A healthy gut can be the difference between being overweight and having the flat tummy of your dreams, but it can also mean the difference between chronic sickness and vibrant health. That’s because your gut is the foundation of a healthy body and mind.
The gut plays a role in countless body functions including your immune system, hormone production, nutrient absorption, and even your mood.
But too often, our gut health is ignored until it becomes a glaring problem. Here are 7 common signs of an unhealthy gut that you shouldn’t ignore.
Gas, bloating, cramping, and general gut discomfort are the most common indicators of an unhealthy gut. It’s your body’s way of telling you something isn’t working right.
In fact, if you look at the symptoms of almost any gut-related issue, gas, bloating, and discomfort are almost always there. This includes irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), leaky gut, imbalanced gut bacteria, and intestinal inflammation (1).
And the thing is, people often blame gut discomfort on stress or the food they eat. While these things certainly can make gut discomfort worse, if you often experience these issues it’s a strong sign that the problem goes deeper.
Can’t seem to shed those unwanted pounds? An unhealthy gut could be to blame. That’s because a growing body of research is revealing how gut bacteria play an essential role in our weight.
One ground-breaking study, for example, recruited 77 pairs of twins (2). One of the twins in each pair was obese whereas the other was not. Scientists then looked at the bacteria in their gut and made an important discovery.
The twins who were obese had a significantly decreased diversity of bacteria in their gut compared to the lean twins. Other studies have found similar correlations between compromised gut bacteria and obesity.
All of which suggests that if you restore healthy gut bacteria you can have an easier time achieving a lean weight.
Because of the strong connections between the gut and brain through the enteric nervous system, the gut is often referred to as the “second brain” of the body (3). And a compromised gut can affect mood and anxiety (4).
Take depression, for example. Many treatments focus on serotonin, a neurotransmitter. But up to 95% of all serotonin is made in the gut, and research shows the “gut brain” strongly influences the one in your head (5).
So, if you struggle with stress, mood, or anxiety issues, healing the head may start in the gut.
Skin issues like eczema, psoriasis, and rashes are another common sign of an unhealthy gut.
The health of your skin can be affected by a leaky gut, which is what happens when the lining of the intestinal wall lets toxins and bacteria into the bloodstream, triggering inflammation.
One study from the United Kingdom, for example, found that children with atopic dermatitis (a form of eczema) showed signs of a leaky gut (6). Whereas children without dermatitis did not.
So, if you experience problems with eczema or any other skin concerns, you may want to take some steps to heal your gut.
Autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s, and multiple sclerosis (MS), may also be a sign of an unhappy gut (7).
With autoimmune disease, the immune system wrongfully attacks healthy cells in the body by mistake. Since up to 80% of the immune system resides in the gut, scientists are looking to the gut for answers.
According to one scientific review in the journal Frontiers in Immunology, a leaky gut can trigger the development of autoimmune disease by allowing toxins and bacteria into your bloodstream (8). This process also causes a great deal of inflammation in the body.
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Have you ever noticed that you experience gut discomfort, gas, skin rashes, itchiness, or any other unpleasant symptoms from eating a particular food? Not to be confused with an allergy, these symptoms may mean you have an intolerance or sensitivity to that food.
Scientists believe that one cause of food sensitivities is a leaky, inflamed gut (9). When you consume a particular food with leaky gut, partially digested food particles enter your bloodstream. Since your immune system doesn’t recognize these particles, it treats them as a threat.
Your immune system then develops a memory and immediately reacts the next time it encounters the undigested particle, triggering gut discomfort, rashes, and a range of other issues.
Chronic fatigue can be caused by any number of health issues, and an unhealthy gut is one of them. Why?
When your gut isn’t functioning as it should, your body has a difficult time absorbing nutrition. In turn, this can result in nutrient deficiencies which leads to fatigue that no amount of sleep will fix.
But that’s not the only reason. A leaky gut can also cause your immune system to kick into overdrive resulting in chronic inflammation. A large number of studies suggest that inflammation can significantly increase fatigue (10).
It’s important to note that if you experience fatigue without any of the other signs mentioned here, your gut may not be to blame.
If you think that your gut needs some TLC, there are easy steps you can take to boost gut health, and start feeling better.