Your gut is responsible for more than just digestion. In fact, 60-80 percent of your immune system lives inside of your gut. An unhealthy gut has been linked to a wide range of health conditions—diabetes and hormonal imbalances to anxiety and depression and even skin-related issues, such as eczema and rosacea. An unbalanced gut can even affect your workouts. Here are some key signs that you’re dealing with an unhealthy gut—and what you can do to set your gut health back on the right track.
Indigestion comes in many forms: acid reflux, heartburn, pain in your abdominals, bloating, excessive gas, and sometimes nausea. If you’re dealing with these symptoms, you may also be dealing with an unhealthy gut. What and how you eat plays a large role in indigestion, says Crystal Langlois, R.D., director of nutrition at Southeastern Regional Medical Center. Behaviors such as eating too fast, eating a high-fat diet, and alcohol consumption can all contribute to symptoms of indigestion.
“Limiting foods high in saturated fats such as high-fat dairy (whole milk, cheeses, or butter), fried foods, red and processed meats, and increasing foods high in fiber such as fruits, vegetables, beans, and legumes may help to lessen symptoms,” she says. “You can also limit alcohol consumption, which means one drink for women and no more than two for men per day.”
Eat your food slower, too. Langlois advises her patients to put down their fork in between bites and to chew their food more slowly.
There are plenty of causes of bloating and gas—and an unhealthy guy is one of them. Sure, gas is normal, but regular, resilient uncomfortable bloating is not. “Excess gas and bloating may be a sign of insufficient digestive enzymes,” warns Langlois. She recommends speaking with your healthcare provider to pinpoint the root cause and get the correct care.
If you’re dealing with it, you already know it’s no fun. Yes, diarrhea is normal from time to time, but if you’re experiencing it on the reg, something might be up. “Someone taking antibiotics may experience diarrhea or loose or watery stools since these drugs are designed to treat and prevent bacterial infections,” Langlois says. “But unfortunately, antibiotics can also kill ‘good bacteria’ and disrupt the normal gut flora which can lead to diarrhea. Take a probiotic or eat food that contains natural probiotics such as yogurt, kefir, and fermented soy products may help restore the balance of ‘good bacteria’ in your gut.”
This condition is characterized by your body’s inability to absorb vital nutrients through your small intestine. It can lead to weight loss, vitamin or mineral deficiencies, diarrhea, and dehydration. A variety of things from diseases to birth defects can cause malabsorption, including an unbalanced gut. But be careful before self-diagnosing. “Malabsorption can be caused by many things such as medications, lack of digestive enzymes, certain diseases, trauma, or surgery. So, it’s always best to talk with your healthcare provider to determine the cause and correct treatment,” says Langlois.