There are many signs of an unhealthy gut, some you may be aware of but there are many more that may surprise you.
Just like anything in life, when something is going well we don’t pay attention….but when something isn’t going so well it becomes our focus, it’s all we can think about. When it comes down to stomach issues, pain, distressing bowel movements our gut can become the main focus of our life. We have to eat, but what if it makes us sicker? Does this sound like you?
Why is it so important to have a healthy gut?
On a basic level the digestive system is where we extract all the nutrients from the food we eat.
If our gut is not working as well as it should be we could be losing out on essential nutrients to keep us going. For example with diarrhoea the food is rushed through and the body doesn’t get time to absorb the nutrients, as well as losing water. With constipation, toxins that have been lined up to be eliminated with the stool, start to be re-absorbed. This can lead to headaches, tiredness, and commonly with women, increased PMS and irregular periods.
Having good gut also lowers our risk for other health complaints such as food intolerances, skin disorders, thyroid complaints, inflammatory disorders, as well as a whole host of other complaints.
Signs of Good Gut Health
When I see clients our main conversation revolves around poop! One of the first questions I ask is do they pass a bowel movement every day?
The answer to this should be Yes!
If you have a daily bowel movement you can be mostly confident that your gut is working well and doing what is should be. It should be easy to pass, soft and not smell too strongly.
… And signs of the unhealthy gut
There many other signs that your gut is not working effectively, and some you may not have connected to the gut at all:
- Stomach Pains
If you suffer with bloating, excess gas and / or pain with or without daily bowel movements, this indicates that something is not working as well as it should. These symptoms commonly come under the umbrella of IBS, though many people may not have a diagnosis of such and still experience these symptoms.
- Tiredness – No energy
As mentioned before, the gut is where we extract all the nutrients from our food. If this is not working effectively we may experience fatigue. An imbalance in our gut bacteria may also contribute to this, as many of the beneficial bacteria also produce energy vitamins and if these are diminished we are not getting that benefit either.
- Skin irritations such as Psoriasis, acne and eczema
Many skin irritations have been linked to changes in the gut microbiota. The skin has a direct link to the gut, known as the gut-skin axis. Basically this means that whatever changes happen in the gut we can see them on the skin. Skin health can be supported by supporting the gut microbiota and facilitating change using pre- and probiotics as summarised in this review.
- Low mood
The gut and the brain have a similar link as the skin. The gut is sometimes known as the second brain. There have been several studies showing the link between what we eat and how we feel. One of the biggest of these was the SMILES study in Australia, which showed improving diet lowered feeling of depression and need for medication.
Dysbiosis and inflammation in the gut have also been linked symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Food intolerances
In a healthy gut we should be able to eat most foods without any problems. If you find that you are excluding one food after another it can be a sign that your gut has become leaky and food is ending up where it shouldn’t – outside the gut. Inflammation of the gut is the most common cause and this can happen due to a number of reasons: Stress, other lifestyle factors such as smoking and alcohol, increased toxins, pathogens, gut dysbiosis, medications and over exercise.
How can you improve your Gut health?
There are several factors that impact the health of your gut and sometimes it can be really hard to see the wood for the trees – does this sound like you?
Diet, stress and lifestyle – these are the main areas to investigate.
Start tracking your symptoms against what you’ve eaten, your mood, what you did that day, even how much sleep you got. Download my simple tracker to start tracking all that in one place and learn more about your symptoms and what affects them today!
Don’t randomly cut out foods. It can take up to 3 days for a food to affect you, and randomly taking foods out can mean you’re missing out on essential nutrients.
If you find you are reacting to several foods working with a qualified nutritional therapist, such as myself, will allow you to investigate these without harming your overall health. Find out more about working with me here.
However, saying that, if there was one food I would suggest eliminating now it would be refined sugar.
Studies have shown that diets high in refined sugar (think sweets, cakes, processed foods) can alter the make up of the gut microbiota, favouring the more pathogenic bacteria and lowering the more beneficial bacteria such as the Bacteroidetes family.
What else can you do?
Take time to eat.
Simple I know, but if we’re not focusing on what we’re doing our body can’t either. This has a knock-on effect how how well the digestive system works and how it breaks down our food.
Moving our body moves our digestion. Even taking some short breaks from our desk to walk around the garden, or adding in a walk in your lunch hour can help.
Does this sound like you? Would you like more help figuring out what works?
If so why not book in for a free discovery call with me here at a time that suits you and we can take a look at where you are now and what I can do to help you