A healthy gut is more important than you think. Your gut has major effects on your entire body – skin, mood, memory, and more. Here are some signs that your gut is in need of some attention or not.
Signs of an Unhealthy Gut?
1. Upset stomach
Gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and heartburn can all be signs of an unhealthy gut.
2. A high-sugar diet
Diets high in processed foods/added sugars can decrease the amount of good bacteria in your gut. This imbalance increases sugar cravings, which can damage your gut still further. High amounts of refined sugars have been linked to increased inflammation in the body.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. Skin irritation
Skin conditions like eczema may be related to a damaged gut. Inflammation in the gut caused by a poor diet or food allergies may cause increased “leaking” of certain proteins out into the body, which can in turn irritate the skin and cause conditions such as eczema.
6. 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.
7. 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.
Steps to a Healthy Gut?
1. 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 high quality or will actually provide benefit. It’s best to consult a healthcare provider when choosing a probiotic or prebiotic supplement to ensure the best health benefit.
2. Lower your stress levels
Chronic high levels of stress are hard on your whole body, including your gut. Think about meditation, walking, getting a massage, spending time with friends or family, diffusing essential oils, decreasing caffeine intake, laughing, yoga, or having a pet.
3. 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.
4. Eat slowly
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.
5. Stay hydrated
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.
6. 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.
7. 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.