Having a healthy gut is so important for best overall health, but if you’re thinking, “how do I know if my gut is healthy?”, keep reading to discover 12 Signs of an Unhealthy Gut.
Prioritizing gut health essential for best overall health. Check out this article to find out why gut health is important.
And, if you’re wondering what gut health even means in the first place, read this article first so you understand the basics. Then, come back here to learn about the signs of an unhealthy gut.
In this article I’m going to cover 12 signs of an unhealthy gut. A few of the signs may seem obvious, but I’m guessing a few of the signs will be reasons you haven’t thought of before now.
While this is by no means an all-inclusive list of the clues your gut may be unhealthy, it can give you an idea of whether you should consider investigating the health of your gut further.
By the way, if you already know you’d like to investigate the health of your gut further, click here to apply for nutrition coaching with me. I specialize in helping women improve their gut health in a way that’s personalized to your needs and goals!
Okay, let’s get into it. Here are 12 signs of an unhealthy gut.
Having regular bowel movements is essential for best overall health. Pooping is how the body gets rid of waste it doesn’t need as well as toxins and other potentially harmful pathogens that enter the body on a regular basis.
Pooping also helps eliminate excess hormones that your body has used and no longer needs. This is an important process to make sure the levels of certain hormones don’t build up in your body and cause problems.
Bowel movements are basically the body’s way of “taking out the trash”. Just like we take out the trash from our homes, our bodies have “trash” that needs to be taken out. Pooping does that.
Constipation can happen from time to time, but if you experience it regularly, it’s time to address it because it can be a sign of an unhealthy gut.
What does constipation mean? Constipation typically means having fewer than 3 bowel movements per week.
Beyond how often you’re pooping, other signs of constipation can be…
- Straining when you poop
- Feeling like there’s more poop in your rectum that’s not coming out
- Stool that is lumpy, very hard, or that comes out shaped as small pebbles or rocks
Over time, constipation can begin to feel normal for you because it has become the routine.
This doesn’t mean it’s okay or that it won’t cause problems down the road.
People with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) can have constipation as part of their symptoms.
Diarrhea is when your stool is not well formed. It can be very watery or just very soft and loose. Diarrhea can come out quickly, without much warning. You may feel like you aren’t going to make it to the toilet.
Cramping, abdominal pain and nausea are normal symptoms that can go along with diarrhea. Whether you experience these symptoms with your diarrhea or not, there’s nothing fun about having diarrhea.
Often times, diarrhea is a short-term condition that will clear after a few days. Food poisoning or another infection can result in short-term diarrhea.
If your loose stools happen frequently or last for more than a couple of weeks, it can be a sign that your gut health needs attention.
Diarrhea is a common symptom among people who have IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) or IBD (inflammatory bowel disease – Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis).
Chronic diarrhea can lead to electrolyte imbalances and mineral depletion in the body.
It can also result in weight loss and dehydration. While weight loss may seem like a nice perk of diarrhea, it’s not a healthy way to lose weight for the long term!
Bloating is when your stomach and abdomen feel excessively full and expanded. You’ll often feel pain, cramps or excess gas along with the bloating.
It can happen gradually throughout the day, where your stomach feels flatter and more normal at the beginning of the day and then expands as the day goes on. Or it can come on more quickly, usually after you’ve eaten.
Bloating is not fun and doesn’t feel good. It can make your clothes feel tight, which can lead to more pain and discomfort.
There are several reasons why bloating can occur. Constipation can lead to bloating because gas can build up in the gut.
SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) is another common cause of bloating.
People who have IBS are more likely to experience bloating.
It can also happen after eating certain foods, and while it may seem easy to blame those foods and then avoid them for good to prevent bloating, that’s not an ideal solution.
Bloating can be improved by addressing the health of the gut microbiome. If you need a refresher on what this means, check out this blog post.
Bloating is common, but it’s not healthy or normal and is a sign of an unhealthy gut.
Gas (or flatulence) is a normal bodily function, but excessive gas or gas that seems abnormally smelly (think rotten egg smell), can mean that your gut health is not optimal.
Gas happens from swallowing air or as a result from the breakdown of food as it passes through the digestive tract.
The make-up of the bacteria in your gut (the gut microbiome) and the types of foods you eat can influence how much gas you produce and how much odor your gas has.
While it may be tempting to simply eliminate all the foods you feel cause excess gas for you, this can turn into a slippery slope that simply treats the symptom and not the underlying cause.
Plus, many of the foods that tend to cause excess gas for people are healthy foods that you should be eating! A better option is to look at the health of your gut microbiome and address any imbalances there.
This can give you long-term relief without the need to restrict a bunch of healthy foods.
Multiple Food Intolerances/Sensitivities
Food intolerances (or sensitivities) is a big deal for so many people, and it’s a sure sign that your gut health is off.
There’s no clear definition of a food intolerance, but when you’ve got an intolerance to a certain food, it usually means that you don’t feel great after eating that food.
Let’s get one thing straight before we move on though, okay? A food intolerance IS NOT a food allergy.
An intolerance and an allergy are caused by different reactions in the body. The symptoms of an intolerance and allergy can seem similar, which is why the terms are often used interchangeably.
A food allergy results in a reaction by the immune system. It can lead to a variety of symptoms, some of which can be life-threatening. For someone with a food allergy, it is essential that they strictly avoid eating the food(s) they are allergic to.
