When your gut is healthy, the rest of your body is often happy too. This is because your gut has influences on everything from your digestion to your brain and your immune system. It’s estimated that there are between 300 and 500 different species of bacteria that live in our digestive tract. The term “microbiome” refers specifically to these bacteria. We will provide you the resources to find out how to know if your gut is unhealthy.
Good Bacteria vs. Bad Bacteria
When you hear the terms “good bacteria” and “bad bacteria,” it’s actually quite accurate because there are bacteria in your digestive system that are harmful. On the other hand, there are extremely beneficial bacteria. Therefore, it is important to look out for signs of an unhealthy gut. The trick is to practice the right habits and eat the right foods to have your microbiome in a perfect state of balance which leads to good gut health.
Risk Factors of an Unhealthy Gut
Having an unhealthy gut can lead to more than just diarrhea or a stomachache. Our body systems are intrinsically interconnected, and the gut is a communicator with the brain and plays a significant role in immunity. It’s estimated that about 70 percent of our immune cells reside in the gut, so if your gut is in a state of poor health, your immune system can be at risk. The next step is to tell if your gut is unhealthy or not, and there are a few symptoms to be aware of so you can monitor your gut health. So, how do you know if your gut is unhealthy?
Signs of a Harmful Gut
If you are unsure of the signs of an unhealthy gut, there are a number of quick online unhealthy gut quizzes that may be able to give you a clue. In general, the symptoms below are commonly seen in individuals with an unhealthy gut:
GI Upset, Stomach Pains, or Cramps
If you get frequent gastrointestinal upset after eating, in the form of stomach pain, cramps, gas, bloating, or other discomforts, this can be a sign of poor gut health. This is because your digestive system is having more trouble processing food and beverages and eliminating waste.
Feeling Sluggish and Fatigued or Having Poor Sleep
As the gut is a strong communicator with the brain, poor gut health could be a factor here. If this symptom is combined with diarrhea and headache, it could also be leaky gut syndrome, which can be form of poor gut health.
Having a Depressed Mood
While your gut isn’t solely responsible for having a depressed mood, it is mainly responsible for serotonin production. If the gut microbiome is not in balance and communicating with the brain correctly, this can certainly affect mood. Feeling down doesn’t necessarily mean you have poor gut health, but if you’re feeling down in conjunction with GI symptoms, it is worth mentioning to your healthcare provider.
Being Frequently Sick
Good gut health is correlated with higher levels of immunity, and if you find that you catch nearly every cold or illness that comes around and your immunity is low, it can be a sign of poor gut health.
Sudden Gains or Losses in Weight
If you’ve experienced recent unintended changes in weight, it can be due to poor gut health. Gains can be due to nutrients not being absorbed (you never feel full), while gains could be due to SIBO, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.
How Can You Help Prevent an Unhealthy Gut?
Fortunately, just like there are a lot of things that can contribute to a gut imbalance, there are a lot of things you can do to support your gut health and bring your body back into balance:
Eat More Fiber in Your Diet
You can do this by eating more foods that are rich in fiber or by taking a prebiotic fiber supplement. Foods that are rich in fiber include asparagus, bananas, garlic, onions, and whole grains.
Eat Fermented Foods
These are excellent food sources of probiotics, which are great for gut health. These include sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, and yogurt. You can also take probiotic supplements.
Quit Smoking and Moderate Alcohol Consumption
Smoking and drinking in excess can contribute to acid reflux and heartburn and are poor choices for overall health, including gut health.
Of course, there are times when you must take antibiotics but never take them unnecessarily, as they disrupt the gut flora. Antibiotics can’t distinguish between “good” and “bad” bacteria and kill all of the bacteria off. If you do take antibiotics, be sure to always take a probiotic with them.
Try to Reduce Stress
Researchers believe that stress, even short-term stress, can upset the microbiome. We all lead busy lives, but it’s suggested that people get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and eat a balanced diet to help combat both physical and mental stress.
Avoid Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners
Sugar and artificial sweeteners may cause gut imbalance or gut dysbiosis, so it’s best to avoid large amounts of either.
Consider Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting, or going without food for a certain period of time, usually about 14 to 16 hours, may also help get your gut health back on track. One study points out that regularly intermittent fasting can also keep your gut healthy and working correctly as you age .
Online Unhealthy Gut Quizzes
Try out one of these quizzes to see if you show an of the common symptoms of an unhealthy gut and the steps you can begin taking to improve your gut.