Time for a Gut Check: How to Tell If You Have an Unhealthy Gut

Time for a Gut Check: How to Tell If You Have an Unhealthy Gut

An estimated 60-70 million Americans suffer from some type of digestive condition—that’s over 20% of the country’s population.

Unfortunately, the symptoms of digestive diseases aren’t always intuitive. Many people aren’t even aware that an unhealthy gut is the cause of their symptoms.

Is your skin condition an environmental allergy, or does it have deeper roots? Do your moods change depending on what you eat? If you’re ready to find out the answers to these questions and more, it’s time to do a gut health check.

Signs of an Unhealthy Gut

Our intestinal tract is a haven for bacteria. While that may sound scary at first, it’s a positive thing. Your native gut bacteria, called the microbiome, help your body digest food and produce substances required for survival.

Digestive symptoms are the clearest sign of a microbiome imbalance. If you experience these symptoms most or all of the time, it’s a clear indication of poor gut health:

  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Stomach upset, especially after eating
  • Bloating and gas
  • Abdominal pain
  • Heartburn
  • Food intolerance

While these symptoms are easy to associate with a digestive cause, the link isn’t always this clear. Your gut microbiome affects your entire body’s well-being. This means that the other signs of an unhealthy gut can be varied and widespread.

Unexplained Weight Gain or Loss

If you’ve noticed a significant change in your weight without changing your lifestyle, your gut could be to blame.

Unexplained weight loss is a symptom of Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). If the bacteria that normally live in your colon make it into the small intestine, it can interfere with your digestion.

Losing weight along with abdominal pain and other digestive symptoms could be a sign of Crohn’s disease. Many people with this condition are malnourished and have trouble putting on weight.

Gaining weight, on the other hand, could be related to acquired insulin resistance. It’s also a sign that you may not be absorbing enough nutrients from your foods. This can result in cravings and urges to overeat.

Sugar Cravings

The good bacteria that make up your gut flora can’t thrive on a high-sugar diet. Unfortunately, eating a diet high in sugar makes you crave sugar even more. Excessive sugars can also lead to inflammation that damages your intestinal lining.

Fatigue and Insomnia

Everyone feels tired and has trouble sleeping once in a while, but if this problem is constant, it could be due to your gut.

The gut is the home of most of your body’s serotonin production. This hormone plays a role in regulating your sleep/wake cycle. If your gut isn’t able to produce enough of it, you’ll have a harder time falling asleep and staying asleep.

Over time, this lack of sleep will sap your energy levels and can result in chronic fatigue.

Mood Problems

The phrase “you are what you eat” has more credibility than you might imagine. The foods you eat can have a large impact on your emotional wellbeing.

How is this possible? It’s because there’s a direct cyclical relationship between gut flora and mood disorders.

As mentioned previously, your gut produces a large portion of your body’s serotonin. Along with helping you sleep, this hormone is also responsible for letting you experience positive moods.

Your gut also produces other hormones involved in the pleasure and reward chain, including:

  • Dopamine
  • Gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA)
  • Acetylcholine
  • Norepinephrine

When your gut’s microbiome is out of balance, it isn’t able to keep up the production of these essential hormones. As a result, you may have a harder time feeling pleasure and happiness. This can cause or worsen mood disorders like depression and anxiety.

Skin Conditions

Your skin is the largest organ in your body, so it only makes sense that your gut health would have an impact on it. When your gut is damaged from food intolerances or a poor diet, it can cause proteins to “leak” through your intestinal wall.

These proteins can find their way into your bloodstream and irritate other tissues. The irritation often presents as skin conditions like eczema and acne.

Systemic Inflammation

The proteins and other substances that escape a leaky gut not only affect your skin but your body as a whole. The more toxins leak out of your gut and into your body, the higher your risk of systemic inflammation.

Inflammation is a difficult symptom to pin down. It can lead to any of the other symptoms on this list along with causing non-specific pain. Systemic inflammation is also a contributing factor in autoimmune disorders, IBS, and ulcerative colitis.

How to Improve Your Gut Health

Turning your gut health around may be as simple as altering what you eat.

The first step is to remove processed foods from your diet. Eating high amounts of refined sugar and unhealthy fats can disrupt your microbiome.

If your symptoms are severe, visit a doctor before making changes to your diet. They can help you determine whether you have an undiagnosed food intolerance, irritable bowel disease, or a more serious autoimmune condition like Crohn’s disease.

The changes you make to your diet may vary depending on your test results. For example, people with Crohn’s disease may need to adopt a temporary low-fiber, low-residue diet. For people with other bowel problems, a high-fiber diet rich in whole grains and raw fruits and veggies could be the answer.

Along with changing your diet, you might also benefit from taking probiotics. These live-culture supplements add good bacteria into your digestive tract, helping restore balance to your microbiome.

It’s Time for You to Check Your Gut Health

Have you checked in with your digestive health recently? If not, your unexplained health complaints could be coming from an unhealthy gut. Even if you don’t have an inflammatory bowel disorder, making some adjustments to your diet could bring your gut health back into balance.

If you’re ready to restore your gut health, taking probiotics is a great place to start. Check out this article to learn more about how they work.

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