Signs of an Unhealthy Gut and Ways to Improve Gut Health
Understand the importance of gut health and how it affects your whole body. Watch out if you have these warning signs of unhealthy gut. And 11 ways to improve your gut health naturally.
What is the state of your gut health? If you're not sure, then it's time to find out!
Gut health has become more and more important as we find links between our digestive system and many other aspects of our lives.
In this blog post, we will discuss signs that indicate an unhealthy gut and ways to improve gut health.
Importance of gut health
Your gastrointestinal tract is one of the most important parts of your body. It's where the microbes, that keep diseases at bay, reside.
If not properly cared for, the balance of good microbes in your gut will be disturbed. This can result in bad bacteria-producing toxins that are absorbed into the bloodstream. Consequently, it causes inflammation throughout the body.
This could lead to a host of problems down the line like autoimmune diseases, allergies, asthma, or even cancer.
Also, it turns out that 90% of our serotonin is created in our guts! Serotonin is a hormone important for our moods, sleep cycles, and appetite. So if your gut is not in good shape it will affect your mood and can be the reason for your depression or anxiety.
When our gut is healthy it also has a positive impact on how quickly food moves through the digestive tract which in turn aids in weight management.
Your gut also produces vitamin B-12 which helps regulate blood cell formation.
It also assists neurological function. So, if there aren't enough good bacteria in your gut, you can experience things like brain fog.
Warning Signs of Unhealthy Gut
Being related to so many important body mechanisms, keeping track of your gut health is highly important. If you want to know if your gut is healthy, here are some warning signs:
Constipation or diarrhea
Stomach disturbances like constipation and diarrhea can be due to a variety of reasons.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms regularly then it could be IBS and should be looked into by your doctor.
Constipation is not usually caused by eating an unhealthy diet but sometimes can come with other illnesses like SIBO ( Small bacterial overgrowth)
Diarrhea most probably occurs due to a virus, bacteria, or parasite or diseases like Crohn's Disease or Ulcerative Colitis.
It can also be due to stress and anxiety which will typically only last for a day or two before your gut heals itself up.
These should not be treated with self-medication because it is often caused by something that cannot be controlled through just medicines alone.
If you're unsure about the cause of your stomach troubles, start keeping track of what food makes them worse and which help to alleviate that symptom.
Gas and bloating
If you're noticing that your stomach feels bloated after eating or drinking certain things, you may have an unhealthy gut.
Bloating is often caused by excessive gas production in the intestines and may be due to a bacterial imbalance as well and also a sign of SIBO.
Several foods can cause bloating such as beans and broccoli because they are difficult for our bodies to digest which leads them to take longer than necessary before being excreted out of the body.
This causes too much bacteria in our digestive system from fermentation which then creates gas inside us.
Poor sleep quality
When your gut microbiome is disturbed, it can have a negative effect on your sleep quality.
A disrupted gut microbiome can lead to inflammation and poor digestion, which alters the way we produce hormones like serotonin that helps us sleep better.
This means you may not be getting enough sleep because your dinner has made it difficult for your body to digest foods or create neurotransmitters efficiently during the night-time hours before bed.
Low energy levels throughout the day.
With your gut not working properly, you might also find that you are not getting enough energy throughout the day.
This is because your body does not have any good bacteria to break down food and extract nutrients from it. Meaning that all of the nutrition may be going towards repairing your gut instead.
The lack of sleep combined with a disrupted metabolism will mean that you'll feel sluggish during your waking hours too.
When your gut is not working, your body can experience skin irritations.
This might be because toxins are being released by the bad bacteria that have no way to exit your system through regular digestion or excretion. These toxins will then come out of you in other ways, such as through a rash or when you sweat during exercise.
Consequently, these released toxins cause irritation on your skin.
Unusual increase or decrease of appetite
A change in appetite is a sign that your gut isn't functioning properly.
With a disrupted gut microbiome, the toxins released by bad bacteria interfere with how your brain communicates hunger signals.
In other words, this means you're eating more or less because of these bacterial issues rather than feeling hungry for real food.
Unusual weight changes
Gut dysfunction can lead to weight changes. Because food might not go through and digest properly or maybe released differently than expected.
Weight loss may occur as there will be less absorption into the bloodstream from incomplete digestion.
Weight gain also has been reported for similar reasons: still being hungry even though their bodies have communicated 'fullness' signals. Therefore more eating leading to gaining weight.
Ways To Improve Gut Health
If any of the above-mentioned symptoms apply to you, it could be a sign that your gut health needs work!
And thankfully there are many ways we can improve our insides through diet changes like probiotics, prebiotics and fermented foods. Below are some ways to help you improve your gut health.
Drink more water
When your gut is unhealthy, your body will often react with a thirst response for things it needs the most.
