When they say to trust your gut, they might be talking about your gut health. Most of us don’t think about our gut health, but it can actually impact many areas of our lives. Your gut used to be thought of as one of the most simple of body systems. Today we know this complex ecosystem is responsible for keeping the rest of our body systems running smoothly. So, when our gut health is out of whack, it can show through in a variety of ways.
Whether you have been sick for a while and are looking for an answer or simply want to live a healthier life, these are the signs of poor gut health that you should know and look out for:
Everyone has the occasional constipation or diarrhea. But when digestive issues become persistent and long-lasting, you might have reason to be concerned. When your gut starts to become dysfunctional, often gastrointestinal and digestive issues are the first to present themselves. This likely means there’s an issue either in the number or diversity of the gut bacteria.
One digestive sign to definitely pay attention to is gas. This is often a sign of food fermenting in your gut because you don’t have enough stomach acid or there’s some sort of imbalance in your gut bacteria. Along with gas, you should pay attention to:
- Frequent upset stomachs or stomach pain
- Persistent diarrhea
- Frequent heartburn
You might not have guessed that bacteria in your gut could have an impact on your cognitive functions, but as soon as your microbiome - that complex ecosystem in your gut - is malfunctioning, you can start to have some frustrating and serious cognitive issues. This happens because of the neurotransmitters your gut produces. These neurotransmitters are connected to your mood, thoughts, and other cognitive abilities, including things like concentration. Research has even shown that poor gut health can negatively impact your ability to learn, your memory, and lead to an inflammatory reaction in the brain.
You may first notice chronic fatigue or problems concentrating. Some of your chronic fatigue may be from lack of sleep, also related to your gut health. Along with your fatigue will be an inability to focus, which can cause issues at work and home. Even more concerning are the mood changes and disorders that can arise from your poor gut health. Things like anxiety and depression are common symptoms of poor gut health. This may be due to the body’s inability to absorb micronutrients that impact the regulation of your mood because of your gut health.
Within the layers of your body lies the gut-skin axis. This is where the gut meets the skin and directly communicates with it. When your gut is healthy, the communication is peaceful and your skin is happy. But when the gut is out of line, the communication can become hostile and lead to skin inflammation and irritation, which can lead to issues like eczema and acne.
The reason for this is that your gut plays a huge role in your skin’s homeostasis and inflammatory responses. Your skin, similar to your gut, has a microbiome that is a finely tuned work of art. When one microbiome isn’t working properly, the other might follow suite. These imbalances are what cause many skin ailments like atopic dermatitis and psoriasis, among others.
Weight & Dietary Issues
Are you having unexplained and unintentional weight changes? Do you find yourself unable to say no to a sweet treat? Or are you suddenly having some intolerances to certain foods you’ve never had a problem with before? All of these can be signs of an issue with your gut’s microbiome.
One reason for this is that your gut is responsible for how you absorb nutrients from the food you eat. When your microbiome isn’t working properly, you can’t absorb the right nutrients to maintain a healthy weight and diet. You might start storing more fat or having trouble regulating blood pressure. The irony is that an imbalance in your microbiome can lead to increased sugar cravings, though your body can’t process it well. It can also lead to inflammation and inflammatory response to foods like dairy and wheat.
The most tragic of the many symptoms of an unwell gut are some of the health issues associated with it. To start, it can quickly begin to affect your sleep, causing insomnia and exacerbating fatigue. This is mainly because the body’s serotonin hormone is produced in the gut and that controls your mood and sleep. These sleep disturbances have even been linked to fibromyalgia.
Diabetes is another issue that poor gut health can cause. A recent Russian looked at the differences in the changes of the microbes that live in the large intestine and found a link between gut bacteria and type two diabetes. And in fact, they were able to see an increased number of certain gut bacteria in those with diabetes, proving a link.
Autoimmune issues are another serious health concern being looked at in relation to gut health. For some, eliminating gluten helped to heal their gut and reduced symptoms to a manageable level. Along with autoimmune issues, you might face frequent illnesses and infection as the malfunction of your microbiome suppresses the immune system.
Aside from these, an unhealthy gut puts you at risk for bad breath and frequent migraines and headaches.
While any one of these issues may not mean you have an unhealthy gut, having multiple symptoms should give you pause. If you are concerned that you might have an unhealthy gut, talk with your doctor. By getting your gut health back in order, you can get back to regulating your entire body’s systems and lead a healthier, happier life.