Gut Health: 5 Warning Signs Your Body May Be Sending You

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Gut Health
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Gut health serves as a vital indicator of our overall well-being, and understanding its subtle cues can unveil crucial insights into our health.

Your gut is not just a tube that digests food and eliminates waste.

It is also home to trillions of microorganisms that play a vital role in your health and well-being.

These microorganisms, collectively known as the gut microbiome, help protect you from harmful bacteria, regulate your metabolism, aid in digestion, create vitamins, manage hormone levels, and dispose of toxins.

What is Gut Microbiome?

Understanding your gut microbiome is like envisioning a bustling team of trillions of micro-organisms, including bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses, working together in your large and small intestines.

It’s like a virtual organ influencing your health, physical traits, and overall well-being with its three million genes.

Think of it as a sports team, suggests Mascha Davis, a registered dietitian.

Each player (bacteria and microorganisms) has a unique role, yet they collaborate for the same goal—digesting food, fending off pathogens, and maintaining metabolic functions.

When these players are in harmony, we feel good without even realizing it.

A healthy microbiome might even contribute to a longer life, as suggested by a 2021 study in Nature.

But, there’s a catch.

The microbiome contains both beneficial and potentially harmful microorganisms. If the balance is disrupted by factors like illness, diet, or medication, it can lead to problems.

Imbalances in the gut microbiome have been linked to various chronic diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and colorectal cancer.

However, many factors can disrupt the balance and diversity of your gut microbiome, such as stress, lack of sleep, processed foods, sugar, antibiotics, and more.

This can lead to an unhealthy gut, which can affect many aspects of your health, from your immune system to your mental health.

How do you know if your gut is unhealthy?

Here are some common signs and symptoms that may indicate poor gut health, and what you can do to improve it.

1. Upset Stomach

One of the most obvious signs of poor gut health is having frequent stomach disturbances, such as gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, or nausea.

These can indicate that your gut is having trouble processing food and eliminating waste, or that there is an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in your gut.

To improve your gut health, you may want to increase your intake of fiber, which can help with constipation and bloating by adding bulk and softness to your stool.

Fiber can also feed the good bacteria in your gut and promote a healthy microbiome.

Some good sources of fiber include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.

You may also want to avoid or limit foods that can irritate your gut, such as high-fat, fried, spicy, caffeinated, alcoholic, carbonated, or artificial foods.

These can trigger inflammation, acid reflux, or other digestive issues. Instead, opt for foods that are gentle on your gut, such as lean proteins, healthy fats, fermented foods, and herbal teas3

2. Unintentional Weight Changes

Another sign of poor gut health is experiencing weight changes without changing your diet or exercise habits.

This can indicate that your gut is not absorbing nutrients properly, or that it is affecting your blood sugar levels and fat storage.

Weight loss may be caused by malabsorption, which means that your gut is not able to break down and absorb the nutrients from the food you eat.

This can lead to nutrient deficiencies, weakness, and fatigue.

Malabsorption can be caused by various conditions, such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).

Weight gain may be caused by insulin resistance, which means that your cells are not responding to the hormone insulin that regulates your blood sugar levels.

This can lead to high blood sugar, increased appetite, and fat accumulation.

Insulin resistance can be caused by inflammation, which can be triggered by an unhealthy gut microbiome.

To improve your gut health, you may want to balance your blood sugar levels by eating regular meals and snacks that contain a combination of protein, fiber, and healthy fats.

These can help you feel full and satisfied, and prevent spikes and crashes in your blood sugar.

You may also want to avoid or limit foods that can cause inflammation, such as sugar, refined carbs, processed meats, and trans fats.

These can worsen your gut health and increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

3. Food Intolerances

Another sign of poor gut health is developing food intolerances, which means that you have difficulty digesting certain foods and experience unpleasant symptoms, such as gas, bloating, cramps, diarrhea, or nausea, after eating them.

Food intolerances are different from food allergies, which are immune system reactions that can cause more severe symptoms, such as hives, swelling, or anaphylaxis.

Food intolerances may be caused by a lack of enzymes, which are substances that help break down food in your gut.

For example, lactose intolerance is caused by a lack of lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose, the sugar found in dairy products.

Food intolerances may also be caused by an imbalance of bacteria in your gut, which can affect your digestion and cause inflammation1

To improve your gut health, you may want to identify and avoid the foods that cause you discomfort.

You can do this by keeping a food diary and noting down what you eat and how you feel after each meal.

