A healthy gut is the secret to maintaining a healthy body and mind!
A properly functioning digestive system is essential for your overall health. The gastrointestinal tract is lined with bacteria that aid in performing many important functions.
These good bacteria help in boosting immunity, producing the feel-good brain chemical serotonin, converting food into energy, and disposing of foreign substances and toxins from the body, to name a few.
But if the good bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract are overpowered by bad bacteria, things go awry. An imbalance in gut bacteria can also potentially affect how well other organs and bodily systems function.
In fact, a gut imbalance has been linked to hormonal imbalances, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, anxiety, depression, eczema, rosacea and other chronic health problems.
Most people are not even aware that something’s wrong with their gut bacteria, so the problem goes untreated. Knowing the signs of an unhealthy gut will help you identify and address the issue.
Here are the top 10 signs that you have an unhealthy gut.
1. Digestive Issues
Bloating, gas, diarrhea or irregular bowel movements are a clear sign of an imbalance in gut bacteria.
As your gut bacteria work to digest and break down food, it’s normal for gases to be released in the process. But severe gas, bloating or burping can be due to an unbalanced digestive tract.
Excessive gas can collect in the gastrointestinal tract due to poorly digested foods, which are fermented by bacteria in the large intestine where the gas is produced.
Digestive discomforts may be especially severe after eating carbohydrate-rich meals.
Acid reflux, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel disease and colitis have all been linked to an imbalance in the gut’s microbiome.
By fixing your gut, you can get rid of these discomforts quickly.
2. Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies
The primary role of the digestive system is to break down the food you eat and supply nutrients to all of the body’s cells. These nutrients are used by the cells for growth, repair and energy.
When the digestive process is insufficient due to an imbalance of gut bacteria, the body’s absorption of nutrients is impaired. Over time, this can cause nutritional deficiencies.
Common deficiencies due to an unhealthy gut include inadequate levels of vitamins D, K, B12 and B7 as well as magnesium.
Your doctor can help determine if you are deficient in any nutrients and whether it is likely due to an unhealthy gut or some other underlying condition.
3. Lack of Energy
If you find it hard to make it through the day even when you’ve had enough sleep and had a healthy meal, it may be a sign of an unhealthy gut.
Metabolism is a complex process that requires the chemical breakdown of food for fuel, which is done by microbes in the intestines. An imbalance of gut bacteria can prevent your body from absorbing the nutrients it needs from foods, leaving you feeling tired all the time.
Plus, it lets toxins pass through the intestinal walls into the digestive system, which in turn can affect your energy level.
Moreover, unhealthy gut bacteria lead to an increase in certain inflammatory compounds called cytokines, which are directly associated with fatigue.
A 2012 study published in Nutrition in Clinical Practice highlights the important role and effects of gut microbes on nutrient absorption and energy regulation. However, the specific roles that individual gut microbes play in harvesting energy remain uncertain.
Another study published in 2016 in Microbiome identified biological markers of chronic fatigue syndrome in gut bacteria and inflammatory microbial agents in the blood.
4. Inflammation Related to Autoimmune Diseases
Gut health is also connected to autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and lupus. An imbalance of gut bacteria may trigger the autoimmune response that leads to inflammation in people with autoimmune diseases.
A 2013 study published in eLife found that people with rheumatoid arthritis were much more likely to have a bug called Prevotella copri (P. copri) in their intestines as compared to people who did not have the disease.
The study also showed that the presence of P. copri is linked to loss of healthy microbes in the gut. The loss of these microbes could contribute to other symptoms or related health conditions.
5. Skin Problems
Skin issues like acne, rosacea, eczema or flaky skin may be related to poor gut health. In fact, experts have identified the gut-brain-skin axis that explains how gut health affects inflammation throughout the body, including in the skin.
Inflammation is linked to many skin conditions, especially acne and psoriasis.
A 2011 study published in Gut Pathogens suggests that gut microbes, and the integrity of the gastrointestinal tract itself, are contributing factors in the acne process.
If you suddenly suffer from new or more frequent flare-ups of inflammatory skin conditions like acne, rosacea, psoriasis, dermatitis or eczema, it can be a sign of a leaky gut.
6. Onset of Diabetes
There is also a strong connection between large intestine microbiota and both the presence or potential development of Type 2 diabetes.
The gut bacteria of individuals with Type 2 diabetes comprise high levels of hostile bacteria that do not support gut health.
A 2016 study published in the journal Nature suggests that the gut microbiome might be a potential target for therapeutic intervention in people at risk of developing diabetes.
In the gut microbial composition, specific compounds called branched-chain amino acids may ultimately lead to insulin resistance. The study found the action of the harmful bacteria on the gut flora causes insulin resistance, which is a precursor to developing diabetes.
7. Stubborn Weight
If you have trouble losing weight no matter what you do, you can put the blame on your unhealthy gut.
People who are overweight or obese have a different balance of intestinal bacteria as compared to people who have a healthy weight. In fact, experts believe the balance of microbes that you have during birth determines your weight throughout your life.
High amounts of unhealthy microbes within the small intestines can disrupt the absorption of fat, minerals and vitamins.
When your body is not able to digest and absorb fat normally, you will actually put on more weight.
8. Bad Breath
Halitosis, or bad breath, is an embarrassing problem and another sign that you may have an unhealthy gut.
A microbial imbalance in the gut can lead to growth of harmful bacteria in the mouth, which causes bad breath. This type of bad breath is hard to treat with mouthwash or maintaining proper oral hygiene.
Also, fluctuations in gut flora make the body increasingly susceptible to conditions like kidney disease or diabetes that also can cause bad breath.
9. Mood Issues
Sudden mood swings, irritability, anxiety, stress and depression are also linked to gut health.
Harmful bacteria in the intestines produce toxins that can travel to the brain via the bloodstream. These toxins can disrupt the production of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in your brain and negatively affect your mood.
Furthermore, 70 percent or more of the body’s serotonin originates in the gut, and researchers are discovering that gut bacteria may impact intestinal serotonin levels and have a wide range of health effects.
A 2013 study published in the journal Cell reports that replacing the gut bacteria of anxious mice with bacteria from fearless mice caused the mice to become less anxious and more sociable.
Thus, an imbalance in the gut bacteria can affect the levels of serotonin in your brain and intestines, influencing your moods, behavior and mental health, as well as digestive system and other physical and cognitive health issues.
10. Difficulty Sleeping
Trouble falling or staying asleep is another possible sign of an unhealthy gut.
The gut stores and regulates serotonin, an essential neurotransmitter that plays a key role in inducing and regulating sleep patterns. An unhealthy gut means serotonin is also out of balance, which can lead to insomnia or difficulty getting to sleep.
In fact, the microbial ecosystem also affects sleep by shifting circadian rhythms and altering the body’s sleep-wake cycle.
Moreover, poor sleep quality may affect the health and diversity of the microbiome.
Tips to build and maintain a healthy gut:
- Eat whole, nutritious foods to provide your body with the necessary nutrients to function properly.
- Opt for organic food products as much as possible.
- Eat less sugar, as sugar leads to the growth of unhealthy bacteria in the gut.
- Chew your food thoroughly to promote healthy digestion.
- Keep your body hydrated. It helps maintain a healthy gut.
- Follow a gentle detoxification program once a month to eliminate many of the factors, including an unhealthy gut, that cause inflammation.
- Consume more probiotic foods or take probiotic supplements to help restore the balance of bacteria in your gut.
- Stop drinking alcohol and quit smoking totally.