This could be water to help hydrate or electrolytes to replace what was lost in sweat. Eventually, dehydration sets in if we don't replenish those fluids.
The best way to stay on top of this is by drinking more fluid throughout the day. It is recommended to take 64 ounces of water per day but that can vary depending on age, activity level, and more.
Get proper sleep
Lack of sleep can negatively affect your gut, specifically the key players of digestion like stomach acid and enzymes.
This can lead to indigestion issues or inflammation in the intestines which could cause problems with nutrient absorption.
Sleep deprivation can affect our health both inside and out!
For an average person, seven to eight hours per night is what's recommended.
Manage your stress levels
Stress is a tough one. It can be hard to manage, but it's important! Stress will wreak havoc on your gut and immune system by increasing inflammation in the body.
This could lead to an unhealthy gut from eating too much sugar or junk food when you're feeling down about life (or anything else).
Choose an activity that helps you relax and practice it regularly. It can be anything from yoga, meditation to spending some time of your day with your family & friends.
It may seem like an impossible task when you're feeling run down or don't have time for it.
Yet, Exercise is key for gut health with reducing stress, improving mood and weight management.
It promotes healthy blood circulation which helps your body get rid of toxins naturally while also boosting the immune system to keep you up and running strong!
There are many different types of exercise (such as walking, yoga) so pick one or two that fit your lifestyle best. You can even take a walk in nature if you're feeling very stressed out.
Probiotic foods are those that contain live bacteria cultures that act as a "good" bacteria because it helps maintain the balance between good and bad microorganisms in our digestive system.
Examples include yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut etc...
There are also various probiotic supplements available for those that do not consume these foods on a regular basis.
Prebiotics are carbohydrates that act as food for our "good" bacteria.
They should be consumed daily because they help promote the growth of good bacteria in your digestive system, keep them active and increase their effectiveness at breaking down foods.
Examples include bananas, raw oats, garlic etc...
When selecting pre- or probiotic supplements make sure to read all ingredients carefully to avoid unwanted sugar (including high fructose corn syrup) or artificial flavors/colors!
Low FODMAP diet
The Low FODMAP Diet is designed specifically for people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and other gastrointestinal issues such as heartburn and constipation.
It provides relief by eliminating certain types of sugars from the diet that are poorly absorbed in the intestines and can cause unpleasant symptoms.
The Low FODMAP Diet blocks foods high in fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, or polyols (FODMAPs) - including wheat, rye, onions, garlic, etc.
And by lowering one's intake of fructose-containing fruits such as apples and bananas while increasing fiber-rich vegetables like broccoli.
Sugar is not eliminated completely but taken care of through a reduced sugar diet made up mainly of low glycemic index carbohydrates found in whole grains, legumes, and dairy products without lactose intolerance issues.
It may take some time to see changes with this dietary approach so it is important to be consistent if you follow this diet.
Read this article on Low FODMAP diet for SIBO/IBS here.
High Fiber Diet
In order to have healthy gut flora, you need to make sure your diet includes lots of fiber which will feed the good bacteria living in our digestive system.
Fibers are found naturally in much plant-based food like fruits/vegetables: berries, pear, etc... And also in whole grand, beans & so on.
Ginger has been used for centuries as an effective detoxifier because it can help soothe stomach discomfort, reduce bloating, improve circulation and get rid of excess mucus in the body.
It is said to increase the bioavailability of nutrients by stimulating digestive enzymes and gastric acid secretion.
Add ginger to your diet in the form of fresh/dry ginger tea, which is a great remedy for nausea or stomach discomfort with colds/flus.
Reduce use of artificial sweeteners or preservatives
Artificial sweeteners & preservatives have been linked to inflammation, weight gain and increased risk of depression.
If you want your gut health to improve: Avoid these ingredients in the kitchen!
Check labels on everything you eat or drink to make sure there are no artificial sweeteners or preservatives added. These can lead to health problems down the line so always check before consuming anything!
Stay away from processed food
Stay away from processed foods as much as possible - they often contain large amounts of sugar which can lead to weight gain and other health issues over time (processed foods also usually contain high amounts of sodium).
Maintaining good gut health will lead to better mental health, weight loss, lowered bad cholesterol levels, increased immunity against infections—and many other benefits too!
So, it’s highly important to keep track of the signs your gut gives you when there is something wrong. And try to improve it to heal your gut properly.
Sometimes even after doing all the above things your gut might not be feeling better. This is the time you need to work with a Functional Medicine Physician who can help to fix your gut-related problems.
If you are interested in working with me, I offer virtual functional medicine consultation to people from anywhere in the country, especially if you live in Houston, Toledo, Northern Virginia, Los Angeles, NEW YORK & Miami. Please click below to get started with a 15-minute free evaluation call with Dr. Gupta.