Why Is Gut Health Important?
If you’re experiencing gastrointestinal discomfort, this can be a sign that you need to improve your gut health. A healthy gut means you have a good balance of bacteria, or microbes, in your gastrointestinal tract. These microbes help the body:
- Obtain energy from the food you eat
- Get rid of toxins
- Fight harmful viruses and bacteria
- Produce the mood-boosting brain chemical serotonin
A lack of good bacteria can result in an unhealthy gut. Thankfully, there are measures you can take to improve your gut health.
What are Common Symptoms of an Unhealthy Gut?
If you have digestive issues, you’re not alone. Each year, nearly 70 million Americans are affected by digestive diseases, from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
It’s not uncommon to get the occasional stomach ache or have a bout of heartburn at times. However, frequent issues with gastrointestinal concerns might signal that something is impacting your gastrointestinal health. Therefore, should you have any of the following signs or symptoms frequently, it could be a result of poor gut health:
Anxiety and depression may be a result of poor gastrointestinal health.
Change in Stool
If there is a difference in the color or consistency of your stool, such as if you have loose or light-colored stools, then it might be time to investigate with a doctor. Specifically, any changes in your stool can indicate an underlying condition that requires medical attention.
Skin Allergies and Irritations
Inflammatory skin concerns, including eczema, acne, and psoriasis, have been connected to gut health.
An imbalance in digestive bacteria can initiate issues with autoimmune diseases.
Severe headaches might be an indication that a problem is occurring in the gastrointestinal system, especially if the headaches are accompanied by nausea or vomiting.
Unexplained Weight Changes
An unexplained, sudden gain or loss in weight might indicate that your body is struggling to eliminate waste, store fat, or absorb nutrients.
Yearnings for certain foods, like sugar, might be a sign of nutritional deficiency or imbalanced gut bacteria.
Feeling exhausted on a consistent basis could be related to an issue with your digestive tract’s ability to absorb nutrients.
Frequent gas, bloating, or constipation could signal that your gastrointestinal tract is having trouble breaking down food and getting rid of waste products.
If you notice any of the signs or symptoms listed above, or any other symptoms of concern, like repetitive acid reflux or bloody stools, please get in touch with doctor to have your gastrointestinal health evaluated.
What Conditions can Cause Poor Gut Health?
The symptoms or issues you experience may be a sign of a concerning GI system condition. A few of the conditions that can lead to the signs and symptoms listed above are:
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease trigger inflammation in the digestive system.
Cancer in the GI tract, like colon or rectal cancer and stomach cancer, can result in significant problems in the digestive system. For instance, the growth of tumors can obstruct the normal functioning of the digestive tract, causing pain, discomfort, and other complications.
The manner in which the body’s immune system reacts to gluten causes damage to the small bowel.
How can you Improve Gut Health?
Many factors affect your gut health, like your family and genetic history and how your body is built. In addition, there are also factors you can control, like stress and diet. Therefore, when your gut functions properly, there’s a good balance of bacteria helping your body process and get energy from the foods you eat, clear toxins, fight against disease, and boost your mood. As a result, you’re also free of symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, loose stools, gas, bloating, and abdominal pain.
Although it is vital to adopt a healthy lifestyle, you should still talk with a medical practitioner if you are having symptoms indicating an unhealthy gut. The following actions might be recommended by your doctor to improve your gut health:
Ways to Improve Your Gut Health
- Exercise regularly.
- Stop smoking.
- Monitor for food intolerances and eliminate those you recognize as problematic. Signs of food intolerance include:
- Abdominal pain
- Acid reflux
- Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night.
- Avoid taking unnecessary antibiotics. Antibiotics can reduce both good and bad bacteria in the body.
- To improve gut health, consume natural sources of probiotics. For example, plain yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, and kimchi all contain helpful bacteria from the fermentation process.
- Cut back on processed foods.
To improve your gut health, it’s important to eat prebiotics. Specifically, many high-fiber vegetables, fruits, and whole grains are prebiotics, which serve as “food” for good bacteria in the body. Therefore, unprocessed foods like apples, asparagus, bananas, corn, garlic, flaxseeds, leeks, onions, oats, lentils, and walnuts can improve your gut health.
- Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water may be linked to increased diversity of bacteria in the gut, though the source of the water also matters. One 2022 study  also found that people who drank more water had less of a type of bacteria that can cause gastrointestinal infections. Staying hydrated benefits your health overall and can help prevent constipation. It may also be a simple way to improve your gut health.
- Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. The perimeter is where you can find fresh and frozen produce, lean proteins, whole grains, and low-fat dairy.
- Eat slowly. Chew thoroughly and eat slowly to fully digest your food and help your body absorb all its nutrients.
- Reduce stress by doing the following:
- Getting a massage
- Spending time with friends or family
- Diffusing essential oils
- Limiting alcohol intake
- Practicing yoga
- Spending time with a pet
-  https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxab312