What indicates a healthy gut?
To understand the signs of poor gut health, it helps to know what a healthy gut looks and feels like.
The gastrointestinal tract is a complicated system. Digestion begins the second you put food in your mouth and doesn’t end until you have a bowel movement. Digestion includes consuming food, allowing the stomach to break it down, absorbing the nutrients and then expelling the waste.
When everything is working as it should, you end up with a healthy gut balance.
For most people, having a bowel movement once or twice a day indicates that everything is working properly. Your bowel movement should also be easy to pass but the stool should be well-formed and solid. Normal bowel movements do not include diarrhea, loose stools or constipation.
Additionally, if you have a healthy gut, you won’t have uncomfortable rectal symptoms, such as hemorrhoids. There should also be minimal bloating, abdominal pain and gas. Basically, when your digestive system is working well, stress or environmental factors shouldn’t affect its performance.
But your gut controls more than you realize. If you have bad gut health, you’ll not only experience the symptoms noted above, you’ll also generally feel less healthy than you would if you had a healthy gut.
Let’s look at the signs of poor gut health in greater detail.
What are the signs of bad gut health?
A gut bacteria imbalance can cause many health issues, but the most common signs of an unhealthy gut will be in the abdomen. You might notice stomach discomfort combined with gas, diarrhea, bloating or constipation. In fact, studies show gas and bloating are directly related to gut microbiome imbalance.
Additionally, you may suffer from intense food cravings. Research shows that gut bacteria can communicate with you and tell you what you should eat. The bad bacteria wants more sugar to feed on, but it can’t get it on its own, so it will try and convince you that you need it.
You may also find some weight changes as a result of a stomach bacteria imbalance. Studies show that there’s a link between unhealthy and unbalanced gut environments and obesity.
If you are feeling tired more often than normal, this could also be one of the signs of gut bacteria imbalance. Research indicates people suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome tend to have imbalances in the gut microbiome. People with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome often have digestive systems containing bacteria, viruses, fungi and microorganisms that are depriving the body of energy.
Flora imbalance symptoms go beyond gastrointestinal issues. Studies show a link between gut health and skin irritation, while further research states gut bacteria imbalance symptoms may include allergies.
You may also be surprised to know that, according to research, autoimmune conditions are linked to poor gut health. As if that’s not enough, there’s even a link between gut health and mood disorders, as well as studies indicating that intestinal flora imbalance can lead to migraines.
While the most obvious signs of poor gut health are related to the gastrointestinal tract, research shows a bacterial imbalance in the gut can affect nearly every single part of the body.
Common Conditions Caused by Gut Flora Imbalance
When you assess your overall health, it can be easy to label any problems you’re experiencing as signs of gut flora imbalance. But, keep in mind, the most obvious indication that something is wrong comes from your abdomen and the digestive system itself. If you are suffering from regular gas, bloating, cramping, diarrhea or constipation, it’s likely that an intestinal bacteria imbalance could be to blame.
As intestinal bacterial imbalance symptoms worsen, and the bacteria are allowed to multiply, you could run into even bigger problems. Many chronic conditions are linked to an imbalance in gut bacteria.
If you are noticing signs of poor gut health, you want to take corrective action before any chronic conditions are given an opportunity to set in for good. While there are many issues you could face, we will take a closer look at three of the most common conditions connected to poor gut health.
Let’s dive deeper into irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease and Clostridioides difficile (C. difficile) to see how they’re related to the environmental conditions of your gut.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
This condition affects more women than men and can range in severity from mild to severe. IBS is also referred to as spastic colitis, mucous colitis, irritable colon or spastic colon.
IBS can occur alongside other bowel conditions and tends to last for at least three months. In extreme cases, IBS can lead to intestinal damage. Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome include cramping, bloating, gas, abdominal pain, constipation and diarrhea. Some people may experience both diarrhea and constipation. In many cases, the gas and bloating go away following a bowel movement.
Currently, there is no cure for irritable bowel syndrome. All you can do is alleviate the symptoms. Some people have success just by exercising more. It also helps to cut back on caffeinated beverages, which often stimulate the intestines. Minimizing stress is another effective treatment. However, changing your diet is key. It’s important to eat smaller meals and avoid deep-fried foods and spicy foods.
