The information in this article is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Instead, consult your physician or any licensed healthcare providers if you have questions.
Failing to see the signs of poor gut health can lead to conditions that are either treated late or easily ignored. These, in turn, can be aggravated and trigger serious conditions, especially autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis, as well as systemic inflammation. That said, it’s vital to keep tabs on poor gut health symptoms like upset stomach, food intolerances, chronic fatigue, sudden weight change, skin problems, etc.
- Frequent Digestive Issues
A poor gut health is evident when you experience bloating, stomach pains, diarrhea, constipation, and vomiting. These poor digestion symptoms commonly occur in gastrointestinal (GI) diseases, like irritable bowel syndrome and colitis, as well as infections, such as H. pylori-caused ulcers.
If you experience these conditions frequently, it’s best to see your healthcare provider to uncover the underlying cause. Otherwise, it could result in other imbalances. For example, diarrhea and vomiting can lead to excess water and electrolyte loss.
|Pro tip: Food poisoning can also exhibit the same symptoms. However, in most cases, it can be temporary and easily treated, much like indigestion during holidays. Nonetheless, you can alleviate food poisoning discomfort through natural remedies on top of medications.|
- Blood in Stool
Bloody diarrhea can be associated with various digestive disorders, ranging from bacterial infections to diverticular disease. On the other hand, if you find blood in stool, regardless of consistency, it’s essential to understand the possible source of the bleeding.
Blood expelled around the lower colon or rectal area often appears red, while darker red may suggest bleeding from the upper intestine.
|Did You Know? Blood in stool may not be visible all the time. Occult gastrointestinal bleeding can produce blood that is not visible to the naked eye but can be detected through a fecal occult blood test. Learn more about what to do when you have blood in your stool.|
- Sleep Disturbances
Problems with digestion can lead to sleeping problems. For example, acid reflux and intestinal inflammation can result in sleep deprivation, which circles back to gastrointestinal discomfort. It’s a feedback mechanism that goes into a loop.
In addition, a significant disruption in the gut microbiome, composed of good bacteria that aid digestion, can alter sleeping patterns. This is why people with gastrointestinal diseases and nutrient deficiencies that affect intestinal microflora often experience insomnia and sleep fragmentation.
- Extreme Tiredness
Chronic fatigue can make you feel physically exhausted almost daily. While various disorders can be linked to this condition, some cases may suggest that it’s driven by a significant disruption in the gut microflora. Hence, it could be one of the signs of bad digestion or dysfunction.
The causality between chronic fatigue and poor gut health is not yet established. However, recent studies, including a review published in the Frontiers in Immunology, highlight the plausibility of a close relation between the two conditions through the impact of the gut bacteria imbalance on brain activities that dictate energy use.
- Unintentional Weight Changes
Sudden changes in your weight can be a part of poor gut health symptoms, especially if you exhibit other signs of digestive inflammation.
For example, the imbalance in the gut bacteria can also influence insulin resistance, which drives weight gain. This is why if you have digestive issues, it’s likely extra challenging to lose weight without addressing the underlying problem. In addition, poor digestion can also be associated with nutrient malabsorption. This condition leads to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, causing unexplained weight loss.
|Pro tip: Weight loss efforts often begin with changes in the diet and increased physical activities. However, it’s crucial to also secure baseline health information that could uncover possible weight loss barriers, including poor gut health. Consider taking a weight loss profile blood test and seek the help of your healthcare provider.|
- Uncontrollable Food Cravings
The production of neurotransmitters, like serotonin, dictates cravings and their frequency. This mechanism falls under the activities within the gut-brain axis (GBA), in which several cognitive and emotional functions directly link digestion.
Poor gut health with an imbalance in the microbial population impacts cravings. Specifically, inflammation and insulin resistance increase your hankering for sugary foods. Meanwhile, some deficiencies can also lead to intense cravings for specific nutrient sources.
- Skin Problems
It may seem unlikely that poor gut health can trigger skin conditions. Still, if you experience gastrointestinal inflammation, you will also likely observe problems in your skin, like acne, atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, and eczema.
Some studies note the connection between a theoretical digestive condition called “leaky gut” and several skin disorders. A leaky gut has a permeable intestinal wall that allows toxins from the digestive tract to leak into the bloodstream, further triggering inflammation. However, keep in mind that the leaky gut remains debatable among experts.
Nevertheless, bacterial imbalance in the gut can influence skin health, especially with the release of inflammatory cells. This condition disrupts the skin’s natural protective barrier, making it prone to infection.
|Did You Know? Food allergies can cause skin redness and itchiness, among other symptoms. While not exactly poor gut health symptoms, these allergies can damage the gastrointestinal tract if not diagnosed and managed. If your doctor suspects a specific food allergy, you may have to take food allergy blood tests, such as a nut allergy test panel and food allergen profile.|
- Headaches and Trouble Concentrating
The relationship between the gut and the brain through GBA means that any gastrointestinal imbalance, especially involving the microbiome population, can impact your cognitive state. Hence, if you have an unhealthy gut, you may experience headaches, mood swings, and problems concentrating.
How to Address Poor Gut Health?
Once you recognize the signs of poor gut health, the next step is to consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis. Many gastrointestinal disorders share similar symptoms, with the exception of a few disease-specific conditions. Nonetheless, without proper examination and testing, the true underlying cause cannot be accurately determined.
Some of the lab tests performed include the following:
- Imaging tests: ultrasounds, upper gastrointestinal series (UGIs), MRIs, and X-rays
- Blood tests for the digestive system: depends on the symptoms and physical examination
- Fecalysis or stool culture test
Your doctor will prescribe the appropriate treatment plan based on the underlying cause of poor gut health. Along with this, you can make the necessary adjustments in your diet and overall lifestyle, such as giving up alcohol or withdrawing from cigarette smoking. All of these must be tailored by your healthcare provider toward addressing the identified gastrointestinal disorder.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I check my gut health?
A visit to your doctor for a gut health evaluation can help uncover any digestive issues that need immediate attention. While it’s common to consult your healthcare provider if you experience any signs of bad digestion, it’s also advisable to undergo a wellness checkup that includes an examination of your digestive health, especially if you are at risk of IBD, Crohn’s disease, and other similar conditions.
How do you fix bad gut health?
Aside from medical treatment, you can naturally fix bad gut health by adjusting your diet accordingly and limiting food deemed to trigger gastrointestinal conditions by your doctor. For example, if you have an intolerance for dairy, make sure to remove milk and other dairy products from your diet and consider alternatives. Additionally, you can help correct gut microbe imbalance by taking probiotics. Plus, make it a priority to address any nutrient deficiencies.
What foods heal your gut?
Several foods can help reverse an unhealthy gut, which includes fermented foods like yogurt and kombucha, fruits and vegetables rich in fiber, bone broth, fatty fish, chia seeds, walnuts, ginger, and more. However, consult your healthcare provider first, as certain food types that aid in healing your gut may not suit your health due to other medical conditions.
The Bottom Line
Recognizing the signs of poor gut health ensures proper diagnosis, which paves the way to a swift and effective treatment. It’s crucial not to ignore these symptoms, especially if they recur frequently. If you’re employing weight management tactics or switching to veganism or vegetarianism, get a better understanding of your risks and current gut health condition by working closely with your doctor.