In this article:
It is said that your gut is your second brain, which is why gut health is essential for keeping the rest of your body happy and healthy. This is because your digestive system influences the rest of your body, especially the nervous and immune systems. (1)(2)
When your gut isn’t healthy, your body sends signals to remind you to take care of it. These signs and signals can be either very obvious or extremely subtle. So don’t ignore that gut feeling!
How to Know Your Gut Is Unhealthy
Here are some signs that indicate your gut isn’t healthy.
1. Inconsistency in bowel movements
If you have poor gut health, the first ever sign your body will give you is inconsistent bowel movements. (3) Science has not fixed a number to how many bowel movements you should have in one day or a time interval between each.
One indication that you’re a healthy individual is you use the washroom every day at the same time and go at least once a day. It is also known that you don’t have to use the loo more than thrice if your gut is healthy.
Another important way of knowing that your gut health is good is you don’t experience issues such as constipation and diarrhea regularly, as research suggests a disbalance in the gut microbiome may cause constipation- and constipation-type irritable bowel syndrome. (4)
2. Abdominal bloating and pain
Bloating with a little pain in your stomach is considered common after you’ve had a filling meal or snack. The problem arises when you experience regular bloating, stomach ache, or abdominal discomfort.
Your gut is home to 200+ species of microorganisms. The most common of them is bacteria. These bacteria are responsible for breaking down and digesting food, known as metabolism. (5) Without them, you wouldn’t be able to eat or digest the things you like.
An imbalance of the gut microbiome becomes a concern as it causes trouble in metabolism, leading to:
- Overproduction of gas
- Slow and incomplete digestion
- Acid reflux
- Abdominal discomfort
So make sure not to get on the bloat boat!
3. Weakness and mental fatigue
The gut is responsible for providing the required nutrients to meet your daily energy needs. This is done by breaking down the food you eat and converting those complex food molecules into simpler forms that can transform into nutrients. This is, in fact, one of the gut’s most important jobs.
Now, imagine if the food is not adequately broken down and the nutrients are not simplified enough to be absorbed in the gut. It would lead to reduced energy and poor physical fitness.
As already mentioned, your gut is your second brain. This is true because of the strong connection between the gut and nervous system. Your mental wellness is also based on your gut health.
If your stomach is upset, you may feel irritated and upset, too. A reason for this can be that the gut produces more than 90% of the serotonin in the body. (6) It has also been found that a feeling of nervousness and lack of concentration may arise from constipation.
4. Not being able to sleep
Just like us humans, gut bacteria also maintain an intricate relationship with sleep.
Studies have shown that a healthy gut not only is essential for a relaxing and refreshing sleep but also ensures a consistent sleep cycle and pattern that, in turn, is essential for digestive health. Now you know why your grandmother always asked you to make sure you ate before going to bed.
The hormone that is responsible for your sleep cycle is melatonin (don’t confuse it with melanin!). Melatonin is made from your body’s happy hormone (serotonin).
And do you know which body part is responsible for making 90% of your body’s serotonin? It is your gut! Not only is your gut keeping your sleep cycle in place, but it is also maintaining the entire circadian rhythm. (7)
So, if you experience trouble falling asleep or staying asleep or you are unable to sleep without disturbances, you may need to keep a check and get serious about your gut health.
Make sure to not sweep your sleep under the rug!
5. Food intolerance
Food intolerance is a medical condition where your body is unable to metabolize a certain portion of food because of its nature, which leads to symptoms such as swollen lips or abdominal discomfort. These are your body’s immune responses.
The reason for such cases of intolerance is when the good or the beneficial bacteria in your gut are unable to maintain the intestinal barrier. If the intestinal barrier is not strongly knit, it allows particles to leak through your intestinal wall and cause allergic symptoms to the food you are sensitive to.
Don’t tolerate food intolerance!
6. Unhealthy skin
Poor gut health causes skin conditions including:
This is because an unhealthy gut initiates an inflammatory response that leads to the release of chemicals that cause swelling (edema), redness, itchiness, or all combined, known as skin inflammation. (9)
A widespread example that many have faced and gone through is how your acne flares up when you eat something super oily or unhealthy. There also may be an undying, stubborn pimple if you eat a lot of junk food and have a poor sleep cycle.
If your struggle with skin conditions such as irritation and inflammation has been going on for a while without any seeming cause, consider getting your gut health checked.
