Most everyone, at some point in their lives, has experienced an upset stomach. But, how do you know if your overall “gut” is healthy or unhealthy? There are many ways an unhealthy gut might manifest itself. Here are a few of the most common indicators:
- Persistent Upset Stomach – persistent gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, or heartburn can all be signs of an unhealthy gut.
- Increased Sugar Cravings – A diet high in processed food and added sugars can decrease the volume of good bacteria in your gut. This imbalance can cause increased sugar cravings, which can damage your gut still further.
- Unintentional Weight Change – A significant fluctuation in weight, whether a gain or loss, without making intentional changes to your diet or exercise habits may be a sign of an unhealthy gut. An imbalanced gut can impair your body’s ability to absorb nutrients, regulate blood sugar, and store fat.
- Increased Fatigue – Sleep disturbances such as insomnia or poor sleep, leading to chronic fatigue can often be an indicator of an unhealthy gut. The majority of the body’s serotonin, a hormone that affects mood and sleep, is produced in the gut.
- Newly Developed or Increased Skin irritation – Inflammation in the gut caused by a poor diet or food allergies may cause increased leaking of specific proteins out into the body, which can, in turn, irritate the skin and cause conditions such as eczema.
Outlined below are 10 Things you can do to impact the health of your “gut.”
- Reduce Stress. Chronic high levels of stress are challenging on your whole body, including your gut. Some techniques to lower tension may include meditation, exercising (walking, yoga, Pilates), massage therapy, time with friends or family, decreasing caffeine intake, or having a pet.
- Sleep More. Not getting enough sleep or insufficient sleep quality can have severe impacts on your gut health. 7–8 hours of persistent, uninterrupted sleep per night can significantly impact both mental and physical health.
- Eat Slowly. Chewing food thoroughly and eating more slowly can promote complete digestion and absorption of nutrients. Eating slower may also help reduce digestive discomfort and maintain a healthy gut.
- Stay Hydrated. Drinking a minimum of 48-64 ounces of water every day helps balance the good bacteria in the gut and has a beneficial effect on the intestines’ mucosal lining.
- Move More. Exercise causes the metabolism to increase, which results in the blood circulating through the body more rapidly, getting more oxygen to the muscles, lungs and brain. These metabolic reactions within your body help improve your gut’s metabolic reactions which will enhance digestive time and functionality.
- Check for food intolerances. If you have increased or persistent symptoms such as cramping, bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, rashes, nausea, fatigue, or acid reflux, after eating normal volumes of food, you may be suffering from food intolerance. Food intolerance is different than a food allergy. A food allergy is caused by an immune system reaction to certain foods. Try eliminating common trigger foods to see if symptoms improve.
- Modify Your Diet. Reducing processed foods, sugar, and fat from one’s diet can contribute to better gut health and lower the risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.
- Increase Fiber Intake. Studies indicate that the fiber intake among Americans is only 40-50% of what it should be. A balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables provides natural fiber that builds good bacteria and gut health.
- Take a Prebiotic or Probiotic. Supplementing your diet with a Pre or Pro-biotic can have positive impacts on the health of your gut. Prebiotics provide “food” meant to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, while probiotics are live bacteria.
- Get Help with Anxiety/Depression. A troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut. Therefore, a person’s stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression. That’s because the brain and the gastrointestinal (GI) system are intimately connected.
The human gut is very complex and has a significant impact on whole-body health. Taking action to create and maintain a healthy gut is essential. A healthy gut contributes to a strong immune system, heart health, brain health, improved mood, restorative sleep, and effective digestion. It may also help prevent some cancers and autoimmune diseases.
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the common indicators of an unhealthy gut and would like to consult with a Gastroenterologist, visit the GI Alliance website at www.gialliance.com/locations to find and schedule an appointment with a Board Certified Gastroenterologist near you.