Every year, approximately 70+ million Americans are affected by some type of digestive disorder, from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). A number of factors can affect your gut health, like your family and genetic history and how your body is built. And don’t forget the importance of a balanced microbiome. When your body doesn’t have enough good bacteria, bad bacteria can thrive causing all sorts of issues. Thankfully, there are factors you can control, like reducing stress and eating a gut-friendly diet to help reduce the chance of developing some of these issues.

There are several red flags that may indicate issues with your gut health. The list below includes 10 of the more commonly encountered issues.

Digestive Issues:

Persistent digestive problems such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, or heartburn can indicate imbalances in the gut microbiota or issues with processing food, absorbing nutrients, and eliminating waste.

Food Intolerances:

Developing sudden or worsening food intolerances, where certain foods cause discomfort, bloating, or other symptoms, may suggest an underlying gut issue. Food intolerance may be caused by poor quality of bacteria in the gut.

Chronic Fatigue:

Ongoing fatigue and low energy levels despite adequate rest could be linked to poor nutrient absorption or inflammation in the gut. A significant number of people with chronic fatigue also have IBS [1].

Skin Conditions:

Your skin can tend to break out when you eat certain foods, like those high in refined sugar or saturated fat, and that may be due to the bacteria in your gut. A study has shown that those kinds of foods promote an imbalance of gut bacteria that can contribute to a variety of skin issues, including acne, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis and dandruff [2]. These conditions can also be related to inflammation in the digestive system.

Mood Disorders:

Your mood and sense of well-being can be strongly affected by your gut health. Anxiety, depression, mood swings, or irritability might be linked to the gut-brain axis, where imbalances in gut bacteria can affect neurotransmitter production. A significant number of patients with IBS also have depression, anxiety or sleep problems, and it’s not uncommon for depression and generalized anxiety disorder to be associated with gastrointestinal issues [3].

Autoimmune Diseases:

Some “bad” gut bacteria may trigger autoimmune conditions like thyroid issues, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and type 1 diabetes. Additionally, gut-specific autoimmune diseases like Crohn’s disease and celiac disease, can be associated with gut health issues.

Chronic Bad Breath:

Persistent bad breath not related to poor oral hygiene could be a sign of imbalances in the gut microbiota or digestive issues. If you’re not passing stool properly, like in the case of frequent constipation, it can cause a buildup of toxins in the body. This can result in bad breath, a gut health red flag that shouldn’t be ignored.

Nutritional Deficiencies:

Deficiencies in vitamins and minerals, despite a seemingly adequate diet, might indicate poor absorption due to gut issues.

Unintentional Weight Changes:

Significant and unexplained weight loss or gain could be related to gut health problems affecting digestion and metabolism. When your gut is balanced, it easily processes your food and eliminates waste in a regular manner. When your gut is imbalanced, your body may struggle to absorb nutrients, store fat, and regulate blood sugar. An important caveat to this is unintentional weight loss or gain can also be a sign of other serious health conditions, like cancer, so if you’re experiencing either one, you should speak with your doctor as soon as possible.

Chronic Stress:

Prolonged stress can negatively impact gut health by altering gut motility, increasing inflammation, and disrupting the balance of gut bacteria.

Final Thoughts

Before trying to diagnose yourself and blame non-gut-related symptoms on your gut health, consider other symptoms you may be experiencing too, try adding more gut-friendly habits to your daily routine [https://guthealth.org/why-is-gut-health-important-and-how-can-you-improve-it/]. If you experience any of these red flags persistently or severely, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and guidance.



[1] Nagy-Szakal, D., Williams, B.L., Mishra, N. et al. (2017). Fecal metagenomic profiles in subgroups of patients with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome. Microbiome 5, 44. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40168-017-0261-y

[2] De Pessemier B, Grine L, Debaere M, Maes A, Paetzold B, Callewaert C. (2021). Gut–Skin Axis: Current Knowledge of the Interrelationship between Microbial Dysbiosis and Skin Conditions. Microorganisms. 9(2):353. https://doi.org/10.3390/microorganisms9020353

[3] Li, Y., Hao, Y., Fan, F., & Zhang, B. (2018). The Role of Microbiome in Insomnia, Circadian Disturbance and Depression. Frontiers in psychiatry, 9, 669. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00669