Gut Health: What is an unhealthy gut?
by Dr. Marli Botha
Many facets of modern life such as high stress levels, too little sleep, eating processed and high-sugar foods, and taking antibiotics can all damage our gut microbiome. Poor diet is one of biggest causes of gut issues. While good bacteria thrive on things like fibre and plant foods, bad bacteria and yeast love processed foods and sugar. And when your diet is full of processed foods and sugar, as many Western diets are, the well-fed bad bacteria start to overtake the good. There are a number of ways an unhealthy gut might manifest itself.
Here are 6 of the most common signs of an unhealthy gut:
- Stomach disturbances like gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and heartburn can all be signs of an unhealthy gut. A balanced gut will have less difficulty processing food and eliminating waste.
- Gaining or losing weight without making changes to your diet or exercise habits may be a sign of an unhealthy gut. An imbalanced gut can impair your body’s ability to absorb nutrients, regulate blood sugar, and store fat.
- An unhealthy gut may contribute to sleep disturbances such as insomnia or poor sleep, and therefore lead to chronic fatigue. The majority of the body’s serotonin, a hormone that affects mood and sleep, is produced in the gut. Hence, gut damage can impair your ability to sleep well.
- Food intolerances are the result of difficulty digesting certain foods (this is different than a food allergy, which is caused by an immune system reaction to certain foods).
- Your microbiome plays a vital role in your mental health and the way you respond to stress. Although the exact mechanisms aren’t totally clear, there’s evidence that certain hormones that are made in the gut—collectively called gut peptides—control the signalling between your gut and brain (and vice versa). If this hormonal balance is thrown off, it can contribute to anxiety, and other mood disorders.
- The microbes in your gut are really good at trying to manipulate you into eating the types of food that feed them and help them grow. But different types of microbes like different foods. For example, yeast thrives on sugar, Bifidobacteria love dietary fiber, and Bacteroidetes prefer fats. If your gut contains too much yeast it can lead to intense sugar cravings that ultimately perpetuate the unhealthy gut cycle.
It is important to mention that no food is meant to be a cure-all for any condition, though there are certainly health and skin benefits contained within them. The one thing you should always do before using a new skin care product is to do a patch test to look for allergies and sensitivities.