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    5 Signs of an Unhealthy Gut and 5 Ways to Fix It

    Posted by: Kelsea Bell - Gr8 Health Naturopath

    5 Signs of an Unhealthy Gut and 5 Ways to Fix It

    Gut health is essential to your overall health and wellbeing.  Your gut interacts with almost every cell in the body, influencing everything from digestion to the brain and the immune system. The gut is not just a simplistic tube which our food passes through to be absorbed and then excreted. It is quite the opposite! Our intestinal lining is home to a thriving ecosystem of over 1000 species of bacteria, fungi and viruses, also known as the gut flora or microbiota, which are crucial to our overall health. A well-functioning, well-nourished microbiota will absorb the goodness from your food, which will in turn help to boost your immune system and regulate your digestion, as well as having a positive impact upon your mood and mental health.  Plus, if your microbiota is healthy, you’ll get more energy from the foods you eat, and your appetite will be regulated. An unhealthy microbiota can lead to inflammation within the gut and can contribute to a host of health issues from allergies to obesity, diabetes and heart disease. An unhealthy gut has also been linked to a range of mental health problems including depression and schizophrenia. The key to a healthy gut, and therefore a healthy body and mind, consequently, lies in our lifestyle choices.

    5 signs you may have an unhealthy gut

    Gas and bloating

    Digestive issues such as gas and bloating are common, occasionally. However, if you are experiencing these symptoms frequently and for more extended periods, this could be a sign of an unhealthy gut microbiome. If you have a compromised gut with unbalanced bacteria populations, your body can have trouble processing foods effectively. This can lead to chronic gas and subsequently bloating, which is a sign that your food is fermenting in your stomach, due to insufficient stomach acid or the bacteria imbalance.

    Mood swings

    Serotonin, dopamine and Vitamin D are all synthesised in the gut. These hormones all help us feel happy and are vital to mood regulation. A compromised gut can result in a hormonal imbalance and affect the body’s ability to use these happy hormones. It’s no wonder we see symptoms such as uncharacteristic moodiness, anxiety and depression linked with a compromised gut balance.

    Sugar Cravings

    The microbes in your gut are experts at trying to manipulate you into eating their favourite foods. Diets high in sugar and processed foods feed and help harmful bacteria grow and multiply and increase your cravings for these foods. It’s one vicious cycle.  So, if you find yourself reaching for that chocolate bar eat 3pm each day, chances are your gut bacteria balance is out of balance in favour to the harmful bacteria.

    Skin Troubles

    You may have tried every skin care product on the shelf and still had no luck in clearing your skin. In many cases, an unhealthy gut can be blamed. Your gut is in direct communication with your skin through what’s called the gut-skin axis. It plays a role in skin homeostasis and inflammatory responses that keep your skin clear and healthy. Your skin also has a microbiome of its own, and the bacteria in your gut directly influence the balance of bacteria on your skin. An imbalance in your gut can cause an imbalance in your skin that results in things like acne, atopic dermatitis, and psoriasis.

    Unintentional weight loss or weight gain

    A compromised gut affects the body’s ability to regulate nutrient absorption, blood sugar levels and body fats, resulting in weight fluctuations regardless of diet or exercise regime. Malabsorption, or an inability to absorb vital nutrients through the small intestine, can lead to weight loss and nutrient deficiency, while decreased insulin resistance or compromised hunger-regulating hormones, like leptin and ghrelin, often results in weight gain.

    5 Ways to heal your gut

    Clean up your diet

    It’s a no brainer that cleaning up your diet is one of the best things you can do to improve gut health. The food you eat has a direct effect on the balance of bacteria in your gut. To keep your gut healthy, the general rule is to cut out processed, high-fat and high-sugar foods, and replace them with lean protein and plant-based foods rich in fibre, probiotics and prebiotics. You should also steer clear from inflammatory foods such as gluten, dairy, corn and soy.

    Manage Stress Levels

    Stress wreaks havoc on your entire body, especially your gut. Stressful lifestyles can therefore lead to chronic gut imbalance and dysfunction. Furthermore, stress causes the intestinal membrane (lining of the small and large intestines) to become more permeable, a condition more commonly known as “leaky gut”. This can affect our immune function and nutrient regulation. Finding ways that work best for you to reduce stress can go a long way in helping improve your gut health. My personal favourites are things such as yoga, ocean swims, walks in nature and journaling.

    Consider Supplements

    Adding a prebiotic or probiotic supplement to your diet may be a great start to improving your gut health. Prebiotics stimulate the strength and power of beneficial bacteria already in the gut. In other words, prebiotics feed probiotics. Probiotics contain “good” bacteria such as bifidobacteria and lactobacillus species, which help to re-establish balanced gut flora. Collagen or collagen-boosting supplements are also a great way to enhance your body’s levels of collagen. Collagen works to “seal and heal” the protective lining in the gastrointestinal tract.

    Catch up on your sleep

    Not getting enough quality sleep can have serious impacts on your overall wellbeing, especially your gut. Research has found that just two days of sub-optimal sleep in young, healthy adults led to a decrease in good bacteria, reduced insulin resistance and resulted in a gut microbiome similar to that of obese individuals. It is best to try and get 7–8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night.

    Stay hydrated

    We have all heard the importance of drinking water for our wellbeing. But, drinking plenty of water also has a highly beneficial effect on the mucosal lining of the intestines, as well as maintaining gut balance in favour of the “good bacteria”.

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