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Warning Signs Your Gut is "Unhealthy," Say Experts

Doctor explains what to know about an unhealthy gut and signs you have one. 
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab

Many medical experts refer to the gut as a second brain and that's because of the important role the gut plays in our overall health and how it communicates with the brain. "The gut-brain connection is so strong that it has been shown to influence mood, cognition, and even sleep. The gut is also home to a vast number of microorganisms, collectively known as the gut microbiome," Dr. Tomi Mitchell, a Board-Certified Family Physician with Holistic Wellness Strategies tells Eat This, Not That! Health. Having a healthy gut is essential to our well-being, but 60-70 million Americans are affected by digestive issues, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Dr. Mitchell explains what it means to have an unhealthy gut and symptoms that indicate you have one. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

What Does It Mean to Have an Unhealthy Gut?

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Most of us have heard the term "gut health," but what does it mean? "Your gut is home to trillions of microbes that are vital to your overall health. These helpful bacteria help digest food, produce vitamins, and protect against harmful pathogens. When the balance of bacteria in your gut is disrupted, it can lead to a condition known as dysbiosis, linked to a wide range of health problems, including allergies, autoimmune diseases, and even depression. So how can you keep your gut healthy? The first step is to eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. You should also avoid processed foods and antibiotics whenever possible. Additionally, regular exercise and stress-relief activities can help to promote a healthy gut environment. By following these simple tips, you can help keep your gut health tip-top shape."

2

How Does an Unhealthy Gut Affect Your Overall Health?

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Dr. Mitchell shares, "The majority of the immune system is located in the gut, making a healthy gut essential for overall health. An unhealthy gut can lead to various problems, including inflammation, allergies, and even autoimmune diseases. In addition, an unhealthy gut can also impact mental health, leading to conditions like anxiety and depression. The bacteria in the gut help to break down food and absorb nutrients, but they also play an essential role in protecting the body from harmful substances. When the balance of bacteria in the gut is disturbed, it can lead to several problems. For example, if there are too many harmful bacteria present, they can release toxins that can damage the gut lining and cause inflammation. In addition, an imbalance of bacteria can also lead to nutrient deficiencies and poor absorption of vitamins and minerals. A healthy gut is essential for overall health, so it's essential to do everything you can to keep your gut healthy. Eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and avoid stress. If you have any concerns about your gut health, please consult with a healthcare professional."

3

How the Gut and Brain are Connected?

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"The gut contains a vast network of neurons that communicate with the brain.  This microbiome plays a crucial role in digestion, immune function, and overall health. For example, research shows that the gut microbiome can influence inflammation levels. This is important because chronic inflammation is linked to various diseases, including heart disease and cancer. Therefore, maintaining a healthy gut is essential for overall health and wellbeing. There's several ways the gut and brain are connected. First, the brain and heart are connected by the vagus nerve, which runs from the brainstem to the abdomen. This nerve is responsible for sending signals between the brain and gut. Second, the heart and brain are connected by the enteric nervous system (ENS), a network of neurons that line the gastrointestinal tract. The ENS is responsible for controlling digestive function. Finally, the gut and brain are connected by the microbiome, a community of microbes living in the gastrointestinal tract. The microbiome has a significant impact on gut health and has influenced mood and behavior. These three connections between the gut and brain demonstrate that what happens in the gut can have a direct impact on the brain and vice versa. For example, studies have shown that chronic stress can lead to changes in gut bacteria, which can, in turn, lead to inflammation and mental health problems. Similarly, gut disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) have been linked to anxiety and depression. Therefore, it is essential to take care of your gut and your brain to maintain good health."

4

You're Always Tired

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According to Dr. Mitchell, "An unhealthy gut can lead to fatigue and low energy levels. Most people are unaware of the importance of gut health and how it can affect the entire body. An unhealthy gut can contribute to fatigue in several ways. First, the gut is responsible for breaking down food and extracting nutrients. When the gut is not working properly, the body does not get its nourishment to function. Second, the gut is home to trillions of bacteria that play a vital role in maintaining our health. An imbalance of gut bacteria has been linked to fatigue and other health problems. Finally, the gut is connected to the brain via the vagus nerve. This connection allows information to flow between the gut and the brain. When the gut is not healthy, this communication is disrupted, leading to feelings of fatigue. These are just a few examples of why an unhealthy gut can contribute to fatigue. If you are struggling with fatigue, it may be worth investigating your gut health."

5

You Have Digestive Issues

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"Most people are familiar with the more common signs of an unhealthy gut, such as heartburn, indigestion, and nausea," says Dr. Mitchell. "However, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea are also often indicative of digestive problems. These symptoms can be caused by various factors, including food sensitivities, viral infections, and gastrointestinal disorders. In some cases, they may also signify something more serious, such as celiac disease or Crohn's disease. If you regularly experience any of these symptoms, it's essential to see a doctor to rule out any underlying health issues. Taking care of your gut health is essential for overall well-being, so don't ignore these warning signs."

6

You're Always Sick

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According to Dr. Mitchell, "Your gut is home to trillions of bacteria, including good and bad bacteria. This community of microorganisms is known as the gut microbiota, and it plays an essential role in keeping you healthy. For instance, good gut bacteria help to break down food, absorb nutrients, and fight harmful pathogens. However, when the balance of good and bad bacteria is upset, it can lead to digestive problems and a weakened immune system. An unhealthy gut can also make you more susceptible to illnesses such as colds and flu. Studies have shown that gut microbiota play a crucial role in immunity. Therefore, maintaining a healthy gut is essential for overall health and well-being."

7

You Have Mood Swings

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Dr. Mitchell says, "Most of us have experienced mood swings at some point in our lives. For some of us, these swings are mild and pass quickly. However, for others, they can be severe and persistent, lasting for days or even weeks. While mood swings can be caused by several factors, such as stress or hormone imbalances, they can also be a sign of poor gut health. When the gut is healthy, it produces various neurotransmitters that help keep the mood stable. However, when the gut is unhealthy, it can become inflamed and Produce fewer neurotransmitters. This can lead to increased anxiety and depression, and other mood disorders. In addition, an unhealthy gut can also Cause nutritional deficiencies that can further contribute to mood swings. If you're struggling with persistent or severe mood swings, it's essential to talk to your doctor. They will be able to rule out any underlying medical conditions and help you find ways to improve your gut health."

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
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