut bacteria can trigger the immune system to cause chronic inflammation in all parts of the body.
Chronic inflammation leads to increased risks of type II diabetes, cardiovascular problems, and even certain types of cancers.
The inability to maintain a healthy body weight could be a sign of an unhealthy gut.
The gut microbiomes are responsible for energy expenditure and the absorption of nutrients from food.
The gut microbes also affect the production of ghrelin, leptin, and peptide YY hormones, all of which affect your appetite.
An unhealthy gut may lead to lower energy expenditure and nutrient absorption and keep you feeling hungry, leading to weight gain issues.
Mental health issues
The gut and the brain are very closely connected and can affect one another. The gut is called the second brain for this reason.
Psychological problems can lead to GI issues, while an unhealthy gut can be the root cause of conditions like stress, anxiety, or depression.
Health Conditions Associated With An Unhealthy Gut
The following are some of the health conditions that could be associated with an unhealthy gut.
- Autoimmune conditions
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Ulceritive Colitis (UC)
- Crohn’s Disease (CD)
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
- Type II diabetes
- Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH)
- Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)
- Colon, prostate, and other types of cancers
What Are The Symptoms Of A Bacteria Imbalance?
A gut bacterial imbalance can show up as chronic digestive issues, skin breakouts, mental health issues, unexpected weight fluctuations, sudden food intolerances, or migraines.
There are specific tests that can help identify microbiome imbalance levels in the gut. This would help in making precise treatment plans.
7 Most Effective Lifestyle And Diet Fixes For A Healthy Gut
Choose A Diverse Diet
Including different varieties of plant-based foods in your diet is a very easy way to improve the gut microbiome pattern and general gut health.
Whole foods are also great for maintaining a healthy gut.
Include Fermented Foods
Naturally, fermented foods contain different types of live microorganisms, which benefit the gut.
These foods are natural probiotics and must be included in plenty in one’s diet.
Some of the common types of fermented foods are yogurt, kefir, kombucha, kimchi, and pickled vegetables.
Limit Consumption Of Processed Food
According to experts, processed foods that contain excess emulsifiers damage the lining of the intestinal walls, promote inflammation, and result in a leaky gut.
Reducing the consumption of processed food and choosing fresher and more natural ingredients is one way of protecting the gut.
Water is essential for optimal gut health – it helps break down food and prevent constipation and gut inflammation.
Focus On Prebiotics And Probiotics
Probiotics are supplements or types of food that contain live microorganisms, while prebiotics are food that may help improve the gut microbiomes.
Most fiber-rich foods are prebiotics.
Including both prebiotics and probiotics would help diversify the microbiome pattern and improve gut health.
Work On Stress Management
Stress affects every single organ in the body, including the gut.
Studies report that chronic exposure to stress may change brain-gut interactions and trigger gastrointestinal problems like IBD.
Stay Physically Active
Moderate physical activity is one of the proven ways of diversifying gut microbiota and improving gut health.
According to a 2016 study, exercise could be an alternative therapy to deal with gut dysbiosis and related conditions.
What Is The Best Supplement For Gut Health?
There is no one magic supplement that would instantly improve gut health.
Instead, including the following supplements regularly in one’s diet may help improve gut health and diversify gut microbiota.
- Apple cider vinegar
- Digestive enzymes
- Psyllium husk
Other FAQs About Gut Reset
What 3 Foods Are Bad For Your Gut?
Processed foods, deep-fried foods, and artificial sweeteners in excess are three foods that can affect gut health.
Does Coffee Destroy Gut Bacteria?
Multiple studies report that caffeine in coffee diversifies gut microbiota and helps increase the number of beneficial bacteria growing in the gut.
How Do You Starve Bad Gut Bacteria?
Bad gut bacteria thrive on processed foods, excess sugar, alcohol, gluten, and dairy.
Eliminating or restricting these kinds of foods may be a way to starve bad bacteria.
Hand-picked content for you: Beating Bad Gut Bacteria: Starve Them!
What Is The Fastest Way To Improve Gut Health?
There is no quick fix to improve gut health.
Choosing fiber-rich meals, staying away from processed and refined foods, staying physically active, and including probiotic supplements can all help improve gut health over time.
Summary: 10 Signs Of An Unhealthy Gut
- The gut or gastrointestinal system includes the stomach, intestines, and colon and is responsible for digestion, nutrient absorption, and waste excretion.
- The trillions of microbial cells found in the gut are called the gut microbiome, and the diversity of the microbiome and general gut health affects almost every organ in the body.
- Some factors that affect gut health include age, diet, genetics, medications used, and method of delivery.
- Abnormal food sensitivities, digestive issues, skin breakouts, sleep disorders, weight fluctuations, inflammation, and mental health issues are some of the signs of an unhealthy gut.
- Including naturally fermented foods in your diet, choosing whole foods over processed and refined foods, opting for a plant-based diet, and working on mental stress are ways to heal your gut.
- Probiotics, prebiotics, digestive enzymes, L-glutamine, psyllium husk, and apple cider vinegar are some supplements that can enhance gut health.