7. Strong sugar cravings
Your mouth waters and taste buds flutter just by looking at your favorite desserts. Sometimes, you even experience a strong urge to get your hands on some sweets, chocolate, or caffeine randomly at any time of the day.
What is problematic is having this untimely urge regularly or frequently. It points to an unhealthy gut that affects your food cravings and blood sugar levels. (10) A poor gut can also make your practice overindulgence, leading to unhealthy eating habits.
The gut microbiota promotes its growth and health by influencing your eating pattern. (10) So, it turns out that a sugar craving may not be so sweet!
8. Stress issues
It has already been established that your gut-brain axis has a strong connection. (11) This simply means that a healthy gut is extremely essential for a healthy mind. This is because your nervous system works and coordinates via chemicals known as neurotransmitters.
Your gut facilitates the production of these chemicals, supporting your overall mental wellness, which provides you with the ability to manage stress.
Naturally, an unhealthy gut or a gut imbalance affects the production of neurotransmitters, making it challenging for your mind to function properly and work through stressful situations.
If you have been facing more stress daily without a possible cause, you may need to get your gut examined for issues.
9. Thyroid disorders
In addition to neurotransmitters and some hormones, your gut bacteria also support the production of thyroid hormones. It is also responsible for the breakdown of thyroid hormones to ensure hormonal balance. (12)
Inflammation in the gut intensifies and exacerbates thyroid issues, leading to more pronounced symptoms of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. For better management of thyroid disorders, maintenance of gut health is non-negotiable.
A sudden worsening of a thyroid condition may be an indication of an unhealthy gut, so keep an eye out for the same.
10. Bad breath
Some bacterial strains populate the gut and can cause halitosis, which in simpler terms means bad breath. They may also make you more prone to dental cavities and gum diseases.
If, recently, you have been waking up with a foul taste or smell in your mouth even though you’re maintaining proper dental and oral hygiene, consider taking steps to support your gut health.
You can do so by following a diet that is well balanced and rich in fiber. You can also buy probiotics, which are now easily available everywhere. (13)
Know Your Gut
Your digestive system not only supports your life processes but also the life of trillions of bacteria along with yeast and viruses in the body. Collectively, they form your gut microbiota. The genetic material of these microorganisms makes up the gut microbiome. (14)
Some of these bacteria may be harmful, but the good news is most of them are absolutely necessary for a healthy existence because of how they aid and benefit the gut. Every individual has a different gut biome. (15)
Will Bulsiewicz, a famous gastroenterologist and gut health expert says, “You are one of a kind with a gut microbiome as unique as a fingerprint.”
Gut health refers to the harmony and balance between these microorganisms, that is, bacteria, yeast, and others. However, when a microbial imbalance occurs or there’s an increase in harmful bacteria over the beneficial ones, the gut environment becomes unhealthy, affecting the entirety of your bodily functions. (16)
Why Is Good Gut Health Important?
A lot of studies and research have shown that a diverse gut microbiota is ideal for gut health and also helps reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and arthritis. (17)
It might be a little tough to understand and hard to believe but there is a close connection between your gut and almost every system in the body.
Not only that, a healthy gut is responsible for:
- Emotional well-being
- Good immunity
- Illness prevention
- Healthy sleep
- Physical health
- Mental wellness
This is why it is important to identify the various signs, symptoms, and indications that are directly linked to gut health.
Most-Asked Questions About Gut Health
Why does the gut microbiome vary in individuals?
The gut microbiome is defined by many factors such as your diet, sleep cycle, genetic makeup, mental health, and medicine intake, among others. All these factors differ from one person to another, and therefore, so does the gut microbiome.
What is the effect of fasting on gut health?
It has been observed in animal-model studies that fasting improves gut health and benefits the gut microbiome. There is also some evidence that the risk of colon cancer decreases by fasting as it lowers the level of the bacteria responsible for colorectal cancer. (18)
Does coffee affect gut health?
Coffee has been shown to have a positive impact on gut health in various studies. It is said that coffee acts as a probiotic, enriching and promoting evenness in gut bacteria or microbiota. Coffee also contains many soluble fibers that contribute to a healthy gut. (19)
The human gut is complex and it maintains and supports so many systems and functions. The gut microbiome impacts not only your digestive system but also the health of your whole body.
You can make sure your gut is happy and healthy by increasing your intake of soluble fiber, which is found in:
- Citrus fruits
Also, you should limit high-sugar foods and avoid drinking large amounts of fluids while eating. Lifestyle changes as such will improve your quality of life, giving you that good gut feeling!