Research over the past two decades has revealed that gut health is critical to overall health, and an unhealthy gut can be linked to a wide range of health concerns. We may immediately think of indigestion and bloating when it comes to gut health, but new research shows connections between our gut and diabetes, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune conditions, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome and mental health concerns and more.
“Gut health is an influencer of overall health, including mental health”.
So, how do you know if an unhealthy gut applies to you?
Extremes of an unhealthy gut can present as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or bloating or gas, but there are other signs to be aware of, some you may have been experiencing for your whole life without realising the ways you can support and manage them or even be rid of them!
Let’s jump into each of the 8 signs in more detail below…
Signs of an unhealthy gut:
1. Digestive issues like bloating, gas or diarrhoea
These are the hallmark signs of gut dysfunction. In large, this is related to the health; both number and diversity, of the bacteria living inside our gut, intestines, stomach and colon and our digestive enzymes.
Our gut bacteria are called our microbiome and experiences such as irregular bowel movements to the point of diarrhoea, or gas can occur when the balance of bacteria is not right.
“The number and diversity of bacteria living inside your gut impact your overall health and wellness.”
Gas in particular is a sign that food is fermenting in your gut. This happens when we have insufficient stomach acid or an imbalance of bacteria to break down the food we’ve eaten.
If it’s the likes of food repeating on you or digestive issues, adding in digestive enzymes to help boost your stomach acid and break down your food is important and can be a life changer when it comes to reducing bloating
2. Sugar cravings
Scientists have found that gut bacteria actually secretes special proteins that are similar to hunger-regulating hormones; leptin and ghrelin. These proteins affect both our food cravings and mood.
To sum it up, the bacteria try to get us to eat foods that they thrive on. So, if you eat a lot of sugar you feed the unhelpful bacteria that love it and they secrete the proteins to make you crave sugar more. It’s a vicious cycle.
“Bacteria try to get us to eat foods that they thrive on, making you crave things like sugar”
It’s also somewhat of a relief. It’s not a lack of willpower that contributes totally to our weakness for the sweet stuff. Fixing our gut can eradicate the bacteria that cause us to crave these foods in the first place and over time we can reduce these cravings.
3. Bad breath
Chronic bad breath is called halitosis. In most circumstances, halitosis stems from odor-inducing microbes that reside in between your teeth and gums, and on our tongue. It can also be caused by bacteria linked to gum disease.
A healthy digestive system is crucial for optimal overall health. The ratio of good and bad bacteria is an l indicator of the condition of your health.
Having less-than-optimal gut flora can also make us vulnerable to health conditions linked to bad breath, such as kidney infections and poorly managed diabetes.
4. Food allergies or sensitivities
If you suffer from food intolerances such as gluten or dairy, this is almost always a result of leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut syndrome is when your gut barrier is compromised, which is not ideal, as your gut barrier is your gatekeeper that decides what gets in and what stays out of your digestive system.
When you think about it, our gut is a system that operates entirely on its own. It is a sealed passageway from our mouth to our bottom. Technically, the scope with which it interacts with other organs in our body is somewhat limited.
Anything that goes in the mouth and isn’t digested will pass right out the other end. This is, in fact, one of the most important functions of the gut: to prevent foreign substances from entering the body.
When the intestinal barrier becomes permeable i.e. leaky gut syndrome, large protein molecules escape into the bloodstream. Since these proteins don’t belong outside of the gut, the body mounts an immune response and attacks them. This immune response shows up as food intolerances and are often related to foods we eat the most of, because they’re showing up and being ‘tagged’ as invaders more often within our body.
Common food intolerances include gluten and dairy and are a great place to start when testing avoiding foods to improve your unhealthy gut symptoms.
5. Moodiness, anxiety and depression
Part of the reason micronutrient deficiencies can be linked to our mental health is compromised gut function. Even if a person with mental health challenges did have access to appropriate nutrition or levels of micronutrients, a leaky gut, lack of good gut bacteria or levels of stomach acid may mean they are unable to absorb these precious nutrients.
A compromised gut will affect our ability to use serotonin and dopamine—our happy hormones—and vitamin D within our body.
The majority of serotonin and about half of our dopamine is made in our gut. If we have a leaky gut, our body will lose much of the serotonin and dopamine it produces. Addressing any gut dysbiosis will be critical for supporting mental health in these instances.
In a nutshell, the inner workings of our digestive system don’t just help us digest food, but also guide and balance our emotions.
6. Skin problems like eczema
A common sign of food intolerance is eczema. This article on what’s driving your eczema investigates the link between the health of your microbiome and eczema conditions and explores common intolerances like gluten and dairy.
Again, with a leaky gut, our body may erroneously ‘tag’ or ‘mark’ food proteins that leak from our gut as bad and we then exhibit the physical symptoms of food intolerances like irritated skin which can vary from mild to severe but in a lot of cases is entirely avoidable.
Research is now showing the health of our microbiota can give clues as to whether or not we have type two diabetes. Recently, four Russian researchers studied differences in the changes in the microbes of the large intestine, reporting their findings on the link between gut bacteria and type two diabetes in the journal of Endocrinology Connections.
In the study, gut microbial composition and glucose level were analysed in 92 patients including 20 with type 2 diabetes and 48 healthy subjects without any chronic disease. An additional 24 subjects showed signs of pre-diabetes.
The scientists compared the presentation of intestinal microbes among the groups in the study participants, as well as differences in diet. In doing so, they were able to link the level of glucose intolerance with the presence of three types of microbiota: Blautia, Serratia and Akkermansia bacteria. While all three are found in healthy people, their numbers are “greatly increased where diabetes is present.”
“The scientists concluded that one possible cause and effect between intestinal bacteria and diabetes is that certain bacteria incite an immune response. Within the intestinal bacteria population, there are microbes that form toxins that enter the gut and then cause inflammation throughout the body, including liver and fat cells that can affect overall metabolism and insulin sensitivity.”
8. Autoimmune conditions and suppressed immunity
The link between leaky gut and autoimmune conditions is significant. When proteins and food particles pass through the gut lining and get into our bloodstream, this results in inflammation of the body. Unsurprising since they’re not supposed to be there! Inflammation in the body can present itself as eczema, pain in the abdomen, unusual bowel movements, and even headaches. When we prevent a leaky gut by strengthening our gut lining or avoiding foods that don’t agree with us, we can reduce or eliminate these unwanted side-effects.
“I have not seen a client at the BePure Clinic with thyroid issues who has not had leaky gut, in particular an intolerance to gluten.” – Ben Warren
What does this mean for you?
It’s understandable that we might experience any of the above signs and not realise they have any link at all to our gut. Things like craving sugar seem like a normal part of life, which in some cases can lead to us berating ourselves for a 3pm slump biscuit. But once we start to understand the role our gut plays in our health and diet, we can start to address the cause rather than the symptoms.
This content was originally published here.