An imbalanced gut microbiome can manifest in many ways. There are the obvious signs like an upset stomach, but also more hidden, indirect signs, like skin issues or fatigue. Learning to recognize the signs of an unhealthy gut is a valuable way to keep tabs on the state of your gut. Read on for some of the top red flags when it comes to gut health!
1. Gastrointestinal pain or discomfort
The occasional bloating, gas, diarrhea, or constipation may not be anything to worry about, but if you regularly experience these symptoms, your gut may be trying to tell you something.
2. Chronic fatigue or sleep disturbances
As we’ve discussed before, the gut is like a “second brain” that affects so much more than just your digestive health. Just like your brain, your gut is lined with neural tissue and sends chemical signals to other parts of your body . For example, most of the serotonin in your body is produced by your gut bacteria, and serotonin is vital in regulating your sleep and mood patterns . In other words, an unhealthy gut can impair your ability to get enough sleep and feel well-rested.
3. Mood issues or stress
Feeling blue? Could be your gut! As we just mentioned, the serotonin produced in your gut impacts your mood and how you feel—so much so that it’s even termed “the happy chemical”! Because serotonin is produced by your gut bacteria, poor mood patterns or feeling stressed could be an indication that something isn’t quite right in your gut. Aside from that, mounting evidence shows that an imbalanced gut microbiome is intimately connected to the development of mental health disorders like depression and anxiety .
4. Skin issues
An imbalanced gut microbiome or unhealthy gut is associated with chronic inflammation, which in turn can worsen (or lead to the development of) inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema [5, 6, 7]. Poor gut health can also worsen acne. In other words, your skin’s appearance can often be a clue to the state of your gut. Check out our in-depth article on the topic to learn more about the gut-skin connection!
5. Autoimmune conditions
The chronic inflammation associated with an unhealthy gut is also related to the development or worsening of various autoimmune conditions, where the immune system goes out of whack and causes the body to attack its own healthy tissue instead of pathogens and other harmful intruders . Check out our article on the gut-immune connection to learn more.
6. Unexplained weight changes
If you’re having trouble maintaining a healthy weight, it might be that your gut needs some attention. A healthy gut microbiome helps stabilise your blood sugar, promotes satiety, and makes it easier to maintain a healthy weight [9, 10]. On the flip side, an unhealthy gut can make it more difficult for your body to regulate blood sugar and absorb nutrients. Poor blood sugar regulation can lead to insulin resistance, which can cause unintentional weight gain. Nutrient deficiency can also lead to weight gain by causing an urge to overeat to compensate for the lacking nutrients. SIBO, another form of gut dysbiosis, can sometimes lead to unintentional weight loss .
7. Food intolerances
Food intolerances (as opposed to food allergies) are when a certain food leads to impaired digestion or abdominal discomfort. Poor gut health is often at the heart of food intolerances, and growing research suggests that gut health even has a role to play in the development and treatment of food allergies! [12, 13, 14]
8. Certain diseases
Since gut health is so foundational to overall health, it should be no surprise that an ailing gut can cause issues in the rest of your body. Now, there are some more obvious illnesses that indicate poor gut health, like IBS and IBD, but there are also some not-so-obvious illnesses that often have gut dysbiosis at their root. For example, type 2 diabetes, obesity, liver diseases, chronic heart diseases, and even certain cancers can all be symptoms of an imbalanced gut microbiome .
Recognizing the signs of an unhealthy gut can be an important first step to addressing the root cause of impaired well-being! Find out what you can do to improve your gut health.
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