A food intolerance, on the other hand, results in a reaction by the digestive system and causes symptoms that are uncomfortable but not life-threatening.
Often, food intolerances are caused by poor gut health. If your digestive system isn’t healthy enough to effectively digest the foods you eat, it can result in symptoms of a food intolerance.
Symptoms of a food intolerance can include excessive gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, fatigue, vomiting, and nausea, to name a few.
By addressing your gut health and working to optimize digestion, food intolerances can improve over time. This is the best long-term approach because it allows for more food variety and makes eating more enjoyable.
Low Energy and Chronic Fatigue
Not having enough energy to get through the day without a nap or without guzzling caffeine is a drag. Literally.
Sure, if you’ve had a night or two of less sleep than usual or if you’re sick or run down, you’re going to feel tired. Understandable.
But, if you’re constantly feeling tired, that’s another story. Fatigue (or low energy) is a common problem, especially among women.
And as unrelated as it may seem to gut health, constantly battling low energy can be related to poor gut health.
To have plenty of energy, your body requires fuel (calories) and nutrients (vitamins and minerals), which comes from the foods you eat.
If your digestive system can’t effectively break down and absorb the nutrients from the foods you’re eating, your energy will suffer.
This is because your cells won’t get the nourishment they need to keep your body running at full speed.
If you want more energy, a good place to start is to make sure your gut health is optimized!
Poor Skin Health
Your skin, being the largest and most visible organ of the body, can give many clues about what’s happening inside the body.
Inflammation in your gut can show up as inflammation on the skin, in the form of rashes, acne, eczema or rosacea. These skin problems are all signs of an unhealthy gut.
Conventional treatment of skin problems often involves steroids or topical creams or ointments that can help improve the appearance of the skin.
Unfortunately, this type of treatment doesn’t address the underlying cause of the problem.
By addressing imbalances in the gut microbiome as well as improving the integrity of the gut lining, skin problems often improve or go away.
This is a more effective, long-term solution than simply treating the symptom with a special cream.
Because the digestive system and the immune system work together so closely to identify and eliminate harmful pathogens that come into the body, getting sick frequently can be a sign of an unhealthy gut.
As this post talked about, one of the three major functions of the digestive system is protection. A large portion of the immune system cells live in the gut. This makes it important to keep the environment that they live in healthy so they can thrive and do their job well.
Getting sick isn’t exactly on the top of anyone’s list of favorite things. Living a full, enjoyable life isn’t as easy if you’re constantly battling a cough, cold, stomach bug, or sore throat.
If your gut health isn’t healthy, this makes it harder for your immune system to do its job well. This means you’ll most likely stay sick for a longer time compared to someone who has a healthy, thriving gut and immune system.
Trouble Losing or Maintaining Weight
I know SO MANY women want to lose weight or at least maintain their current weight, and it is not always easy to do either of those.
The conventional wisdom of “eat less and exercise more” just isn’t cutting it anymore. Not only is it hard for people to do, it’s not an effective solution for long-term weight loss or weight maintenance.
Your gut, and specifically the health and balance of your gut microbiome, play a huge role in how your body absorbs and uses the calories from the foods you eat.
Plus, your gut microbiome plays a big role in your hunger signals and your appetite regulation.
Studies have shown that people who have an easy time maintaining a healthy weight have a much different make-up of bacteria in their gut compared to people who are overweight or obese.
If you’re finding it difficult to lose weight or maintain your weight, it could be a sign of an unhealthy gut.
Improving your gut health can have a huge impact on your weight and make it easier to reach your weight loss goals.
Can you tell I am passionate about this topic? Gut health gets me so fired up because it is so crucial to living your more vibrant life and feeling amazing along the way.
The digestive system plays a role in sending signals for specific hormones to be produced and released by the endocrine system.
If your gut isn’t healthy, this signaling may not happen like it should, which can result in imbalances in your hormones.
Hormone imbalances affect many women and can cause painful periods, fluctuating moods, and can make it harder to deal with stressful situations.
There are many reasons to prioritize gut health. Improving hormone balance is a big one that would make life more enjoyable for so many women.
Good sleep and optimal gut health are dependent upon one another! If one of those is off, it will affect the other and vice versa.
Let’s face it…getting enough quality sleep is important for all aspects of our health, and this includes our digestive system.
On the flip side, the quality of your sleep can be a sign of an unhealthy gut. Poor sleep, whether you have a hard time falling asleep or you wake up often in the night, can mean that your gut health is off.
Your gut is responsible for producing and storing most of the serotonin in the body. Serotonin is required to produce melatonin, which is the hormone that helps you fall asleep.
Mood Swings, Depression, Anxiety
While there are many elements involved with depression, anxiety and mood, gut health can have an influence on how you feel emotionally throughout the day.
The gut and brain are linked through what’s known as the gut-brain axis, and the two systems of the body communicate and influence each other greatly.
Since the gut is involved in the release of certain hormones and neurotransmitters that can influence your mood, improving your gut health can have a positive impact on your mental wellbeing.
Now that you know 12 signs of an unhealthy gut, I want to hear from you! Let me know in the comments which of these signs stood out to you most or surprised you the most.
If you’d like to improve your gut health but aren’t sure how, I offer free 30-minute consults where we can go over your health goals and talk about what steps you should prioritize to get the results you want.
If this is of interest, click here and fill out the short form that comes up. I will get back to you within a couple days to schedule a call if I feel like I can help you with your health goals.