What's an Unhealthy Gut?
Your gut controls everything from the immune system to brain health, hormones, moods, and everything in between. That's why they call it 'the second brain.’
Functional medicine is now talking more and more about how an unhealthy gut lies at the base of virtually all medical conditions.
A few of the typical signs of an unhealthy gut are — gas, bloating, upset stomach, constipation, diarrhea, and stomachache to name a few. Even if you don't have any of these typical symptoms but struggle with some autoimmune or chronic condition, it’s possible that some underlying gut issue is responsible for it.
Signs You Have an Unhealthy Gut:
Your stomach naturally produces gas as food goes through the digestion and fermentation process. But, if there's undigested food, it goes through excessive fermentation wherein it produces 'bad' gases that can lead to bloating, feeling of fullness, and stomach pain because of the trapped gas inside the gut.
Having a runny stool now and then is entirely normal, but, acute or chronic diarrhea is often indicative of unhealthy bacterial overgrowth or some kind of infection. Chronic or acute diarrhea can be problematic because for one thing — it can cause rapid dehydration. And for another, it can push out the good bacteria leading to gut dysbiosis.
The actual cause of constipation is still unclear. Some attribute it to a lack of hydration and low fiber intake. Researchers are also linking an imbalance of the gut microbiota to constipation. People suffering from constipation often have low levels of Bifidobacteria when doctors test for their stool sample. Supplementing with certain probiotics may help them with the condition.
Many people have certain food sensitivities and allergies. As a result, when they consume trigger or problem foods, they tend to experience a range of skin issues. These issues can include acne, rashes, hives, skin irritation, itchy skin, etc. Chronic skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis also connect with an unhealthy gut. Your stomach communicates with skin and controls inflammatory responses as well as homeostasis. An imbalance in the gut bacteria can disrupt that communication and cause inflammatory skin conditions.
Brain Fog and Chronic Fatigue
An unhealthy gut has trouble digesting certain foods like gluten and dairy. This can often make you feel sleepy or induce a sensation of a foggy brain or cloudiness.
Studies show that one can diagnose the root of chronic fatigue just by looking at the gut bacteria profile.
If you constantly crave sugary foods, gluten, excess carbs, junk food, or fried stuff; there's a good chance you're not nourishing the gut bacteria. The overgrowth of the bad bacteria is often at the heart of weird and unhealthy food cravings. When there's an overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria; that's when these cravings become stronger because these foods feed the bad bacteria. Including probiotics and prebiotics in your diet may solve those cravings.
Research connects a leaky gut with most autoimmune conditions, including MS, liver disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. We know that the gut largely controls the immune system. So, when the gut is imbalanced, it can confuse the immune system and make it start attacking healthy cells; thus leading to all kinds of problems.
Tips for Improving Gut Health.
Move Your Body Regularly
Movement is essential for strengthening the gut muscles. Even if it means going for a walk in the park for half an hour or so. You don't have to commit to some major exercise regime. Go for a 5-minute walk after every meal. There's good evidence that exercise modifies the gut bacteria.
Reduce Your Stress Levels
Stress can overstimulate your gut lining and digestive tract. Chronic stress can lead to diarrhea as well as constipation. Try to stay light-minded. Do anything that makes you feel happy and light to keep stress levels at bay. Engage in creative hobbies and watch comedy shows.
Consume fermented foods
Fermented foods (aka probiotics) are rich in healthy gut bacteria. They increase the population of the overall gut flora. Yogurt, miso, kefir, sauerkraut, pickled vegetables, and apple cider vinegar are all classic examples of probiotics.
To nourish your gut bacteria, you should also consume prebiotics like asparagus, carrots, artichokes, and raw vegetables.
Fiber majorly affects the gut microbiota. It also keeps the food moving through the stomach, so it doesn't sit longer in the stomach. Consuming salads, fruits, raw vegetables, whole grains are all good ways to up your fiber intake. However, make sure to look out for food allergies and problem foods. Not all raw vegetables or even cooked fibrous foods may be good for you and may even exacerbate the gut problem.
Drink that H2O
If you have a hard time with the bowel movement or if you have a hard stool, it's a sign that your body is lacking hydration. A quick fix is to up your water intake by 2-3 glasses. The recommended fluid intake, according to MayoClinic, is 3-4 liters per day.
Trying a combination of the above tricks should fix your gut issues if the problem is not yet chronic, however, if the problem still persists it’s best to talk to a doctor.