You may also want to try an elimination diet, which involves removing common food triggers, such as dairy, gluten, soy, eggs, or nuts, from your diet for a few weeks and then reintroducing them one by one to see how you react.

You may also want to supplement your diet with digestive enzymes, which can help you digest food better and reduce symptoms.

You can find digestive enzymes in some foods, such as pineapple, papaya, kiwi, or honey, or in capsule or tablet form.

However, you should consult your doctor before taking any supplements, especially if you have any medical conditions or are taking any medications.

4. Mood Disorders

Another sign of poor gut health is having mood disorders, such as depression, anxiety, or stress.

This may seem surprising, but your gut and your brain are actually closely connected by a network of nerves and chemicals, known as the gut-brain axis.

This means that what happens in your gut can affect your brain, and vice versa.

Your gut microbiome can influence your mood by producing neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers that regulate your emotions, such as serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).

These neurotransmitters can also affect your sleep, appetite, memory, and cognition.

Your gut microbiome can also influence your mood by modulating your immune system, which can affect your inflammation levels.

Inflammation can cause oxidative stress, which can damage your brain cells and impair your mood.

Inflammation can also activate your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which is your stress response system.

This can lead to increased levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, which can further affect your mood and mental health.

To improve your gut health, you may want to nourish your gut microbiome by eating probiotic and prebiotic foods.

Probiotics are live bacteria that can replenish and balance your gut flora.

You can find probiotics in fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, or kombucha.

Prebiotics are indigestible fibers that can feed and support your gut bacteria.

You can find prebiotics in foods, such as garlic, onion, leek, asparagus, banana, or oats3

You may also want to manage your stress levels by practicing relaxation techniques, such as meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, or aromatherapy.

These can help you calm your mind and body, and reduce the negative effects of stress on your gut and brain.

You may also want to seek professional help if you have persistent or severe mood disorders, as they may require medication or therapy3

5. Skin Problems

Another sign of poor gut health is having skin problems, such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, or rosacea.

These can indicate that your gut is not functioning properly, or that there is an imbalance of bacteria in your gut.

Your skin is your largest organ and your first line of defense against external threats.

It is also closely connected to your gut by a network of blood vessels and lymphatic vessels, known as the gut-skin axis. This means that what happens in your gut can affect your skin, and vice versa.

Your gut microbiome can influence your skin by affecting your immune system, which can affect your inflammation levels.

Inflammation can cause skin irritation, redness, or itching, and can also trigger or worsen skin conditions, such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, or rosacea1

Your gut microbiome can also influence your skin by affecting your hormone levels, which can affect your oil production, skin cell turnover, and collagen synthesis.

Hormonal imbalances can cause skin problems, such as acne, dryness, wrinkles, or sagging.

To improve your gut health, you may want to follow the same tips as mentioned above, such as eating more fiber, probiotics, and prebiotics, avoiding or limiting gut irritants and inflammatory foods, and managing your stress levels.

These can help you improve your gut microbiome and reduce inflammation and hormonal imbalances.

You may also want to take care of your skin by following a gentle and consistent skincare routine, using products that suit your skin type and condition.

You may also want to avoid or limit factors that can damage your skin, such as sun exposure, smoking, alcohol, or pollution.

You may also want to consult a dermatologist if you have severe or persistent skin problems, as they may require medication or treatment.


What are some common signs of poor gut health?

Common signs include persistent bloating, irregular bowel movements, and abdominal discomfort.

Pay attention to changes in your digestion and bathroom habits.

Can poor gut health affect mental well-being?

Yes, it can. Poor gut health has been linked to mood swings, anxiety, and even conditions like depression.

The gut-brain connection is significant for overall well-being.

How does diet impact gut health?

Diet plays a crucial role.

A diet high in processed foods and low in fiber can negatively impact the gut microbiome, leading to issues like inflammation and a compromised immune system.

Are antibiotics a common factor in poor gut health?

Yes, frequent or prolonged antibiotic use can disrupt the balance of gut bacteria, potentially leading to digestive problems.

It’s essential to use antibiotics judiciously and under medical guidance.

Can stress affect gut health?

Absolutely. Stress can disrupt the balance of gut bacteria and exacerbate digestive issues.

Practices like mindfulness and stress management can positively impact gut health.

How can one improve gut health?

Incorporate a diverse range of fiber-rich foods, probiotics, and prebiotics into your diet.

Stay hydrated, manage stress levels, and avoid excessive use of antibiotics to support a healthy gut.

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