11 Signs of an Unhealthy Gut and How to Fix It

6 Minute Read

Did you know your health largely depends on your digestive system? Your body needs to breakdown food and absorb the nutrients from that food. The gut is considerably more complicated than just the breakdown of food - it can actually make messengers that signal to the brain affecting mental health and your overall health including your immune system.

Not only does your gut have an intricate set of its own cells, your gut is also home to millions of microbes that play a role in digestive health. Gut bacteria are part of the gut microbiome, which includes ALL of the organisms that live in your gut. Each organism in your gut will play a role in how the gut functions. The interplay of your own cells and gut bacteria will make a huge impact on how the rest of the body functions! So, how do you know if you are having gut issues?

Signs of Gut Problems

If your gut is struggling, what are some symptoms you can experience?⁠ ⁠

  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea (and Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
  • Heartburn
  • Weight gain/Weight Loss
  • Sleep Issues
  • Skin Irritation/Acne
  • Autoimmune Diseases
  • Mood Disorders
  • Brain Fog

Unhealthy Gut Symptoms

Gut Health and Digestion

If you are experiencing an upset gut through bloating, gas, constipation, or diarrhea - your gut is out of balance in some way! These can all be an indication that you're are unable to properly breakdown food and/or process wastes. There are numerous reasons for improper digestion, including low stomach acid, hormonal issues, stress, invasion of unhealthy gut bacteria, micronutrient deficiences or toxin exposure. Specificalluy, toxins cause the cells of the lining of the gut to become inflamed damaging digestive function.

Heartburn and acid reflux are other common ailments that people experience that effect the esophagus - but remember - digestion begins in the mouth and moves down the esophagus and into the stomach. So, any issue that you have that affects any part of your digestive system will eventually affect your gut health.

Your Gut and Brain

Did you know that your gut is often referred to as your “second brain”? The connection between your gut and brain is called the gut-brain axis. When your gut health is struggling in any way, it will directly affect how your brain functions.

Scientists call the "second brain" in your gut the enteric nervous system (ENS), which is found in your digestive tract. Studies show that the ENS directly affects mood in people with irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive issues like constipation, diarrhea, and bloating. These digestive issues are directly affecting how our brain "feels" and functions.

So, how is this connection made? The gut-brain connection is partially controlled by neurotransmitters that are made in the gut. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that are the messages that pass between your brain cells called neurons. Two examples of neurotransmitters that are made in the gut are dopamine and serotonin, which had previously been though to only be made in the brain. It's estimated that 50% of dopamine and 90% of serotonin are made in the gut!

Dopamine is sometimes called the "feel good" neurotransmitter, but is heavily involved in both physical and neurological function - it helps regulate pleasure, reward, mood, executive function, memory, digestion, and blood flow. Serotonin is also involved in both neurological and physical functions, such as regulating depression, anxiety, wound healing, and bone health. If these two neurotransmitters aren't being made in the gut, they will affect your brain AND body!

Weight Gain or Weight Loss

Weight gain or loss can be directly related to both the nutrient content of your food and how well your are absorbing those nutrients. Blood sugar regulation is also an important factor as sugar will be absorbed within the digestive system. Gut microbiota have also been shown to play a role in blood sugar control. If blood sugar out of whack, this can cause your body to store more fat.⁠

Sleep and Your Gut

A healthy gut will promote healthy sleep! It's no surprise the "second brain" will affect your quality of sleep as it send messages back to the brain. Studies have also suggested that the makeup of the gut bacteria is affected by how well you sleep.

Autoimmune Diseases and Skin Irritation

Autoimmune diseases and skin irritations (like ezcema) can both be related to a dysfunctional gut. When the lining of your gut is irritated and inflamed, small food particles or toxins can make their way out of the gut and into other parts of the body. This leaky-gut syndrome causes the immune system to respond to these particles as foreigners. Your immune system goes into overdrive trying to fight these "bad" guys. Studies show that leaky-gut syndrome can cause or exacerbate autoimmune diseases.

How to Support a Healthy Gut

Diet Changes

Your gut bacteria feed on what you provide it for nourishment, just like you! If you provide your gut with a healthy diet, you are feeding the healthy bacteria and gut bacteria that are detrimental to your health cannot survive. Check out my blog post on the top three foods that you need to change immediately to get started with improving your gut health.

Probiotic Supplements

A probiotic contains living organisms (bacteria and yeast) that you ingest to replace or add into your gut. These are “good” organisms that help support your digestive health. Fermented foods are a great source for probiotics, including sauerkraut, kombucha, and kefir.⁠

You can also take a probiotic supplement to help provide beneficial bacteria into the gut. Even though these healthy gut bacteria can help, you also need proper nutrition to support them!

Prebiotics also support the gut microbiome. A prebiotic is an indigestible food that supports the normal bacteria that live in your gut. Essentially, the food that you provide to your good bacteria! Some examples of prebiotics are chicory root, dandelion greens and Jerusalem artichokes.

Reduce Stress

Stress always plays a role in all health issues! Stress has been shown to alter gut bacteria and gut bacteria can alter your stress response. Finding ways to help calm your mind will also help with your digestion and microbiome. How can you reduce stress? Improving nutrition, mindfulness activities (practicing meditation and gratitude), exercise, and improving sleep hygiene are great places to start!

Test for Food Intolerances

Food intolerances are foods that your body does not react well to - this can be through an immune or hormonal response. You will cause stress and damage to your intestinal lining if you are eating foods that your body struggles with. You can get tested for food intolerances and eliminate those foods to support digestion.

Made in the gut, used in the brain! Request a consultation if you are struggling with your gut health!

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