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Signs Your Gut is "Sick," Say Physicians

Here are signs your gut is unhappy, according to experts.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

The importance of a happy, healthy gut cannot be overstated—your gut affects everything from the immune system to your mental health. "A healthy gut contains healthy bacteria and immune cells that ward off infectious agents like bacteria, viruses and fungi," says Sooraj Tejaswi, MD. "A healthy gut also communicates with the brain through nerves and hormones, which helps maintain general health and well-being." Here are five signs your gut is unhealthy, according to experts. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Skin Issues

Young woman outdoors checking her face in a round powder compact mirror.

If your skin is suddenly giving you problems, it might have something to do with what's happening in your gut. "The gut contains a collection of trillions of strains of bacteria and microbes, called the gut microbiome," says nutritionist Kimberly Snyder. "This microbiome maintains homeostasis throughout the body, but can majorly affect our other organs, especially our skin, if it becomes unbalanced. If we experience any issues with our gut, like inflammation, leaky gut or digestion problems, our skin is usually the first place we notice problems."


Craving All the Sugar

woman craving sugar

If you find yourself constantly craving sugary treats, your gut could be out of kilter. "Having an unhealthy gut usually means sugar cravings will show up in the form of sweets, bread, fruit, or dairy," says Robin Berzin, MD. "Too much sugar consumption contributes to an overgrowth of 'bad' bacteria in the gut, also known as dysbiosis, which also creates an inflammatory environment in the body. When the gut is in a state of balance, the good bacteria thrive, controlling inflammation and bad bacteria overgrowth, and the body is better able to digest and detoxify any foreign poisonous substances to avoid nutritional deficiency."

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Stomach Pain and Digestive Issues

Door knob on or off the bathroom

Ongoing stomach and digestive issues could signal there are serious problems with your gut health. "Everyone gets an upset stomach or stomach pain from time to time, whether from eating foods that cause gas, menstrual cramps, or a passing virus," according to Carolina Digestive Health Associates. "However, persistent upset stomach pain or other stomach disturbances, such as bloating, gas, heartburn, diarrhea, and constipation can all be indicators of an unhealthy gut. While this can be somewhat connected to the food you eat, it is more due to the imbalance in your gut. You are experiencing pain because the stomach is having trouble digesting food and eliminating waste. Because of this struggle, you're experiencing GI upset."

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woman puts hands on head, stressed, busy at work

If you've ever felt nauseous before doing something stressful, it will come as no surprise to hear how much the brain influences gut health. "Psychology combines with physical factors to cause pain and other bowel symptoms," says Harvard Health. "Psychosocial factors influence the actual physiology of the gut, as well as symptoms. In other words, stress (or depression or other psychological factors) can affect movement and contractions of the GI tract."

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Unexplained Weight Changes

Close up woman holding excessive belly fat, overweight abdomen on white background

"If you find that your weight has suddenly changed and it is an unintentional loss or gain, this may be connected to unhealthy gut bacteria," explains Carolina Digestive Health Associates. "A gut that is in a state of imbalance may interfere with the body's ability to store fat, absorb nutrients, or regulate blood sugar, which can lead to weight gain or loss. If you have unintentionally lost weight, this may be caused by SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), and if you have unintentionally gained, this can either be caused by the feeling that you need to overeat because you're not getting enough nutrients or insulin resistance." 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.

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan
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