What are the Signs of an Unhealthy Gut?
The gut is an incredibly complex system. And when your gut is unhealthy, the impact on your overall physical and mental health can be significant.
Scientific research over the past two or so decades has been able to demonstrate strong links between gut health and autoimmune disease, the immune system, mood, mental health, endocrine disorders, skin conditions, and even cancer.
But how do you know if your gut health isn’t right?
By being able to detect when things aren’t in optimal shape, you can possibly prevent the worst happening. Not every symptom will be indicative of poor gut health. But knowing what to look for gives you the knowledge and the power to start taking steps towards taking back your overall health.
These are symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhoea, and indigestion or heartburn. These signs are often the trademark symptoms of gut dysfunction.
For the most part, this is due to the health (number and diversity) of the bacteria in your gut. When the balance is off, symptoms such as irregularity or gas occur.
Gas and bloating are often signs that food is fermenting in your gut. This is a sign you have insufficient stomach acid or an imbalance of bacteria to break down the food you have eaten.
Mostly, a healthy or balanced gut will have less difficulty processing food and eliminating waste.
Food Sensitivities or Intolerances
Food intolerances happen when there is difficulty digesting particular foods. This is different from a food allergy – which is caused by an immune system reaction to specific foods.
Food intolerances may be caused by the poor quality of bacteria in the gut. This leads to a struggle with digesting the trigger foods. Unpleasant symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and nausea are experienced.
It can also be due to a result of a leaky gut. This is where the gut barrier allows large protein molecules to escape into the bloodstream. Since the proteins don’t belong outside the gut, the body mounts an immune response and attacks them. This immune response can show up systemically. This is explored further down the page.
Anxiety, Depression, Irritability
The internal workings of your gut don’t just help you digest food, but also influence your emotions.
Most of your serotonin and a significant amount of dopamine is produced in the gut. These are your happy hormones.
If your gut is compromised, not only is the ability to produce the hormones affected, but the gut inhibits your ability to utilise the hormones it does produce. That’s a double whammy.
So, if you had a mental health issue – yet still had an adequate intake of micronutrients, but an unhealthy gut – you would end up being deficient. This is because the body would not be able to synthesise or utilise the hormones in adequate quantities.
We have a blog post on the gut brain axis and your mood that will help you to understand this further.
It has been found that gut bacteria secrete unique proteins that affect our food cravings.
To keep it simple, the bacteria try to get us to eat foods that they thrive on. So, if you eat a lot of sugar, you feed the unhelpful bacteria that love it, and they secrete the proteins to make you crave more sugar. It’s a vicious cycle.
Not only does the sugar create more sugar cravings, but the diet in added sugars actually decreases the number of good bacteria in your gut.
Halitosis (bad breath) stems from odour inducing microbes that reside in between your teeth and gums and on your tongue.
Essentially the ratio of good and harmful bacteria is an indicator of your overall health. The bacteria in your mouth are the start of the gut – your gastrointestinal system. Basically, bad breath may be a sign your gut flora may not be optimal or in balance.
Skin Problems Like Eczema & Rosacea
Inflammation in the gut caused by a poor diet or food intolerances, allow specific proteins to ‘leak’ into the bloodstream and irritate the skin. It’s well documented that a common sign of food intolerance is eczema. Please read our blog post on the gut skin axis to find out more about this fascinating topic.
There is a well-documented link in research between leaky gut and autoimmune conditions – where the body attacks itself rather than harmful invaders. It is thought that the unhealthy gut may increase systemic inflammation and alter the proper functioning of the immune system.
There are numerous autoimmune diseases. If you have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease or suspect you may have one, please see your Health Care Provider. They will be able to give you information about the potential or actual role of gut health in your particular condition.
Sleep Disturbances or Fatigue
The microbiome affects sleep and sleep-related physiological functions in a variety of ways, including altering the body’s sleep-wake cycle and disturbing the hormones that regulate sleep and wakefulness.
It does this by disrupting the complex interplay between hormones and neurotransmitters – such as melatonin, cortisol, serotonin, and dopamine.
What if I think I have an unhealthy gut? What do I do next?
There are many signs and symptoms of compromised gut function. These are just a few of the common ones that are easily identifiable. If you are concerned that you may have an unhealthy gut, start here: –
- If you feel you have a severe imbalance or need help with an autoimmune disease, seek out a Medical Practitioner or Health Care Provider that you feel comfortable talking with and trust.
- Eating an abundance of plant-based foods and avoiding overly processed and sugary foods. This will allow good bacteria to flourish.
- Make sure you exercise regularly. This is not only good for your gut but essential for your overall wellbeing.
- Reduce stress levels by participating in yoga or establishing a daily meditation practice. This normalises out of control hormone and neurotransmitter levels that wreak havoc with your gut lining.
- To help promote these small but significant actions, taking Gut Performance™ daily encourages health and optimal gut function. This is done by healing, normalising, and fortifying the protective lining of your digestive tract. It also contains prebiotics to help your naturally occurring microbiome to flourish.