You depend on the bacteria in your gut to keep you healthy. These help you digest food and protect you from illnesses that might otherwise pass from your gastrointestinal tract into your bloodstream. So keeping your gut healthy is vital to overall health. What are the signs that you have an unhealthy gut?
Craving certain foods can be a sign that your gut flora have been taken over by bad bacteria. Yeast in your digestive tract, in particular a form called candida, can cause sugar cravings. This is candida’s way of encouraging you to feed it, which isn’t beneficial to your own health.
If you have no history of clinical depression but are experiencing feelings of depression, exhaustion, or anxiety, this may indicate that your gut flora have fallen into an imbalance. Up to ninety percent of the serotonin in your body – the hormone that impacts mood, memory, and sleep, among other things – is produced in the digestive tract. When your serotonin levels fall, depression can result.
Inability To Sleep
Serotonin also helps you sleep. Suffering from insomnia? This can indicate low levels. If you find yourself unable to sleep, without other factors affecting this such as chronic stress, you may have a gut-flora imbalance causing your serotonin levels to drop.
Many people would never think of connecting sleep difficulties to gut bacteria, but there’s a real possibility that your insomnia may be at least partially connected to an unhealthy gut. As a holistic doctor with a functional medicine approach, getting to the real root of the problem is something my patients and I work on cooperatively.
Your gut tract is a kind of extended skin running from mouth to anus. If something is causing damage to this extended skin or inner skin, it can affect your outer skin. If you are getting acne, eczema, rashes, or flaky, itchy skin, these can indicate trouble with your gut flora.
Weight Gain or Weight Loss
If your weight refuses to go down, or you’ve noticed weight loss without any change in your diet or exercise, these can indicate that your gut flora need work. Some bacteria cause fats to be converted to calories more efficiently than others, causing your weight to spike. Others prevent the uptake of vitamins and fats, leading to unexpected weight loss. There’s a great deal of research taking place around how tailoring gut bacteria may help with obesity in the future.
Acid Reflux Or Bloating
Frequent acid reflux can be a sign of bad bacteria in your gut. Bad bacteria can produce excessive gas, leading to a bloated feeling or a tendency to burp. Ironically, acids in your digestive system can help prevent bad bacteria from getting a foothold, so treating acid reflux with antacids can cause the bad bacteria flourish, further promoting an unhealthy gut. This can be a situation where reaching for a prescription pad too quickly can treat symptoms temporarily, but make the underlying issue even worse.
You Seem Vulnerable To Illness
Do you get sick a lot? Your gut bacteria help protect your intestinal lining – the mucosal barrier – from diseases that could otherwise transit from your digestive system into your bloodstream. If bad bacteria have gained a foothold, they can compromise your immune system. Essentially, your immune system has to devote more energy to protecting you from invaders through your mucosal barrier, leaving less reserve left over to fight other illnesses such as the common cold. This means you might experience more cases of the cold or flu or other diseases that you would otherwise fight off.
What You Can Do To Repair An Unhealthy Gut
If you experience any of these symptoms, you may have an unhealthy gut. Fortunately that can be remedied. According to Dr. Ali Keshavarzian at the Rush University Medical Center, changes in diet can change your gut bacteria in as little as twenty-four hours.
The simplest thing you can do to help your gut is to eat foods that contain healthy bacteria. Cut out sugary foods and processed foods. Stop consuming bread and pasta, in favor of fruit, vegetables, and nuts. You may experience heightened cravings when you first alter your diet this way. Don’t worry, this is normal. In fact it is a good sign: it means the bad bacteria are desperately trying to push you back to unhealthy choices. Resist. You can do it. Your gut will thank you.
For more information on how to help an unhealthy gut, read my article on five steps you can take immediately to improve your gut health.