Until recently I never knew how important gut health was, or even actually what it felt like to have a healthy gut. For me the assumption was what I felt was a healthy gut, as I didn’t know of anything different. It wasn’t until things changed that I realized there is a difference between a healthy gut and poor gut health. And I only realized it when I started proactively eating and drinking things that can actually improve the gut’s microbiome.
Poor gut health, unfortunately, shares many of the similar symptoms of other issues like stress or overall poor health. In addition, in times of stress or lacking energy due to overall poor health, our eating can either be erratic, unhealthy, or both, increasing our poor gut health. Therefore, sometimes it is indistinguishable from other issues. However, regardless of how you feel, if you know you are eating unhealthy, which includes fast food, or eating out a lot in general, as well as over processed foods versus fresh foods, chances are good poor gut health is an issue.
You can not be healthy if you have poor gut health. Having poor gut health is a sign of poor overall health. Your gut contains more bacteria cells in your gut than cells you have in your entire body. Simply put, poor gut health means those bacteria cells are unhealthy, and, therefore, you are unhealthy. What it comes down to is that your food, and nutrients, pass through your gut before they are converted for the body to use, which means your guy influences the healthy of your overall body.
First, not all unhealthy guts are due to unhealthy bacteria. There can be a major cause like an autoimmune system condition or irritable bowel syndrome. Always check with your doctor regarding your symptoms to rule out a major cause.
Here are 8 symptoms of poor gut health:
- Gastrointestinal distress. Any type of gastrointestinal distress like diarrhea, bloating, constipation, etc is also a sign. A healthy system is able to deal with and eliminate waste with no or very little difficulty. Note: any type of distress on a regular basis is a sign of serious condition.
- Craving simple carbohydrates. Sugars encourages the bad bacteria to grow in your gut. And bad bacteria need and want more sugar to grow. Regular cravings for foods with a high sugar content, might be a sign of poor gut health.
- Fatigue. Being tired is another common complaint. This is especially true if you feel tired without any other known reason. It could be your gut telling you something.
- Difficulty concentrating. Inflammation caused in the gut affects the brain’s ability to focus.
- Unexplained changes in weight. This can be either weight gain or loss. Again, if there is no other reason to consider for changes in weight, it may be your gut. Good gut health allows you to digest and absorb nutrients, and not doing so can have an affect on your weight.
- Poor sleep. Yes, even poor sleep can be caused by your gut. It may be a direct result, or may be caused by other issues it causes like inflammation, skin problems or gastrointestinal distress.
- Skin issues. Skin issues, including psoriasis, acne, eczema, and rosacea my be related to your gut health. Improving your gut health can help these conditions or make them disappear.
- Autoimmune disorders. Poor gut health causes or magnifies several autoimmune disorders. Basically, the bad bacteria in your gut moves to other areas and causes inflammation, which is a cause of many conditions.
I have blogged extensively about my diet, weight loss and other healthy habits I have made into a habits and part of my lifestyle change. Not only did I cut out things like fast food, soda and other junk food, I also decreased (still working on it) processed food.
For example, I actually made my own sauerkraut (fermented food, good for gut health) which I used in home made pierogis with my grandmother’s recipe. Yum! I also bake almost all of our bread (yes, I know carbohydrates) and homemade yogurt with active cultures. I also switched from white rice to brown and eat other whole grains like quinoa and barely. When I can, I buy fresh and local fruits and vegetables at farmers markets (can’t wait for them to come back), as well as my own garden in the summer. And, finally, I brew my own kombucha, a fermented tea with probiotics to help my gut health.
Since I have made strides with my eating, I very rarely have any type of gastrointestinal distress. My overall health has and continues to improve. While my labs from my annual physical were never a concern, the numbers have continued to improve. I sleep better than I ever had, even with being busier these days. My rosacea is under control. And, ultimately I feel better.
I still have work to do with my diet and eliminating more processed food. Actually, with shelter-in-place rules and COVID-19, I’ve actually spent time baking and making fresh food more often. I’ve converted my commute time into kitchen time. While this has resulted in a few desserts, at least it was with all fresh ingredients! In all seriousness, eating fresh food is amazing and brings me back to my childhood when my mom and grandmother made most of our dinners from scratch and included vegetables from our garden.