Many facets of modern life such as high stress levels, too little sleep, eating processed and high-sugar foods, and taking antibiotics can be potentially damaging to our gut microbiome. This in turn may affect other aspects of our health, such as the brain, heart, immune system, skin, weight, hormone levels, and ability to absorb nutrients. There are a number of ways an unhealthy gut might manifest itself. Here are some common signs:
1. Upset stomach
Stomach disturbances like gas, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea can all be signs of an unhealthy gut. A balanced gut will have less difficulty processing food and eliminating waste.
2. Unintentional weight loss
Gaining or losing weight without making 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. Weight loss may be caused by small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), while weight gain may be caused by the urge to overeat due to decreased nutrient absorption.
3. Sleep disturbances or constant fatigue
An unhealthy gut may contribute to sleep disturbances such as insomnia or poor sleep, and therefore lead to chronic fatigue. The majority of the body’s serotonin, a hormone that affects mood and sleep, is produced in the gut. So an unhealthy gut may impair your ability to sleep well.
4. Skin irritation
Skin conditions like eczema may be related to an unhealthy gut. Inflammation in the gut could be caused by a poor diet or food allergies may cause increased “leaking” of certain proteins out into the body, which can in turn irritate the skin and cause conditions such as eczema.
5. Immune system alteration
Medical researchers are continually finding new evidence of the impact of the gut on the immune system. It’s thought that an unhealthy gut may increase systemic inflammation and alter the proper functioning of the immune system.
6. Food intolerances
Food intolerances are the result of difficulty digesting certain foods (this is different than a food allergy, which is caused by an immune system reaction to certain foods). It’s thought that food intolerances may be caused by poor quality of bacteria in the gut. This can lead to difficulty digesting the trigger foods and unpleasant symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and nausea. There is some evidence that food allergies may also be related to gut health.
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