"Unhealthy Gut" Healing Secrets That Really Work
It's no secret that our gut plays a vital role in our overall health and is linked to our immune system and brain, which has a direct negative impact on our general well-being if we don't have a healthy gut. "A healthy gut is foundational to the health of the entire body because it is where 70-80% of our immune system resides. The microbes in the gut also play critical roles in regulating our metabolism, mood, and mental health, and, of course, digestion," Dr. Sunjya K. Schweig, MD, an expert in complex chronic illnesses with California Center for Functional Medicine tells Eat This, Not That! Health. Harvard Health stated, "The brain has a direct effect on the stomach and intestines. For example, the very thought of eating can release the stomach's juices before food gets there. This connection goes both ways. A troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut. Therefore, a person's stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression. That's because the brain and the gastrointestinal (GI) system are intimately connected." Having an unhealthy gut doesn't just cause digestive issues, but other health concerns like thyroid issues, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and type 1 diabetes. ETNT! Health spoke with Dr. Shomir Banarjee, a board-certified physician with Paloma Health who explained how to help heal unhealthy gut signs to watch out for. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
What's an Unhealthy Gut?
Dr. Banarjee tells us, "An unhealthy gut is one that has an overabundance of bad bacteria. Surprisingly, there are more organisms in the human digestive tract than cells in the entire body. The human gut is home to trillions of bacteria and fungi that help us digest food and also support other body processes. A healthy gut is made of mostly good bacteria that help us break down food and work together with our immune system to prevent pathogens from entering our bloodstream. When harmful bacteria are allowed to proliferate in the gut (which often occurs due to poor diet or exposure to pathogens from our food), the healthy bacteria get wiped out."
Signs of an Unhealthy Gut
Dr. Banarjee says, "Our digestive health is really reflective in every body system. As a consequence, there are so many different ways our bodies tell us that we have an unhealthy gut. Everything from fatigue, depression or low mood, skin problems, sore muscles and joints, and even the presence of autoimmune conditions – can all be signs that something is not well within the gut. Of course, there are also gut-specific symptoms that are usually the most telling signs of an unhealthy gut. For example, frequent abdominal cramping, bloating, irregular bowel movements, and gas can all be signs that your gut flora is out of balance."
Who is at Risk for an Unhealthy Gut?
According to Dr. Banarjee, "Anyone may be at risk of an unhealthy gut, but it is certainly more common in people who make poor dietary choices, and also those with certain health conditions that affect the digestive system. For example, people who have conditions that affect gut motility like IBS may be at greater risk for an over proliferation of harmful gut bacteria."
Change Your Diet
"Eating wholesome foods that are nutrient-dense is essential for fueling your body, and your gut flora," says Dr. Banarjee. "One of the best ways we can feed the good bacteria in our guts is by eating a diet rich in fiber. Our bodies cannot actually break down fiber, so we rely on bacteria to do that for us. Fiber is essential to help move digestive contents along, thereby preventing frustrating complications like constipation. Fiber consumption is dose-response related to longevity."
Drink Plenty of Water
Dr. Banarjee reminds us, "In our society that loves flavored and caffeinated drinks, many of us do not get enough plain water every day. Indeed, we often get too much sugar through flavored beverages, which in turn fuels unhealthy organisms. Water is vital because it not only hydrates our tissues but also helps lubricate our intestines so that we can move stools along without restriction or discomfort."
Reduce Your Stress
Dr. Banarjee states, "Stress takes a toll on the whole body, and our stress levels are certainly reflective of our digestive health. Many people notice they have more gut problems when they are stressed, such as abdominal cramping, diarrhea, and bloating. Cortisol, the stress hormone, can affect how our digestive systems work. So, when cortisol levels are higher, it can throw off our digestive function. Additionally, when we are stressed, we often don't make the best food choices, which can certainly disrupt a healthy gut flora as well. You can also reduce oxidative stress by not eating too much sugar, starch, animal products, (not including fish), and fried foods."