Our gut is an organ that plays a key function in our body–it breaks down the food we eat and helps our body absorb essential nutrients. It contains healthy bacteria to help fight off disease and illness and makes up most of our immune system. Our gut even affects our hormone balance, nervous system, and brain functions. Without a healthy functioning gut, our overall health is at risk.
So, now you might be asking yourself…is my gut healthy?
Here are the potential signs and health risks of an unhealthy gut.
Upset stomach. If you’re constantly bloated, gassy, constipated, have acid reflux, abdominal pain, or deal with issues such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) it could be related to a gut imbalance. A healthy gut will encourage proper digestion of food and eliminate waste on a consistent basis, without discomfort.
Food intolerances. Responses to food take place in the digestive system and when our body can’t break down food properly, we develop an intolerance to it. Food intolerances can range from lactose to gluten to certain preservatives and sulfites and could be a result of poor-quality bacteria in the gut.
Bad diet. Processed and sugary foods decrease the amount of healthy gut bacteria. This imbalance can lead to inflammation in the body and a damaged gut overtime.
Change in weight. Gut problems can lead to an inability in your body to store healthy bacteria and fat, as well as break down nutrients properly. Loss or gain in weight, without changes to your fitness or diet, may be a sign of an unhealthy gut.
Skin irritation. What happens in the gut directly impacts the skin, and there is a lot of evidence connecting skin conditions such as rosacea, acne, eczema, and psoriasis to gut issues and inflammation.
Fatigue and trouble sleeping. Your gut microbiome plays a central role in getting a good night’s sleep and affects how your circadian rhythm runs (your body’s internal clock). Since your gut bacteria shapes your sleeping pattern, if you suffer from sleep disturbances, it could be your gut signaling an alarm to you that something is off.
Now that you know the risks and signs of an unhealthy gut, here are some ways you can improve your gut health.
Maintain a healthy diet and eat certain foods. The big takeaway when it comes to learning about your gut health is that there is a direct link between our gut and what we eat. Eating a range of diverse foods and avoiding overly processed ones will encourage a healthy environment for good gut health.
There are also certain types of foods you can include in your diet that will help promote proper digestion and the growth of beneficial bacteria:
- Food high in fiber such as beans, oats, and bananas
- Garlic and onion strengthen your immune system and contain prebiotics
- Fermented foods boost the healthy bacteria and probiotics in your gut. Tempeh, kimchi, yogurt, kombucha tea, and miso are all great sources of fermented food.
- Collagen has many health benefits and is a natural protein in our body. Collagen-rich foods help strengthen your immune system and encourage better nutrient absorption. Try incorporating bone broth, egg whites, fish, and berries into your diet.
Chew your food completely. Proper digestion and gut health go hand in hand. Being mindful of how you eat by completely chewing your food and eating slowly can help aid digestion and the absorption of nutrients.
One other way to improve digestion and nutrient absorption can be to eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day rather than fewer, larger ones. This will help your body process the food better and may be a good option for those with food intolerances or gastrointestinal conditions.
Exercise consistently. After 6 weeks of regular exercise, studies found that there can be a positive increase in gut microbes that assist in the production of fatty acids. These fatty acids reduce the risk of inflammatory diseases as well as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
Take prebiotic or probiotic supplements. While it’s best to consult with your healthcare provider to choose the best supplement for you, taking a prebiotic or probiotic natural supplement can help improve gut health. These supplements will help keep bacteria balanced and aid digestion so that the microorganisms in your body can thrive in a healthy environment.
Stay hydrated. Drinking enough water maintains a healthy intestinal lining and helps keep bacteria in the gut balanced.
Manage your stress. When we’re stressed it affects almost every part of our body, including our gut. Stress can cause us to overeat or eat the wrong foods, and it can also cause inflammation in our gut and other areas of the body. Studies found that stress is related to the onset or worsening of serious digestive conditions so it’s important to manage your stress levels.
Don’t overlook the importance of gut health. Trust your gut and take care of it.