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Signals There's Something Wrong in Your Gut

Signs you need to get your gut checked, according to doctors.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, between about 60 million and 70 million people in the United States live with some sort of digestive disease. Bloating, gas, diarrhea and heartburn can mean your stomach is trying to tell you something, so listen up. Oftentimes it's a minor issue, or something you ate, but If the problem continues, pay attention and speak with your physician. Eat This, Not That! Health talked to doctors who explained what signs point to something wrong in your gut. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


The Color of Your Stool Matters

Healthcare worker at home visit

Dr. Jesse P. Houghton, MD, FACG Senior Medical Director of Gastroenterology SOMC Gastroenterology Associates explains, "White or gray colored stools (sometimes referred to as 'clay colored stools') may indicate that something is going on with your gallbladder, bile ducts, or pancreas. This usually occurs when the bile that your liver produces is being blocked from making its way to your intestines. Possible causes include a stone in your gallbladder or bile duct, a tumor in the head of the pancreas, or severe liver dysfunction."


Black Stool

woman hand flush toilet after using

"Black stools may indicate that you are losing blood from your upper GI tract," Dr. Houghton says. "The results from the blood being partially absorbed by your intestines. Possible causes include an ulcer in the stomach or duodenum, an oozing blood vessel, or acid reflux causing damage to the esophagus lining."

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Oily or Fatty Stool

hand of a woman closing the lid of a toilet

According to Dr. Houghton, "Oily or fatty stool may indicate malabsorption in your small intestine. This results in the fat in your diet coming out without being properly digested. Possible causes include Crohn's disease, celiac disease, and pancreas insufficiency."

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Leaky Gut

Woman lying on sofa and suffering from stomach pain.

Dr. Tiffany Mullen, a functional medicine physician and co-founder of Vytal Health explains what a leaky gut is and why it matters. "Leaky gut describes a condition where the lining of the gut becomes damaged and can't optimally function as a barrier. In a healthy gut, the cells that line the GI tract are close together, selectively allowing only certain nutrients and proteins to cross into the body. When leaky gut occurs, these cells are no longer tightly joined, and gaps between the cells occur (this is the 'leaky' part) and larger proteins can cross the gut barrier. Because 70% of our immune system resides on the other side of the gut barrier, exposure to these 'foreign' larger proteins triggers an immune response, leading to inflammation, which further damages the gut barrier."

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Signs of a Leaky Gut

Winterizing dry itchy skin on the elbow area

"Symptoms can be localized to the gut, including diarrhea or loose stools, bloating, food intolerances, or mucus in the stool," Dr. Mullen explains. "They can also present in other seemingly unrelated parts of the body, including eczema, acne, or other skin conditions, increased migraines, fatigue, depression and anxiety, and even hormone imbalance. Leaky gut can also make other chronic medical conditions worse, especially autoimmune problems like rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis."

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Why Having a Healthy Gut Matters

fruit and vegetables

Dr. Houghton says, "Gut health is extremely important for several reasons. Probably the most important reason is that a large part of our body's immune system resides in the lining of our gut. This part of our immune system interacts with the food we eat as well as the bacteria that normally reside in our intestines. Thus, for our immune system to operate at its best, it is important that we have a healthy gut with healthy bacteria. We can ensure this occurs by eating a healthy diet with fruits and vegetables. A probiotic and/or prebiotic can also help in this regard." And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather