The gut and its importance to our health is a topic of increasing research in the medical community. Numerous studies have demonstrated that gut health and the immune system, mood, mental health, autoimmune diseases, and some skin conditions.
A person has anywhere from 300 to 500 different types of bacteria in their digestive tract. While some are harmful to our health, many are incredibly beneficial and even necessary to a healthy body.
According to Dr. E. M. Quigley in his study on gut bacteria in the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, having as much of the good bacteria as possible in your gut can enhance your immune system function, improve symptoms of depression, help combat obesity, and provide numerous other benefits.
5 Signs of an unhealthy gut
Many facets of modern life such as high stress, not sleeping enough, taking antibiotics and eating processed and high-sugar foods, can all damage our gut’s healthy bacteria.
Here are seven signs of an unhealthy gut:
1. Stomach upset
Stomach disturbances like gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and heartburn can all be signs of an unhealthy gut.
2. Craving sugar
A diet high in processed foods and added sugars can decrease the amount of good bacteria in your gut. This imbalance can cause increased sugar cravings, which can damage your gut still further.
3. Sleep disturbances or constant fatigue
The majority of the body’s serotonin, a hormone that affects mood and sleep, is produced in the gut. So gut damage can impair your ability to sleep well causing insomnia or fatigue.
4. Skin irritation
Skin conditions like eczema may be related to a damaged gut. Inflammation in the gut may cause an increase of certain proteins leaking out into the body, which can in turn irritate the skin and cause conditions such as eczema.
5. Autoimmune conditions
Medical research is constantly finding new evidence of the impact of the gut on the immune system. 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.
6 Things to do to improve your gut health
1. Reduce stress levels
Meditation, walking, getting a massage, spending time with friends or family, getting outside, decreasing caffeine intake, laughing, yoga, or having a pet are all things that have been proven to reduce stress. Try one or all of them, or you may think of some of your own.
2. Get enough sleep
Try to prioritize getting at least 7–8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. Good sleep hygiene is important, so important the CDC has dedicated a lot of resources into finding ways to help us sleep better.
4. Stay hydrated
Drinking plenty of water has been shown to have a beneficial effect on the lining of the intestines, as well as on the balance of good bacteria in the gut. Staying hydrated is extremely important for all functions of the body.
5. Take a probiotic
Adding a probiotic supplement to your diet may be a great way to improve your gut health. Not all probiotic supplements are high quality or will actually provide benefit so check with your healthcare provider before you start taking one.
6. Change your diet
Reducing the amount of processed and high-sugar foods that you eat can contribute to better gut health. Additionally, eating plenty of plant-based foods and lean protein can positively impact your gut. A diet high in fiber has been shown to contribute immensely to a healthy gut.
Eat, sleep, and be healthy
A healthy gut contributes to a strong immune system, heart health, brain health, improved mood, and good sleep. There are a number of lifestyle changes you can make to positively affect your gut health and your overall health.