Understanding Gut Health: Signs of an Unhealthy Gut and What to Do About It

The gut is the body’s second brain, which can take a toll on the entire body when it is unhealthy. In the past two decades, numerous studies have demonstrated links between gut health and the immune system, mood, mental health, autoimmune diseases, endocrine disorders, skin conditions, and cancer. Understanding why this happens helps first to know how a properly functioning gut is supposed to operate. 

On the other hand, the term “gut microbiome” refers to microorganisms in the intestines, with each person having about 200 different species of bacteria, viruses, and fungi in their digestive tract. Some microorganisms are harmful to health, but many are incredibly beneficial and necessary for a healthy body. Research indicates that having a large variety of bacteria in the gut may help reduce the risk of diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and psoriatic arthritis.

What Are Signs and Symptoms Of An Unhealthy Gut?

Many parts of modern life can affect the gut microbiome, including high-stress levels, too little sleep, eating a diet that is high in processed and high sugar foods, and taking antibiotics. In return, this may affect other aspects of health, such as immune function, hormone levels, weight, and the development of diseases.

Nonetheless, below are seven of the most common signs of an unhealthy gut:

1. Upset Stomach

The unhealthy gut is also because of stomach disturbances, which include:

  • bloating
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • heartburn
  • gas

When the gut is balanced, it will have less difficulty processing food and eliminating waste, leading to fewer symptoms.

2. A High Sugar Diet

The good amount of bacteria and diversity in the gut can decrease due to a diet high in processed foods and added sugars can reduce the amount of “good” bacteria and diversity in the gut. According to research, this may lead to increased inflammation throughout the body. Because of inflammation, several diseases, including cancer, can occur.

3. Unintentional Weight Changes

One indication of an unhealthy gut is gaining or losing weight without changing the diet or exercise habits. An imbalanced gut can impair the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, regulate blood sugar, and store fat.

Moreover, weight loss may be caused by malabsorption because of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). Otherwise, weight gain may be caused by increased inflammation or insulin resistance.

4. Sleep Disturbances or Constant Fatigue

Fragmented sleep and short sleep duration can indicate an imbalance in gut bacteria, leading to chronic fatigue. While it remains unclear, it appears connected to metabolic function, mental health, and inflammation.

5. Skin Irritation

Psoriasis is part of the skin conditions that may be related to the types of bacteria present in the gut. As indicated, the lower concentrations of beneficial bacteria may impact the body’s immune system. In return, this may lead to conditions that affect the organs, including the skin.

6. Autoimmune Conditions

The gut and immune systems are interrelated, as found by many studies. That said, an unhealthy gut may increase systemic inflammation and alter the proper functioning of the immune system. This only means it can lead to autoimmune diseases, where the body attacks itself rather than harmful invaders.

7. Food Intolerances

The result of difficulty digesting certain foods is called food intolerance. This is different from a food allergy caused by an immune system reaction to certain foods but could somehow be related to gut health. As indicated by research, food intolerances like lactose intolerance may be caused by the poor quality of bacteria in the gut. 

If any of these various symptoms are experienced, it’s best to get checked out by a doctor to determine if the symptoms are due to an unhealthy gut or other factors. 

How to Balance The Gut Health?

Fundamental factors contributing to gut health include genetics, diet, exercise, and overall lifestyle. Other factors may include environmental toxins, chronic stress, and even the parents’ diet and lifestyle before. Below are a few tips to help reverse the symptoms and feel healthier.

1. Lower the stress levels

Chronic high-stress levels are challenging on the whole body, including the gut. Here are a few ways to lower stress may include:

  • Meditating
  • Walking
  • Getting a massage
  • Spending time with friends or family
  • Diffusing essential oils
  • Limiting alcohol intake
  • Laughing
  • Practicing yoga
  • Spending time with a pet

2. Get enough sleep

Not getting enough or sufficient sleep quality may seriously impact gut health, contributing to more sleep issues. In that case, getting at least 7–8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night is recommended. A doctor can help those who are having trouble sleeping.

3. Eat slowly

Chewing the food thoroughly and eating the meals more slowly may lower the chances of developing obesity and diabetes while helping make better food choices. This may help reduce digestive discomfort and maintain a healthy gut.

4. Stay hydrated

It has been said that hydration by drinking plenty of water may be linked to increased diversity of bacteria in the gut, though the source of the water also matters. In fact, one 2022 study also found that people who drank more water had less of a type of bacteria that can cause gastrointestinal infections. 

Staying hydrated benefits, the health overall and also prevent constipation. That said, it may also be a simple way to promote a healthy gut.

5. Take a prebiotic or probiotic.

While research is ongoing, adding a prebiotic or probiotic supplement to the diet may help improve gut health. Specifically, prebiotics provides “food” meant to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, while probiotics are good for living bacteria. However, those with severe illness or weakened immune systems should not take probiotics. 

Also, not all probiotic supplements are high quality or beneficial for health. It’s best to speak with a healthcare professional when choosing a probiotic or prebiotic supplement to help improve the health. 

6. Check for food intolerances.

The following symptoms may indicate a food intolerance: 

  • Bloating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue.
  • Acid reflux

Moreover, it is suggested to eliminate common trigger foods to see if symptoms improve. If unable to identify and avoid food or foods contributing to the symptoms, a positive change in the digestive health has to be made.

7. Change the diet

Reducing the amount of processed, high sugar, and high-fat foods may lead to better gut health. Eating a diet high in fiber likely contributes to a healthy gut microbiome. Eating foods high in micronutrients called polyphenols can positively impact the gut, like:

  • Vegetables.
  • Fruits.
  • Coffee.
  • Tea.

The Bottom Line

Indeed, the human digestive system is much more complex than we thought since our gut health impacts the health of our entire body, including our brains, heart, immune system, and emotional health. Waco Center for Functional Medicine, PLLC offers Functional Medicine, a service that looks for the underlying cause of each symptom or disease. Ultimately, Waco Center utilizes state-of-the-art testing to uncover the illness’s root cause, including extensive gut health panels, mold toxicity testing, heavy metal testing, advanced genetic testing, organic acids testing, in-depth hormonal testing, adrenal fatigue panels, and more.


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