You might equate gut health problems with digestion issues. But are there other indicators of poor gut health that don’t relate to our digestion?
Indicators of poor gut health
Well yes, and here are my top 8!
1. Frequent infections
If you are constantly getting colds and coughs, stomach bugs and feeling run down your gut health could be out of balance. Around 70% of our immune system is located in the gut, and this army of cells is our defence against invading pathogens.
We need a healthy gut to keep out the bad bugs. If there is inflammation within the gut or poor gut health, the immune cells can’t work as well as they might. This leaves us more susceptible to viruses.
If you’re getting all the bugs going around then perhaps you could look at your immunity, starting in the gut.
2. You’ve got low mood (depression or anxiety)
If you have poor gut health your body may struggle to create and use serotonin – our happy hormone. The link between mental health and gut health is has recently become very clear.
We have around 100 million neurons in the gut, and this ‘second brain’ sends messages back and forth to the gut every day. There are more messages going back up the vagus nerve to the brain.
Most of our serotonin is made in the gut, and if there is inflammation in the intestines some of the hormone may be lost. It’s important to include diet and gut health as part of any treatment for mood disorders.
Related post – Could meditation help your gut health?
3. Skin conditions (eczema, acne, psoriasis or rosacea)
Our skin is a major detox organ, and nutritional therapy often looks at conditions from the inside out.
So where your skin is struggling we look inside to identify poor gut health, and/or liver detoxification to see if imbalances are present.
Bacterial changes in the gut have been found in people with eczema, highlighting there are changes in the gut linked to skin conditions.
4. You’ve got Type 2 Diabetes
Your microbes in your stomach may be linked to how your body responds to insulin. Insulin resistance is a major driver of diabetes, and is also linked to obesity.
Recent studies have linked a level of glucose intolerance with the presence of three specific types of microbes, but it’s as yet unclear whether the bugs cause the insulin resistance, or are there because of the glucose imbalances.
Either way, there are changes in the stomach linked to diabetes.
5. You can’t remember anything or find it hard to concentrate
Your poor memory and concentration may be linked to the poor gut health.
If you have inflammation within the gut some toxins can provide low-grade stimulation of the immune system. This stimulation may produce systemic and/or central nervous system inflammation.
This can influence our memory and cognition. Also, overgrowth of certain yeasts like candida have been linked to feeling foggy and confused.
6. You’re overweight
There is more and more evidence to link certain gut bacteria to obesity. We know that people who are obese have different microbes than those who are thinner. In some cases the bugs may be making you absorb more calories from your food than other people.
The microbes can actually make us gain weight! In experiments sterile mice who are given gut microbes from obese mice suddenly put on weight even if nothing else in their environment or diet changes.
Related post – 8 less obvious weight loss tips
7. You crave sugar
If you constantly crave sugar you may have a mix of bugs in your intestines that are craving the sugar and making you want it! It might be strange the think about these bugs are controlling our behaviour.
Through the link between the brain and the gut the microbes can influence us to eat the food they need to survive.
8. You’ve got an autoimmune condition
The microbes in our gut play out their role across all areas of our body.
Changes in the proportion of certain microorganisms can be associated to pathologies such as multiple sclerosis, Type 1 diabetes, arthritis or Hashimoto’s.
Many people with these diseases had some digestive issues in the past which may have influenced the development of the condition.
Your Action Points – How you create good gut health
The good news is you can change the microbial mix in our gut through eating well, and moving your body. My quick tips for looking after your bugs are:
- Eat more fibre – vegetables and pulses like lentils, chickpeas. The bugs especially love prebiotics (food for the bugs) like leeks, onions, garlic, artichokes. Cover half your plate in vegetables at mealtimes.
- Aim for 7 a day – 5 vegetables and 2 pieces of fruit every day.
- Drink 8 glasses of water or herb tea.
- Aim to eat food in as natural state as possible, reduce food from packets (e.g. ready meals) as these are low in fibre and nutrients.
- Avoid killing off too many bugs – There is no need for anti-bacterial hand wash, avoid unnecessary antibiotics as these kill off all the good bugs as well.
- Exercise – moving our body helps to create a healthy set of gut bugs.
Hi I'm Anna Mapson, registered Nutritionist (mBANT, CNHC). I help people with IBS, gut health and digestive issues.
I can help you to:
- understand your digestion better, so you recognise your triggers
- eat a well balanced diet, with tasty meals that are simple to prepare
- develop healthy, sustainable habits for life
“Anna is amazing! I feel totally transformed"
To find more about 1:1 nutrition consultations or my group membership see my IBS Diet support page
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