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Understanding Gut Health: Signs of unhealthy gut and what to do about it
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Understanding Gut Health: Signs of unhealthy gut and what to do about it

A higher level of diversity in gut bacteria may be associated with improved health

Post by on Sunday, August 7, 2022

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What is the gut microbiome?

The term “gut microbiome” refers to the microorganisms living in your intestines. Each person has about 200 different species, trusted Source of bacteria, viruses, and fungi in their digestive tract. Some microorganisms are harmful to our health, but many are incredibly beneficial and even necessary for a healthy body. Research Trusted Source indicates that having a large variety of bacteria in the gut may help reduce the risk of conditions like diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and psoriatic arthritis.


How does the gut microbiome affect your health?

The incredible complexity of the gut and its importance to our overall health is a topic of increasing research in the medical community. Studies Trusted Source over the past few decades have found links between gut health and:

·         The immune system.

·         Mental health.

·         Autoimmune diseases.

·         Endocrine disorders.

·         Gastrointestinal disorders.

·         Cardiovascular disease.

·         Cancer.

A higher level of diversity in gut bacteria may be associated with improved health. While research is ongoing, it appears clear that your gut health plays a role in many areas of your health and well-being.

Signs of an unhealthy gut

Many parts of modern life can affect your gut microbiome, including:

·         High stress levels.

·         Too little sleep.

·         Eating a Western diet high in processed and high sugar foods.

·         Taking antibiotics.

This in turn may affect other aspects of your health, such as:

·         Immune function.

·         Hormone levels.

·         Weight.

·         Development of diseases.

You may notice a few symptoms if you have reduced gut health. Here are seven of the most common signs:

1. Upset stomach

Stomach disturbances can all be signs of an unhealthy gut. They include:

·         Gas.

·         Bloating.

·         Constipation.

·         Diarrhea.

·         Heartburn.

A balanced gut will have less difficulty processing food and eliminating waste, likely leading to fewer symptoms.

2. A high sugar diet

A diet high in processed foods and added sugars can decrease the amount of “good” bacteria and diversity in your gut. ResearchTrusted Source suggests that this may lead to increased inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation can be the precursor to several diseases, including cancer.


3. Unintentional weight changes

Gaining or losing weight without changing your diet or exercise habits may be a sign of an unhealthy gut. An imbalanced gut can impair your body’s ability to absorb nutrients, regulate blood sugar, and store fat. Weight loss may be caused by mal absorption because of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). On the other hand, weight gain may be caused by insulin resistance or increased inflammation.

4. Sleep disturbances or constant fatigue. ResearchTrusted Source indicates that an imbalance in gut bacteria may be linked to fragmented sleep and short sleep duration, which may lead to chronic fatigue. While the cause remains unclearTrusted Source, it appears to be connected to inflammation, metabolic function, and mental health.

5. Skin irritation

Skin conditions like psoriasis may be related to types of bacteria present in the gut. Lower concentrations of beneficial bacteria may impact the body’s immune system. This, in turn, may lead to conditions that affect the organs, including the skin.


6. Autoimmune conditions

Many studies have found connections between the gut and the immune system. An unhealthy gut may increase systemic inflammation and alter the proper functioning of the immune system. This can lead to autoimmune diseases, where the body attacks itself rather than harmful invaders.


7. Food intolerances

Food intolerances are the result of difficulty digesting certain foods. This is different than a food allergy, which is caused by an immune system reaction to certain foods. Research indicates that food intolerances, like lactose intolerance, may be caused by poor quality of bacteria in the gut. This can lead to trouble digesting the trigger foods and symptoms like:

·         Bloating.

·         Gas.

·         Diarrhea.

·         Abdominal pain.

·         Nausea.

There is also some research indicating that food allergies may be related to gut health.

Things you can do for your gut health

You may be able to improve your gut health through lifestyle and diet changes. Consider trying one or more of the following:


1. Lower your stress levels

Chronic high levels of stress are hard on your whole body, including your gut. 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 quality of sleep may have serious impacts on your gut health, which can in turn contribute to more sleep issues. Try to prioritize getting at least 7–8 hoursTrusted Source of uninterrupted sleep per night. Your doctor may be able to help if you have trouble sleeping.


3. Eat slowly

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


4. Stay hydrated

Drinking plenty of water may be linked to increased diversity of bacteria in the gut, though the source of the water also matters. One 2022 studyTrusted Source also found that people who drank more water had less of a type of bacteria that can cause gastrointestinal infections. Staying hydrated benefits your health overall and can help prevent constipation. It may also be a simple way to promote a healthy gut.


5. Take a prebiotic or probiotic

While researchTrusted Source is ongoing, adding a prebiotic or probiotic supplement to your diet may help improve your gut health. Prebiotics provide “food” meant to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, while probiotics are live good bacteria. People who have a severe illness or weakened immune system should not take probiotics. Also, not all probiotic supplements are high quality or beneficial for your health. It’s best to speak with a healthcare professional when choosing a probiotic or prebiotic supplement to help improve your health. You can shop for a probiotic or prebiotic supplement online.


6. Check for food intolerances

You may have a food intolerance if you have symptoms such as:

·         Bloating.

·         Abdominal pain.

·         Diarrhea.

·         Gas.

·         Nausea.

·         Fatigue.

·         Acid reflux.

You can try eliminating common trigger foods to see if your symptoms improve. If you’re able to identify and avoid a food or foods that are contributing to your symptoms, you may see a positive change in your digestive health.

7. Change your diet

Reducing the amount of processed, high sugar, and high fat foods that you eat may lead to better gut health. Eating a diet high in fiber likely contributes to a healthy gut microbiome as well. You may also positively impact your gut by eating foods high in micronutrients called polyphenols, like:

·         Vegetables.

·         Fruits.

·         Coffee.

·         Tea.

Types of food for gut health

Diet and gut health appear to be very closely linked. Avoiding processed foods, high fat foods, and foods high in refined sugars is likely important for maintaining a healthy microbiome, as these foods may promote the growth of damaging bacteria.






There are also foods you can eat that actively promote the growth of beneficial bacteria, contributing to your overall health. These foods include:


1. High fiber foods

ResearchTrusted Source indicates that high fiber foods have a positive impact on gut health. These foods include:

·         Legumes, like black beans and chickpeas.

·         Whole grains, like oats and quinoa.

·         Vegetables, like broccoli and asparagus.

·         Nuts, like almonds and pistachios.

·         Fruits, like apples and peaches.

2. Garlic

According to a 2019 studyTrusted Source in mice, garlic may increase gut microbiome diversity and improve gut health. A small 2018 studyTrusted Source of 49 people similarly found that aged garlic extract increased diversity and levels of beneficial bacteria. Still, more research in humans should be done.


3. Fermented foods

Fermented foods are great dietary sources of probiotics. Examples include:

·         Kimchi.

·         Sauerkraut.

·         Yogurt.

·         Kefir.

ResearchTrusted Source suggests that consuming these foods may improve the gut microbiome.

4. Collagen-boosting foods

Collagen-rich foods such as bone broth and salmon skin may be beneficial for both overall health and gut health.



(Author is a Microbiologist and Certified infection control Auditor, Kidney Hospital Srinagar. Email:  Jkakroo@gmail.com) 

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