Our modern world and fast-paced life can mean that we are often stressed, not getting enough sleep, eating processed foods high in fat and sugar, and taking antibiotics regularly. All these factors can have a detrimental effect on the health of our gut microbiome, which in turn may affect other aspects of our health including heart, digestive, brain, skin, immune system, weight, hormone levels, nutrient absorption and even the risk of cancer.
To keep healthy, we need a healthy gut. While research cannot determine what a healthy microbiome looks like based on the presence or absence of specific organisms or bacteria, there are some practical ways an unhealthy gut may show itself. Here are the seven most common signs:
1. You feel moody, anxious or depressed
Our happy hormone, serotonin, contributes to mood, sleep and appetite, and most of it is made in the gut. As our brain can’t store the nutrient (tryptophan) needed to make serotonin, you need a constant supply from the diet via the gut to help. Foods like bananas, chicken, turkey, milk and eggs are all rich in tryptophan.
If the gut is ‘leaky’ or not functioning properly due to a poor diet, you’re less likely absorbing tryptophan and making serotonin, potentially leaving you feeling moody, anxious or depressed.
2. You feel stressed
An unhealthy gut is unable to support you in times of stress due to low numbers of good bacteria. When you’re stressed, levels of the hormone cortisol in the body increase, which can lead to depression and other health conditions over time.
Eating a healthy diet can help increase the number of good bacteria (bifidobacteria), which have been found to reduce cortisol in your system and support the management of stress.
3. You suffer bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, pain or excessive gas
The most common signs of gut dysbiosis or poor gut function are bloating, gas, pain, diarrhoea and constipation.
When the balance of bacteria in the gut is upset - or the health and diversity of the intestinal ecosystem is off - the gut displays symptoms such as bowel irregularity or gas to signal that something is not right. Talk to your doctor if you are worried.
4. You have sugar cravings
Eating a diet high in refined sugar and processed foods can feed the bad bacteria in your gut, boosting their numbers. This imbalance can lead to more sugar cravings as the bad bacteria thrive on sugar to live.
High levels of bad bacteria may see them feeding on your gut wall, causing molecules to ‘leak’ through into the bloodstream, leading to inflammation in the body. Inflammation has been linked to most chronic diseases including cancer.
5. You're always sick
Frequent illness or infections are signs of compromised gut function.
Having a diverse diet rich in plant foods like vegetables, fruits, wholegrains and legumes can help feed the good bacteria, boosting their populations and boosting your immunity.
6. You have food intolerances
Food intolerances are different to food allergies, which are caused by an immune system reaction.
Food intolerances are not life threatening but can affect the quality of your life in that they cause symptoms like bloating, gas, diarrhoea, pain, nausea or even skin problems and headaches. It is thought that the quality and balance of the gut bacteria may have some part to play.
7. Your poo doesn’t look right
A good rule of thumb when it comes to your bowels is that ‘normal’ can look like anything from going to the bathroom three times per day to three times per week. It is different for everyone.
If you are worried or if something has changed, then talk to your health professional.
Good gut bacteria thrive on fibre. To boost your gut health and improve any of these symptoms, start by increasing the number and diversity of plant foods in your diet.
Having a healthy gut ensures that maximum nutrient absorption can take place, which supports proper hormone production, low inflammation, good health and mood regulation. Nicole Dynan,
The Gut Health Dietitian, is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian and an Accredited Sports Dietitian. To learn about Nicole’s new online program, The Good Mood Diet, visit The Gut Health Dietitian here or follow her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Source: Rachel McDougall