Each of us have trillions of bacteria living in our gut.
It is often assumed that bacteria is bad, leading to illness and disease, but in actual fact some bacteria is essential for keeping us fit and healthy.
Bacteria and other microbes (including fungi and viruses) live in our guts, playing a critical role in digestion, immune function and weight regulation.
An imbalance of these leads to an unhealthy gut which can create a number of issues in our day to day lives.
Fortunately, there are ways you can keep on top of your gut health including some simple dietary changes.
Here are some signs that you may experience an unhealthy gut…
1. Upset stomach
An unbalanced gut may have more difficulty processing food and eliminating food waste.
This means that if your gut is unhealthy you may often suffer from things like painful gas, bloating and heartburn.
Additionally, an unhealthy gut is likely to impact your bowel movements meaning you may experience constipation and diarrhea.
2. A high-sugar diet
Eating foods that are high in sugar as well as a lot of processed foods can decrease the levels of good bacteria in your gut.
This leads to an imbalance which means you may experience sugar cravings – which can damage your gut even further.
High amounts of refined sugars have been linked to increased inflammation throughout the body.
Inflammation can also increase the risk of a number of serious diseases including cancers.
3. Unintentional weight changes
If you gain or lose weight unintentionally, without making changes to your diet or activity levels, this may be a sign of an unhealthy gut.
An imbalanced gut can impair your body’s ability to absorb nutrients, regulate blood sugars and even store fat.
This can lead to insulin resistance or the urge to overeat due to the lack of nutrients absorbed by the body – resulting in weight gain.
On the other hand, an unhealthy gut may result in weight loss caused by small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
4. Sleep disturbances or constant fatigue
Insomnia or simply poor sleep may be caused by an unhealthy gut.
This in turn can lead to chronic fatigue.
Most of the body’s serotonin – the hormone that affects mood and sleep – is actually produced in the gut.
This means that damage and imbalance can impact your ability to get adequate rest and even result in mood swings or changes.
Some sleep disturbances have also been linked to risk for fibromyalgia.
A damaged gut can also impact your skin.
Conditions including eczema may be linked to poor gut health.
Inflammation in the gut caused by a poor diet or even food allergies can result in the body “leaking” certain proteins at an increased rate.
In turn, the can irritate the skin and cause or flare up conditions such as eczema.
6. Autoimmune conditions
An unhealthy gut may increase systemic inflammation and alter the proper functioning of the immune system.
This can lead to autoimmune diseases, where the body attacks itself rather than harmful invaders.
7. Food intolerances
Food intolerances can have a huge impact on daily life.
Intolerances mean that the body finds it difficult to digest certain foods.
Food intolerances are different to food allergies – which are caused by an allergic reaction in the immune system when certain foods are consumed.
Intolerances can lead to symptoms that are often unpleasant and may impact day to day life.
These include bloating, gas, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and nausea.
Ways to improve gut health
There are a number of things you can do to improve your gut health.
Most tips include small lifestyle and diet changes that can make a real difference.
- Include a wide range of plant based foods in your diet
- Eat more fiber
- Avoid highly processed foods
Eat lots of vegetables, legumes, beans, and fruit
Include more whole grains in your diet
- Include probiotic foods – such as live yogurt – in your diet
- Drink lots of water
A healthy gut has a diverse community of microbes, each of which prefers different foods.
Microbes are bacteria that help break down food and ensure your digestive system operates properly.
Antibiotics kill ‘good’ bacteria as well as ‘bad’. If you need antibiotics, make sure you eat lots of foods – such as fruit, vegetables, pulses, nuts and wholegrains – that boost your microbes afterwards.
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