How long does bad health affect you from your gut? The answer to this is a complex one because the gut environment, called the microbiome, is an essential part of the normal functioning of the whole body. The gut isn’t just for digestion and excretion. Its microbiome contains some 300 to 500 species of bacteria, many of them beneficial and essential to good health. The gut also functions as a front line for the immune system. Inflammation in the gut sets the stage for depression, obesity and nutritional deficiencies.
Autoimmune diseases like celiac disease and IBS may originate from the conditions in an unhealthy gut. Mood disorders, cancer, mental health disorders, endocrine dysfunction and skin conditions may all be related to problems in the gut and the microbiome. Every person has their own individual microbiome. No two are exactly the same. In view of all this information, bad health arising from a poorly functioning gut can affect you for as long as the dysfunction persists. This article will focus on some of the signs of an unhealthy gut and what you can do to improve it.
Some Signs of an Unhealthy Gut
- Stomach disturbances
Gas, bloating, heartburn, bloating and diarrhea are all possible signs of a gut not functioning properly. A balanced microbiome will typically be able to process foods without producing these symptoms.
- Eating processed foods and refined sugar
High amounts of refined sugar and processed foods, as opposed to fresh, whole foods, can damage the microbiome and cause lower numbers of beneficial bacteria. Refined sugar, especially high fructose corn syrup, can cause bacterial imbalances that can lead to sugar cravings, which lead to the consumption of more refined sugars that further damage the microbiome. This imbalance can lead to widespread gut inflammation, which in turn can lead to autoimmune diseases and even cancer. Refined sugar, such as white table sugar and high fructose corn syrup, is not the same as the natural sugar found in fruits and vegetables. Although these items do contain fructose, it’s always paired in nature with a lot of healthy fiber, which benefits the gut and changes the way the sugar is metabolized.
- Unintended weight loss or gain
An imbalance in the gut can cause weight changes. Weight gain can result from the gut’s failure to properly regulate blood sugar and from the urge to eat more to correct nutrient shortages. Although the pancreas monitors blood sugar levels and releases insulin to keep blood glucose levels within normal range, the microbiome also influences blood sugar through activity on the liver. Insulin resistance, often a precursor to diabetes, can cause weight gain by encouraging the body to store fat.
- Fatigue, insomnia and sleep disturbances
Chronic sleep disturbances can lead to fatigue. Most of the body’s serotonin, a hormone that controls mood, is produced in the gut. Serotonin is a precursor to the hormone melatonin, which is produced by the brain’s pineal gland. Melatonin production is linked to light levels and helps to regulate the sleep-wake cycle, also known as the circadian rhythm.
- Eczema and other skin conditions
Eczema has been linked to gut inflammation and irritation. A damaged gut environment caused by food intolerance and allergy may cause certain proteins to leak out of the gut and go where they don’t belong, irritating the skin and causing outbreaks. Milk protein allergy is a well-known cause of eczema in susceptible infants. While this can usually be resolved by switching to a different formula, a gut imbalance in an adult will need to be remedied by identifying the food intolerances or allergies involved.
- Autoimmune conditions
Because the gut plays a critical role in normal immune system function, a disturbed microbiome may lead to the development of autoimmune diseases where the body creates disease by attacking its own healthy tissues.
What to do For Better Gut Health
The first thing to do is to change your diet. Eat plenty of whole foods, like fruits, vegetables, lean meat and whole grains. Fish is an excellent source of healthy omega 3 acids. Eliminate refined sugar and especially soda. For a healthy snack, try trail mix with raisins and dates for sweetness along with peanuts, cashews, walnuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
Get enough sleep, eat slowly, reduce stress and drink enough water. You can also take a prebiotic or a probiotic. Prebiotics provide nutrients for beneficial gut bacteria. Probiotics are actual friendly bacteria, such as lactobacillus. However, you should consult with a healthcare provider before using either one.
Want to Know More?
We can help you with prebiotics, probiotics and much more regarding your intestinal health. Just call us at 205-352-9141 for an appointment with one of our experienced physicians. We look forward to your call.