Did you know there is an estimated 39 trillion bacterial cells in your body? Compared to only 30 trillion human cells, that’s a lot of bacteria!
And, considering the gut is home to 70% of your immune system, it’s no wonder that gut health is essential for overall health and well-being.
So, how can you know if your gut is in good health? Here are 10 signs of an unhealthy gut and 5 ways to boost it.
What Are the Causes of Unhealthy Gut
The health of your gut is affected by many things, such as your lifestyle, diet, age, and the environment. Stress can also have a big impact on your gut.
When you’re stressed out, it causes an imbalance in good bacteria and bad bacteria which can lead to digestive issues like bloating and constipation.
Other factors that can contribute to an unhealthy gut include:
- Consuming too much sugar
- Eating processed foods with artificial ingredients
- Taking antibiotics regularly
- Drinking alcohol in excess
Although everyone’s gut is different, as well as other objective factors such as your lifestyle, your living conditions, the environment, and the amount of stress you have to deal with on a daily basis, there are some common signs that can help you know if your gut is not healthy.
10 Signs of an Unhealthy Gut
When we have an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in our gut, it can lead to a slew of issues. Here are 10 signs you may be experiencing an unhealthy gut:
1. Constipation or diarrhea
One of the most popular symptoms of an unhealthy gut is disrupted digestive function and bowel movements. This can present as either constipation or diarrhea, both of which can be uncomfortable and inconvenient.
2. Bloating and gas
An unhealthy gut can also lead to uncomfortable bloating and excessive gas. This is often caused by an imbalance of bacteria in the colon, which can produce large amounts of gaseous substances that cause discomfort.
3. Abdominal pain
Abdominal pain is one of the most common signs of an unhealthy gut. This can include cramping, sharp pains, or general aches in the stomach area.
4. Unexplained weight loss or gain
An unhealthy gut can also cause an unexpected change in your weight, either by unintentional weight loss or gain. This is often due to food intolerance and sensitivities that arise from an unhealthy gut.
When your gut isn’t working properly, it can lead to a decrease in energy production and an overall sense of fatigue. This is because your gut plays a crucial role in releasing essential vitamins and minerals, which are necessary for proper metabolic functioning.
6. Acid reflux or heartburn
This one is not too surprising as we know that an unhealthy gut can lead to digestive issues. Acid reflux or heartburn is often caused by a weakened lower esophageal sphincter muscle, which can be symptomatic of an unhealthy gut.
7. Poor appetite
When you have an unhealthy gut, it can lead to poor appetite and difficulty eating. This is because the body doesn’t recognize the nutrients from food due to digestion issues. As a result, you may not feel as hungry and are unable to process the food that you do eat.
8. Allergies and sensitivities to food
Having an imbalance of bacteria in your gut can also lead to food intolerances and allergies. You may find that certain foods cause a reaction such as nausea or skin rash, and it could be a sign that something is off balance in the gut.
9. Skin issues like acne
A problematic gut can also lead to skin issues such as acne, eczema, and rashes. This is due to the fact that 70-80% of our immune system resides in our gut.
When the bacteria in your gut are out of balance, it can lead to a cascade of immune-related problems that show up on the skin.
10. Brain fog
Brain fog, also known as mental fatigue, is one of the most common signs of an unhealthy gut. This can manifest as difficulty concentrating, memory issues, and lack of focus. In the long term, brain fog may lead to depressive and anxiety-like symptoms.
5 Ways to Boost Gut Health
If you think you may be experiencing an unhealthy gut, then it’s time to take action! Here are five simple ways to help boost your digestive health:
Eat More Fiber
Fiber is essential for gut health because it feeds the good bacteria in your gut. Good bacteria need fiber to thrive and grow, so be sure to include plenty of high-fiber foods in your diet like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
The easiest way to get more fiber is to supplement with a high-quality fiber powder. Fiber supplements are a great way to get the recommended daily amount of fiber (25 grams for women, 38 grams for men) without having to eat a lot of bulky foods.
If you prefer to get your fiber from food, here are some high-fiber foods to add to your diet:
- Raspberries – 8 grams of fiber per cup
- Black beans – 15 grams of fiber per cup
- Avocado – 10 grams of fiber per fruit
- Broccoli – 5 grams of fiber per cup
- Brussels sprouts – 4 grams of fiber per cup
Eat Probiotic-Rich Foods
Probiotics are live bacteria that are good for your gut health. They help promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria and have been linked to numerous health benefits, including improved digestion, stronger immunity, and reduced inflammation.
You can get probiotics from supplements or by eating fermented foods, which are rich in live probiotic cultures.
Some examples of fermented foods include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, and certain types of cheese. Be sure to choose brands that say “live and active cultures” on the label.
Avoid Processed Foods
Processed foods are typically high in sugar and low in fiber, both of which can be detrimental to gut health. Instead, opt for whole, unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins.
If you do eat processed foods, be sure to read the label carefully. Many processed foods contain hidden sources of sugar, so be sure to check for terms like “dextrose,” “maltose,” and “corn syrup” on the ingredient list.
Also, be on the lookout for artificial sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin, which can also disrupt gut health.
Limit Your Alcohol Intake
Drinking alcohol in moderation is generally considered safe, but overconsumption can lead to a number of problems, including gut inflammation and impaired gut barrier function.
If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
Drinking too much will not only damage your gut health, but it can also lead to other problems like liver damage and impaired brain function.
Reduce Your Stress Levels
Chronic stress can have a negative impact on gut health. When you’re stressed, your body produces cortisol, a hormone that can lead to inflammation and disrupt the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut.
To reduce stress and promote gut health, try some relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises. You can also try aromatherapy using essential oils like lavender or chamomile.
If you have problem with your sleep, which can also lead to stress, try some natural sleep aid to get a good night sleep.
Avoid caffeine and blue light from screens at least four hours before bedtime so that you can wind down and relax before sleep.
Supplements for Gut Health
In addition to diet and lifestyle changes, certain supplements can also help support gut health. Probiotics are one of the most popular options since they replenish good bacteria in your digestive system. You can find probiotics in supplement form or in fermented foods like yogurt and kefir.
Prebiotic fiber is another great option as it helps feed the good bacteria in your gut. Prebiotic fiber can be found in foods like oats, bananas, apples, onions, garlic, and artichokes. You can also supplement with prebiotic powder for an extra boost.
Finally, omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce inflammation in the gut and promote a healthy balance of good bacteria.
You can get omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil supplements or by eating foods like salmon, walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds.
Regardless of whether you opt for lifestyle changes, dietary modifications, or supplements, it is important to remember that everyone’s gut health needs are different.
To learn more about your specific needs, make an appointment with a healthcare provider who specializes in digestive health.
Also, if you have any other health conditions, be sure to consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new supplements or making significant changes to your diet.
Before You Go
Having a healthy, balanced gut and immune system is the foundation for wellbeing, so it’s important to pay attention to your gut health.
While these five steps outlined in this article are a great starting point, don’t forget that everyone’s needs are different.
Working with a healthcare provider who specializes in digestive health can help you find the right regimen for your specific goals and needs.
Finally, remember that the best way to improve your gut health is to make sustainable lifestyle changes. You cannot speed up the process by taking a few supplements or eating one particular food.
It’s important to make healthy lifestyle changes that you can stick with, from getting enough sleep and reducing stress to eating a balanced diet full of probiotic-rich foods and fiber.
With the right lifestyle habits, you can keep your gut healthy and support your overall health. By making small changes today, you’re investing in a healthier tomorrow!