Gut health and its importance to our overall health have been a topic of research in the medical community for many decades. Several studies have been conducted that have demonstrated the links between our gut health, mental wellbeing, immune system, and other illnesses such as endocrine disorders, autoimmune diseases, and cancer. It was once thought that our digestive system was a simple bodily function that comprised of one long tube for food to be pass-through, absorbed, and finally excreted.
After years of research into our gut health, it is now known that the digestive system is relatively complex, and keeping it healthy is a delicate balance. We have between 300 to 500 different species of bacteria living in our digestive tract, and these microorganisms are often referred to as our ‘gut microbiome’. While some of the microorganisms living in our digestive tract might be harmful to our health, most are beneficial and necessary for keeping our bodies healthy. There are numerous benefits to having a wide variety of good bacteria in our guts, including enhancing the function of our immune system, combatting obesity, and relieving symptoms of depression.
What Are The Signs & Causes Of An Unhealthy Gut?
There are many facets of modern life that can damage the health of our gut microbiomes, such as high stress, antibiotics, lack of sleep, and eating processed foods that are high in sugar. This damage can affect other aspects of our health like the immune system, brain, heart, or ability to absorb nutrients. Understanding the signs of an unhealthy gut can help you combat these issues before they develop into something more serious. This gut health expert, Dr. Ruscio, is an excellent resource to help you find the best ways to improve your gut health.
One of the first signs of an unhealthy gut that people notice is an upset stomach. Experiences disturbances such as bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, or even heartburn can be signs that your gut is unbalanced as a balanced gut will have less difficulty eliminating waste or processing food.
A poor diet involving large amounts of processed food and high sugar can decrease the level of good bacteria living in the gut, which can cause a serious imbalance. Due to the imbalance, you will suffer from increased sugar cravings that will damage your gut even further. Over time a high sugar diet, particularly those involving high-fructose corn syrup, will cause inflammation in the body which can be the precursor for a number of diseases.
Changes In Weight
If you’re gaining or losing weight and haven’t made any changes to your exercise or diet habits, it may be a sign of an unhealthy gut. An imbalance in the gut can impair how your body absorbs nutrients, stores fat, and regulates blood sugar. Sudden weight gain can be caused by insulin resistance or the urge to overeat due to the body’s decreased nutrient absorption rate. On the other hand, weight loss may be due to bacterial overgrowth in the small intestines.
The hormone serotonin that affects our mood and sleep is mainly produced in the gut, and any damage to gut health can impair the ability to sleep well. Left untreated, a lack of serotonin can cause insomnia and chronic fatigue, as well as many other health issues and a high risk for fibromyalgia.
Skin irritations and conditions have often been linked to a damaged gut. Food allergies or a poor diet causing inflammation in the gut can cause increased protein leaking out of the body, which can irritate the skin; this increased irritation can lead to conditions such as eczema.
Unlike food allergies, which are caused by an immune response to certain foods, food intolerances are a difficulty digesting particular foods. These intolerances are thought to be a result of poor quality of bacteria living in the gut, and trigger foods can cause unpleasant symptoms such as gas, bloating, abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea.
Improving Your Gut Health
As we previously mentioned above, the human digestive system is far more complex than originally thought, and it has a massive impact on the health of our bodies as a whole. A healthy gut contributes to a healthy heart, brain, strong immune system, improved mood, healthy sleep patterns, and effective digestion. When improving your gut health, there are several lifestyle changes your can make to have a positive effect on your gut and your overall health.
- Reduce stress levels: lower your stress levels through exercise, meditation, yoga, or spending time with friends.
- Sleep more: not getting enough sleep can have a serious effect on the health of your gut. Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night to improve the health of your gut and your general wellbeing.
- Eat slowly: chewing your food slowly and taking your time with meals can reduce digestive discomfort and improve the overall health of your gut.
- Proper hydration: drinking plenty of water has a beneficial effect on the balance of good bacteria in your gut and on the mucosal lining of the intestines.
- Probiotics and Prebiotics: a great way to maintain a healthy gut is to add a probiotic or prebiotic supplement to your daily routine. Although, if you have a problem with overgrowth, you should avoid taking supplements.
- Food Intolerances: Check in with your doctor to find out if you have a food intolerance. Eliminating the trigger food from your diet will have a positive impact on your gut health.
- Diet Change: reducing the amount of high fat, high sugar, and processed food you consume in your diet will lead to a healthier gut.