Signs of unhealthy gut, gut health hacks, and more!
If you’re like most people, it’s probably not much. But in recent years, we’ve learned a lot about how the bacteria that live in our digestive system can affect our entire body. Research has shown that gut health affects every human body system and that what happens to your gut can have widespread effects on your immune system, brain function, and mood. That’s why understanding gut health is vital for everyone — including young athletes.
There is a reason for the saying ‘we are what we eat.’ While you might be thinking of this as simply meaning what types of food you should or shouldn’t eat, it also means that any habits that affect your digestive system will have an impact on your health.
You probably already know some of the types of habits that can lead to poor gut health. Things like not getting enough sleep, failing to exercise regularly, and living under stress, are standard practices in many people’s daily lives. But did you know that there are certain foods with surprising benefits for gut health? There are even medications available today, such as probiotic supplements, which can help improve issues like irritable bowel syndrome.
Signs Of Unhealthy Gut
As the gut is one of the most critical organs in your body, many different signs can indicate if something is wrong with the health of this area. Symptoms to watch out for include:
If you have a hard time getting rid of solid waste in your stool, this could be a sign that something is going on with your digestive system. There are several reasons why this might happen, from eating certain foods to not drinking enough water.
Diarrhea is the exact opposite of constipation and could be a sign that you have an infection in your digestive system or an imbalance in bacteria levels. A balanced microbiome should help keep any diarrhea under control, so it’s essential to get this checked immediately if you regularly experience this type of bowel movement.
Being able to identify bloating in your stomach and abdomen is very important. Signs that you may be experiencing more severe issues include sharp pains when sitting or standing, coughing, and sneezing.
Regularity with the frequency of bowel movements is critical for absorbing nutrients from food and maintaining good health overall. If this isn’t happening, it could indicate various problems such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, and even colon cancer in some cases.
Some gas is regular, but if it’s excessive or accompanied by other symptoms, like pain, you may want it checked out.
Mild nausea that doesn’t last for more than a few hours probably won’t have much of an impact, but if it continues to get worse, you should go to the doctor. Signs of long-term nausea can include chronic vomiting, food intolerances, among others. If this is something you experience regularly or are worried about, make sure to talk with your doctor.
Heartburn is a pervasive issue for many adults, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t concerned about. Signs that you may have acid reflux disease (GERD) include chronic symptoms like coughing, hoarseness, and food getting stuck in your throat. Prolonged symptoms of this nature could lead to more serious health concerns down the road.
Pain When Consuming Certain Foods
If you have certain types of foods that cause severe stomach aches or cramping, this could be a sign of damage to the lining of your digestive system. Sometimes this may even lead to more severe issues with nutrient absorption and can also indicate problems with liver function. You should avoid a few specific foods if you’re experiencing any digestive issues: cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts, and bok choy. Legumes include alfalfa sprouts, mung beans, peanuts, green peas, and snow peas.
How Your Gut Health Affects Your Whole Body
Your digestive system might be one of the least visible on your body, but it’s also arguably one of the most important. When food first enters your stomach after being chewed up by your teeth, it mixes with saliva to supply the acids needed to break down proteins. From there, enzymes will blend in so that things like carbohydrates and fiber can be broken down into sugars. You will then continue to absorb nutrients as your small intestine releases hormones that help with digestion.
If you don’t have a healthy gut, this entire process can become disrupted. This leads to inflammation in the digestive system, linked with diseases and disorders, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, anxiety, and even depression.
The microbiome that lives inside your digestive system produces essential vitamins like vitamin B12 and K2, which help with cell growth and metabolism. When this area isn’t working correctly, it can lead to deficiencies in these vitamins and the absorption of certain minerals like magnesium. One study found that when patients with unexplained iron deficiency anemia underwent a treatment called bio-reduction, the levels of their anemia resolved 90% of the time. The patients also showed a marked improvement in markers for inflammation and endotoxins, which means minor damage was done to their digestive tract by pathogens.
Your microbiome also plays a role in your immune system. Signs that you may be suffering from an imbalance in the bacteria levels in this area are when you experience chronic sinus issues, respiratory problems like asthma, and skin-related conditions like acne. Signs of inflammation linked to autoimmune disease often start in the gut, so keeping this area healthy ensures that it won’t affect other parts of your body down the road. By keeping it balanced, you can avoid serious illnesses or even cancer developing.
In addition to nutrients, healthy gut bacteria can help you maintain an average weight and even fight off particular types of cancer. Studies show that people who eat a more nutritious diet have a more diverse microbiome than those who don’t, which is one reason why it’s vital to make sure your diet contains prebiotics and probiotics from different sources.
As mentioned earlier, many different things can cause issues with your gut health. These range from certain types of foods you eat to lifestyle habits like stress. And while the effects might not always be serious for medical attention or intervention, they can still cause long-term problems with your health.
Why Gut Health Is Important
When it comes to living a healthier lifestyle, eating more nutritious foods is essential. But, even if you think you’re doing everything right, you might not realize that simply having an unhealthy gut could prevent these efforts from being worthwhile. It’s thought that up to 80 percent of the immune system resides in the stomach, which means that a robust, healthy digestive system is likely to help ward off illness and infection.
In addition to this, when your digestive tract is under the weather, it often means a lack of energy and mental fog, making it harder for you to focus on tasks throughout the day. Also, when you have an unhealthy gut — or even just part of your digestive system isn’t working correctly — this can lead to further issues such as vitamin deficiencies or leaky gut syndrome.
For this entire process to work correctly, you need a healthy microbiome. Signs of a lack of good bacteria include chronic sinus infections and respiratory issues like asthma, and skin-related conditions like acne or dermatitis.
Gut Health Hacks
Your gut is home to over 100 trillion bacteria, outnumber the rest of the cells that make up your body. While you can’t see them with the naked eye, these bacteria play a significant role in many aspects of your health — from controlling your weight and mood to fighting off infection.
The first step towards improving your gut health? Figuring out what kind of bacterial makeup constitutes healthy microflora. To do this, you can take a look at your gut microbiome through an analysis of your stool or try out one of the many online tests.
Once you know what constitutes healthy microflora for you, you can balance it with lifestyle changes like adopting a more nutritious diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables. Supplementing is also an option — but keep in mind that not everything on the market comes from reputable companies, so do your research. You may even want to consider seeing a functional medicine practitioner who can customize supplements specifically for you.
Now that you know why keeping your gut happy is important, check out some simple steps below to improve the health of your gut microbiome.
- Reduce sugar intake
- Eat more fiber (fruits, veggies, and whole grains)
- Eat fermented foods (e.g., sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh)
- Exercise regularly
- Sleep 7–8 hours a night
- Avoid antibiotics if possible (they kill off healthy bacteria and the ones that make you sick).
- Reduce stress by practicing mindfulness meditation or yoga at least once a week.
While a healthy gut alone isn’t going to be enough to make sure you stay healthy, it’s a step in the right direction towards better physical and mental health.
When you have an unhealthy gut, you’re not just at risk for various diseases related to your digestive tract. The flora that lives inside this area is linked with everything, obesity, heart disease, and other medical issues such as anxiety or depression — even those that don’t manifest physically.