Probiotics may also reverse signs of poor gut health and provide relief. Studies indicate probiotics from the Saccharomyces, Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus families have been effective at treating IBS. That being said, the effectiveness of probiotics works in conjunction with other lifestyle changes.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) involves several intestinal disorders that lead to prolonged inflammation in the digestive tract.
The two most common are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Crohn’s disease is inflammation located anywhere in the digestive tract — most often affecting the end of the small intestine — whereas ulcerative colitis refers strictly to inflammation occurring in the large intestine.
Symptoms caused by these diseases are often signs your gut is unhealthy. You may experience diarrhea, mainly because the affected bowel has trouble absorbing water. There’s also the chance of bleeding ulcers, which can cause blood in the stool. Additionally, stomach pain, bloating and cramping are common as well. If the symptoms lead to weight loss or anemia, there can be further complications.
However, the digestive system isn’t the only place that IBD symptoms appear. Some people suffering from Crohn’s disease also battle mouth canker sores. These fissures can also appear around the anus or genital region. People can also suffer from eye inflammation, arthritis and various skin disorders.
There are some available treatments for IBD. Sometimes anti-inflammatory medications are administered. It’s also possible to use immunosuppressants. In extreme cases, surgery is needed. However, many people prefer to take a holistic approach to treat these bacterial imbalance symptoms.
Studies show specific strains of probiotics, combined with lifestyle changes, can dramatically reduce the symptoms of stomach bacterial imbalance.
Clostridioides difficile (C. difficile)
C. diff or Clostridium difficile is an infectious bacteria that causes clostridium difficile colitis. This condition leads to inflammation of the colon wall. About 10 percent of adults and 85 percent of newborns have C. diff in their intestines, but there is other bacteria in the intestines that should balance out that bad bacteria. A C. diff infection occurs when there’s too much bad bacteria in the intestines.
The Centers for Disease Control state there are about 500,000 C. diff infections in America every year. Additionally, one in six patients that get this infection gets it again just two to eight weeks later.
This condition is linked to several signs of an unhealthy gut biome, the most common being diarrhea. However, it also causes cramping, abdominal pain, nausea, loss of appetite, fever and dehydration. If there’s blood in the stool, it’s considered a severe case that requires immediate medical treatment.
The only known treatment for C. diff is antibiotics. However, taking antibiotics only further causes trouble with the gut biome as they kill off good bacteria. So, if you end up taking antibiotics for a C. diff infection, you may want to talk to your doctor about taking a probiotic to prevent it from recurring.
Signs You May Need More Probiotics
If you have noticed signs of poor gut health, you may wonder about taking probiotics. Of course, you want to improve gut health, and probiotics can be a wonderful addition to other lifestyle changes.
While it never hurts to manage your gut health, here are a few signs you may need probiotics. If you are suffering from gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea or a leaky gut, you may experience some relief by taking probiotics. You can also try a regimen when you deal with IBS, IBD or C. diff infections.
In other research, probiotics have been used to inhibit migraines, urinary tract infections and recurring yeast infections. You may even want to consider probiotics if you suffer from skin issues, such as eczema, rosacea or acne. It may also be possible to combat some autoimmune diseases with probiotics.
If you are currently taking antibiotics, you may also want to consider taking a probiotic. Research suggests that taking a probiotic alongside antibiotics can help balance your gut biome, reducing your chances of experiencing gastrointestinal tract issues.
Signs Probiotics Are Working
How do you know the probiotics you’re taking are restoring a balanced gut environment? As the probiotic works to rebalance your gut flora, you should notice several positive signs.
The most obvious change you should experience is less bloating, stomach pain and gas. The balance of good bacteria back in your system should also spur more regular bowel movements.
When your digestive system does its job effectively, your body will also receive more of the healthy nutrients you put into it. And, because your body receives energy from the nutrients you consume, better digestion translates into more energy.
A leaky gut is a sign your digestive system is imbalanced, and it puts your body in a fight mode. But when you take probiotics, your gut lining is restored and your immune system begins working properly again.
Poor gut health affects how much serotonin is produced, which negatively impacts your mood. So you may notice an improved overall mood as your probiotic begins working.
And finally, there’s a chance you may notice some weight loss as your probiotic begins working. Bad bacteria signal the brain to crave sugar, which is hard to resist. But as your gut becomes more balanced, these cravings should stop, allowing you to eat a healthier diet and possibly lose some weight. To receive the most benefits from probiotics, you should always combine them with a healthy diet and exercise.