Over the last twenty years, many studies have indicated the links between gut health and a range of disorders, conditions and even cancer. Unfortunately, modern life can take its toll on our gut microbiome.
High stress levels, too little sleep, excessive processed and high-sugar foods, and taking antibiotics can all have a detrimental effect on the gut, leading to regular or chronic problems with stomach disturbances like bloating, heartburn and constipation.
Here are five of the most common signs of an unhealthy gut.
A high-sugar diet
A diet that’s high in added sugars or which consists mainly of processed foods can decrease the amount of ‘good’ bacteria in the gut. The decrease can lead to increased sugar cravings and these can damage the gut still further. Research has shown that high levels of refined sugars – high-fructose corn syrup in particular – have been linked to increased inflammation in the body and, since inflammation can be the precursor to a number of diseases and even cancers, the patient needs to adjust their diet accordingly.
It’s now thought that food intolerances may be caused by poor quality of bacteria in the gut, which can lead to a patient experiencing difficulty in digesting the trigger foods and, consequently, unpleasant symptoms such as bloating, flatulence, diarrhoea and abdominal pain. While food intolerances are caused by difficulty in digesting certain foods, they differ from food allergies, which are caused by an immune system reaction to certain foods. There is now some evidence that food allergies may also be linked to gut health.
Unintentional weight changes
If a patient is putting on or losing weight without intending to, or without making changes to their diet, then the weight change may be caused by an unhealthy gut. A gut that is out of balance can prevent the body from absorbing nutrients and regulating blood sugar. While
weight loss may be caused by small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, weight gain may be caused by a resistance to insulin.
Even skin conditions may be related to an unhealthy or damaged gut. That’s because inflammation in the gut may cause increased ‘leaking’ of certain proteins into the body. These can, in turn, irritate the skin and cause conditions such as eczema.
Sleep disturbances or constant fatigue
Chronic fatigue – or ‘tired all the time’ as it’s often referred to – is a common problem in modern life. Again, an unhealthy gut may contribute to both poor sleep or sleep disturbances such as insomnia. Serotonin, a hormone that affects both mood and sleep, is produced in the gut, so gut damage can impair a patient’s ability to get a good night’s sleep.