The gut is said to be the body’s second brain. When you have an unhealthy gut, it can affect your whole body. In order to understand why this happens, it helps to know how a bowel is supposed to work properly.
What is good gut health
Your gastrointestinal tract begins with your mouth and ends with your anus. Its role is to absorb food, digest it, absorb nutrients and expel remaining waste products. But how do you know if it works?
A healthy bowel is usually functioning properly when you have a bowel movement once or twice a day, with well-formed and easy-to-pass stools. These daily bowel movements should be free of symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, and loose stools. Other signs of a healthy gut include the absence of rectal symptoms like hemorrhoids and abdominal symptoms like gas, bloating, and abdominal pain.
In other words, the gut just works. With a well-functioning digestive system, you don’t react to food or external inputs like stress or environmental factors. You are also less susceptible to illnesses like skin conditions, autoimmune diseases, inflammatory reactions, and other health issues.
9 common signs of an unhealthy gut
An unhealthy gut can be linked to a variety of symptoms throughout the body, including:
1 Stomach pain and discomfort
If your stomach is frequently upset with symptoms such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain, these may be signs of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It is a common condition that affects the large intestine. Imbalances in gut bacteria, called dysbiosis, may play a role in the development of IBS in some people.
A study published in April 2017 in the journal Microbiome showed that people with chronic fatigue syndrome may have imbalances in the gut microbiome. It normally consists of the bacteria, microorganisms, fungi and viruses present in the digestive tract. Half of people with fatigue also have IBS.
Eating too much sugar can lead to an abundance of “bad” bacteria in the gut and dysbiosis. One way to change your eating habits is to alter what’s in the microbiome.
4 Unintended weight changes
Research has revealed differences in the gut microbiomes of lean and obese people. A study published in July 2016 in the journal Nutrition Today suggests that a Western-style diet high in fat and refined carbohydrates may promote obesity-linked gut bacteria.
5 Skin irritation
Research has also shown a link between an unhealthy gut and skin problems such as acne, psoriasis and eczema. A review published in July 2018 in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology showed that the gut microbiome influences the skin through complex immune mechanisms. Probiotics and prebiotics can help balance the gut and thus prevent or treat these inflammatory skin problems.
Another review published in July 2018 in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology found that an unhealthy gut can play a complex role in allergic conditions, including respiratory allergies, food allergies, and skin allergies. Thus, the gut microbiome can influence nutrition, the skin, and even the lungs.
7 Autoimmune diseases
A study published in August 2018 in the journal Clinical & Experimental Immunology showed that a particular gut bacterium, called Bacteroides fragilis, produces a specific protein. It can trigger the onset of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis and multiple sclerosis.
8 Mood issues
There is a well-documented link between the gut and the brain. The influence of the gut can also extend to your mood. A study published in September 2017 in the journal Clinics and Practice found that gut disorders and inflammation of the central nervous system can be potential causes of anxiety and depression, and that probiotics can help treat these conditions.
The connection between the gut and the brain can also impact migraines. There is also a link between migraines and other conditions related to gut health, including IBS.
How to Balance Your Gut Health
Do you have any of these different symptoms? It’s best to get checked out by a doctor to determine if your symptoms are due to an unhealthy gut or other factors. From there, you can also consult a doctor or naturopath who specializes in gut health. The very first step in healing the gut is to identify and eliminate the offending foods and restore healthy gut flora. If you stop eating the foods that affect the gut wall, it can give you a chance to heal.
From there, a naturopath will likely recommend suitable foods and supplements that can help repair your gut, including probiotics, prebiotics, enzymes, glutamine, fish oil, and more.
It can also be helpful to look at your lifestyle habits. Balancing other aspects of health can keep your gut functioning optimally. For example, by taking stock of your stress or your quality of sleep.