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November 16, 2020 5 min read

In this article:

  • The importance of a healthy gut and its influence on the body
  • Warning signs of an unhealthy gut
  • How to restore your gut health

The Gut's Influence on your Body

The more research that is done on the gut, the more we find out about its influence on our entire bodies. Studies have revealed that our gut health has links to our mental health, immune system and autoimmune diseases, as well as skin conditions. The gut microbiome is housed in a small pocket within the intestinal tract that holds 300-500 different types of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other microorganisms. Everyone's gut bacteria are a little bit different, so there is no single standard composition of gut flora. Many of these bacteria are essential to a healthy gut and body, but having too many bad bacteria can cause a host of different gut issues, autoimmune conditions, and skin problems.

Warning Signs of an Unhealthy Gut

Many things can have a negative impact on our gut health including high-stress levels, antibiotics, highly processed foods, and not getting enough sleep. Since the gut is connected to so many different functions of the body, poor gut health can wreak havoc on a number of different systems and its symptoms manifest in different ways.

  1. Unexplained changes in weight loss or gain: Gut dysbiosis, or an improper balance of bacteria, can negatively affect the way your body absorbs nutrients. Inadequate nutrient absorption can lead to overeating and weight gain. It can also increase the amount of "bad" microbes that are linked to obesity. Unexplained weight loss, on the other hand, could be caused by bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine or SIBO. This occurs when the gut bacteria grow to unsafe amounts and spreads to the small intestine, causing digestive issues and weight loss.
  2. Problems digesting and passing foods: The most obvious and common sign of an unhealthy gut is poor digestive health. Bloating, constipation, gas, diarrhea, heartburn, and food intolerance are common side effects of poor gut health. In more severe cases, IBS or irritable bowel syndrome has also been linked to gut dysbiosis. In general, if you're having a hard time passing food, are suddenly developing food allergies, or if your digestive system seems particularly sensitive, you may want to focus your attention on your gut health.
  1. Trouble sleeping or chronic fatigue: Did you know that the gut produces the majority of your body's serotonin? That's the "second brain" in action. Serotonin contributes to your mood and energy levels, so when your gut is in distress, serotonin levels drop, and sleep becomes more difficult. Conversely, you can leverage your gut health to get a better night’s rest!
  2. Skin irritation and flare-ups: Studies have shown that when the gut microbiome is in dysbiosis, you may experience flare-ups of eczema, psoriasis, or acne.
  3. Autoimmune diseases: Emerging studies have begun to link autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, and multiple sclerosis, to the health of the gut. This is mostly due to an overgrowth of pro-inflammatory bacteria within the gastrointestinal tract. Inflammation is also a leading contributor to leaky gut syndrome, or increased intestinal permeability, which is common in people with Crohn's disease or celiac disease (AKA gluten intolerance).
  4. Sugar Cravings: Diets high in processed foods and sugars can lead to gut issues, which surprisingly, can cause increased sugar cravings.
  5. Migraines: Migraines, which are often accompanied by nausea and vomiting, may be connected to poor gastrointestinal health. Recent studies have suggested that people who experience frequent migraines and headaches may be predisposed to gastrointestinal problems such as irritable bowel syndrome and celiac disease.

How to Restore Gut Health

Given its importance in almost every area of the body, maintaining great gut health is crucial for your overall health. Though research into the gut microbiome is relatively new, studies are being done to discover how to manage and treat gut dysbiosis and its effects.

Probiotics and Prebiotics

Probiotics and prebiotics work hand in hand to grow and feed gut microbiota. Probiotics are live bacteria that are found in foods. One recent study examined how migraine sufferers' conditions changed when given probiotics. The study found that probiotic supplements, which help to restore gut health by introducing healthy gut bacteria, helped to reduce the severity, pain, and frequency of migraines, thus highlighting the importance of the gut-brain axis. Probiotic foods are usually fermented - think unpasteurized (this is important) kimchi, kefir, kombucha, and sauerkraut.

Prebiotics, on the other hand, are types of fiber found in your fruits and veggies. Probiotics feed on the fiber of prebiotics and break them down. Prebiotics can be found in leeks, artichokes, oats, bananas, and garlic to name a few. You can whip up a pretty tasty meal that contains both pre and probiotics like kimchi with garlic and onions over rice, or you can take supplements to help build up the good bacteria in your gut.

Cut Out Overly-Processed Food

Processed foods and foods high in sugar and carbohydrates are one of the biggest tyrants to your gut, and they're also a staple in many Western cultures. It can be difficult to cut these out of your diet, but doing so provides the reset your gut needs to bring total-body benefits. Preservatives, emulsifiers, artificial colorings, and processed meats are the biggest red flags. Try going organic for a couple of weeks and adding in probiotics wherever you can get them to kickstart your digestive enzymes. You can always contact your doctor or reach out to a nutritionist as well to create a diet plan that will get your gut back on track.

Adjust your Lifestyle

This is a big step, but an important one. Your wellness is holistic; it takes more than a diet to see and feel the results you want. Research has shown that regular exercise is a strong component in increasing your gut microbiota. Getting enough sleep and reducing stress are also important to your gut, remember, it is connected to your brain after all. In general, these changes should bring benefits to your overall wellbeing and will get some synergies going!

Summary Points

  • The gut microbiome is housed in a small pocket within the intestinal tract that holds 300-500 different types of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other microorganisms
  • Gut dysbiosis, or an improper balance of bacteria, can negatively affect the way your body absorbs nutrients
  • The gut produces the majority of your body's serotonin and it is the "second brain" in action
  • Probiotics and prebiotics work hand in hand to grow and feed gut microbiota

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Article References:

  1. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/probiotics-and-prebiotics#bottom-line
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/migraine-headache/expert-answers/migraines/faq-20058268
  3. https://www.thegoodgut.org/restore-gut-health/#prettyPhoto
  4. https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/ss/slideshow-how-gut-health-affects-whole-body
  5. https://www.everydayhealth.com/digestive-health/signs-of-unhealthy-gut-and-how-to-fix-it/
  6. https://www.byrdie.com/signs-of-unhealthy-gut
  7. https://www.thegoodgut.org/restore-gut-health/#prettyPhoto



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