6 Signs of an Unhealthy Gut
Updated: Jan 9
We know that gut health is incredibly important for physical and mental health. Your microbiome is at the core of determining whether your internal environment will support your body in creating health or fostering disease. The number of “good” bacteria in your gut can be affected by stress, poor sleep, taking antibiotics and eating lots of sugary and processed foods.
Both inside and outside, our bodies host a diverse community of micro-organisms. It is estimated that there are more than 5000 different species. These include bacteria, fungi, parasites, yeasts and viruses. Together these organisms make up your microbiota.
Microbiota and microbiome are often used interchangeably. Your microbiome is all the genes that your microbiota contains. We have 100 times more bacterial DNA within us than human DNA.
It may be a bit unsettling to learn that our bugs outnumber our cells 10 to 1. Your microbiome can weigh up to 7 pounds.
Microbes are a critical component to digestion and help to provide nutrients for our cells and guard against colonization of harmful bacteria and viruses. They also play a role in hormone balance. You may be surprised to learn that 89% of women with hormone imbalances have gut dysfunction.
How can you tell if your gut isn’t as healthy as it could be? Here are some signs that can point to this:
1. Digestive Issues
Struggling with bloating, gas, heartburn and changes in your bowel movements? These can all be signs that your digestive system is having to work hard to process food and move it along your digestive tract.
Leaky gut and food sensitivities increase inflammation in your body and can contribute to a wide range of symptoms. Other complications include autoimmune diseases, atherosclerosis, diabetes, obesity, hormonal imbalance and even Alzheimer’s Disease.
2. Skin Problems
Eczema, skin rashes and other skin conditions can sometimes be linked to an unhealthy gut. Inflammation in the gut can set the scene for inflammation elsewhere in your body too and that can be bad news for your skin.
When the liver, kidneys and colon become overwhelmed and inefficient, other organs of the body become enlisted to help eliminate wastes. Commonly the skin takes over for the colon when toxins are accumulating faster than they can be eliminated; think acne, eczema and psoriasis.
3. Low Mood and Anxiety
If your gut bacteria is not balanced, there is a pretty good chance that it will affect your mood and mental health in general.
Our entire digestive tract is lined with a network of neurons, called the enteric nervous system. This has been nicknamed the “second brain”. It uses more than 30 neurotransmitters, just like the brain, and in fact 95% of the body’s “happy” neurotransmitter, serotonin, is found in the bowels. There are more serotonin receptors in the gut than in the brain!
Low serotonin is also associated with cravings – sweet, salty, high carb comfort foods.
4. Low Immunity
Always seem to get sick and struggle to shake things off very quickly? It could be down to your gut. Our microbes help to program and influence our immune system, both locally and systemically.
According to research, as much as 80% of your immunity may start in your gut so it’s smart to focus on gut health to optimize your immunity. Several superfoods have been identified to help boost immunity.
5. Chronic Yeast Infections
Get yeast infections more than you’d care for? An unhealthy gut can contribute to this as it allows yeast to run wild. While yeast and fungus are normal components of the microbiome, a diet favoring sugars and carbs can lead to an imbalance and overgrowth. This imbalance can be at the source of brain fog, fatigue and poor memory.
Constantly feeling tired and worn out? Poor gut health can sometimes affect your body’s ability to absorb nutrients from your food and this can have an impact on energy levels.
In addition, your food choices directly impact your sleep and microbiome. This can be a difficult cycle to break. When you aren’t sleeping well, you tend to make poor food choices, both the food you choose and the time you choose to eat it. These food choices leave you aching and craving more, making it difficult to sleep well.
It goes without saying that supporting your body with clean food and good habits helps to optimize its function. Unsure of what to eat to foster good gut health? Download my free guide: Ditch Your Diet: 5 Frameworks to Personalize Your Food Strategy