There’s more to gut health than how well the stomach works. The gut is part of the digestive system – primarily the intestines. When your gut health is strong, your digestive tract can function appropriately and remain healthy. Having a strong gut can mean the difference between illness and health. So, identifying the signs of a weak gut and taking steps to improve it is essential to your well-being.
What is Gut Health?
The gut’s main task is to break down food, but it does much more than process what’s consumed. It also delivers vital nutrients into the bloodstream, manages wastes, and helps the immune system. Although the gut is hidden away in the lower abdomen, it affects many organs and tissues located in other areas of the body. In essence, the gut is the hard worker behind the curtain keeping the body in check and its systems balanced.
The term “gut health” primarily refers to the microorganisms within the intestines. These microbes are called the gut flora, also known as the gut microbiome. Trillions of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites call the intestine their home, and the makeup of those dwellers makes a big difference. Every microbe has a role to play. And while they all play for the same team, they don’t do well taking over the team as a whole. Therefore, the gut microbiome needs to be diverse but balanced.
Five Signs of Weak Gut Health
When the gut microbiome gets out of whack (called a leaky gut or weak gut), the body reacts through a myriad of symptoms. A weak gut can also result in chronic illnesses like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, inflammation, and colorectal disorders. Because gut health is central to the body’s functioning, maintaining the balance within the gut microbiome is overwhelmingly important.
The following are five of the most common signs of a weak and unbalanced intestinal microbiome.
1. Weight Fluctuations
As part of the digestive system, it’s not hard to understand how a weak gut could result in unintentional weight fluctuations. When the gut is strong, food is processed efficiently and effectively. With a weak gut, however, weight can fluctuate even when consuming a typical diet with no change in physical activity. Therefore — without actively trying— the body loses or gains weight when the gut is unbalanced.
According to recent studies, the gut microbiome significantly influences the body’s nutrient absorption and energy expenditure. Some microorganisms within the gut impact how many calories are extracted from food. So, too little or too much of these organisms can cause a person to lose or gain weight.
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2. Food Intolerances
A food intolerance is different from a food allergy. Food intolerances occur because of difficulty digesting particular foods. On the other hand, food allergies are caused by an immune reaction.
Common symptoms of intolerance to a specific food are:
- Excessive gas.
Lactose intolerance, for example, is a food intolerance rather than a food allergy. Research into food intolerances shows that poor gut microbiomes may be to blame.
3. Bloating and Other Stomach Issues
Stomach disturbances like gassiness and bloating can signal weak gut health. A weak gut has problems eliminating wastes and processing food, causing bloating, gas, constipation, or diarrhea. People whose symptoms experience irritable bowel syndrome and other stomach conditions may want to check if a leaky gut is a cause.
4. Skin Issues
Connecting the gut microbiome to the skin might seem like a long shot, but research indicates that they are linked in ways that are still not well understood. A weak gut may lead to skin issues like rosacea, acne, eczema, and dandruff. For example, foods that are high in fat or refined sugar can affect microorganisms in the gut, which may cause inflammation throughout the body – including the skin.
Interestingly, both the gut and the skin consist of cells with a high turnover rate. This high rate keeps infection from “bad” bacteria at bay, preventing the bacteria from sticking to cells. Due to this similarity, a weak gut could also result in concurrent skin reactions.
What Can You Do to Strengthen Your Gut?
Research into gut health remains ongoing. If you suspect you have a weak gut, there are steps you can take to fortify it.
- Increase your intake of fiber to clear waste from the intestinal tract.
- Stay hydrated to maintain healthy levels of beneficial types of microorganisms.
- Stop smoking and avoid heavy alcohol use.
- Consume a healthy diet that’s low in fat and processed sugar.
- Limit your sodium intake.
- Become more physically active.
If you’re experiencing weak gut health, consult a health professional. An unbalanced gut can occur due to illness or medications. A thorough assessment can help to rule out any other health problems that require attention. Your provider may recommend a change in diet, medications, or probiotics to boost your gut health.