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10 Signs You Have An Unhealthy Gut + How To Support It

When your gut is healthy, the rest of your body hums along happily. That's because your gut influences everything from your digestion to your brain and your immune system.

If your gut isn't at its healthiest, you may experience some apparent digestive symptoms, like gas, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. But there are some less obvious signs, too. Poor concentration, fatigue, and skin problems can also point to gut issues.

Luckily, there are ways to tell if you have an unhealthy gut, plus expert-backed strategies to cope.

1. Gas and Bloating

Gas is produced as a normal part of the digestion and fermentation process in the gut, however some strains of gut bacteria product more gas than others. If you have more of these super-gas producing "bad" strains, it could lead to excessive fermentation, trapping gas in the gut and creating bloat. 

2. Diarrhea

Occasional loose stool affects everyone at some point, but chronic or acute diarrhea can be a sign of bacterial overgrowth or an infection with Clostridioides difficile, a type of bacteria that lives in the gut in small numbers, but can create problems when it multiples. Diarrhea can also make gut health worse by pushing out the good bacteria in your gut, contributing to even more gut dysbiosis.

3. Constipation

Although researchers haven’t been able to pinpoint a single underlying cause of constipation, one scientific review points out that functional constipation and irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS-C) is connected to gut imbalance.

People who suffer from constipation typically have lower levels of certain types of bacteria, including Bifidobacteria, in their stool samples. Which is often why supplementing with this type of probiotic strain can help improve digestion.*

4. Mood disorders

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 signaling between your gut and brain (and vice versa). If this hormonal balance is thrown off, it can contribute to anxiety, and other mood disorders.

5. Poor concentration

Your gut produces neurotransmitters that are directly connected to mood, thoughts, and other cognitive abilities, like concentration. Research shows that gut dysbiosis can negatively affect learning and memory and contribute to inflammatory reactions in the brain.

6. Skin inflammation and acne

Topical skin care products are often recommended for eczema, psoriasis, acne and other inflammatory skin problems, but in many cases, an unhealthy gut is to blame. Your gut is in direct communication with your skin through what’s called the gut-skin axis. 

It plays a role in skin homeostasis and inflammatory responses that keep your skin clear and healthy. Your skin also has a microbiome of its own, and the bacteria in your gut directly influence the balance of bacteria on your skin. An imbalance in your gut can cause an imbalance in your skin that results in things like acne, atopic dermatitis, and psoriasis.

7. Sugar cravings

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.

8. Chronic fatigue

Research shows that people with chronic fatigue syndrome have abnormal levels of certain types of gut bacteria. In fact, the connection between an unhealthy gut and chronic fatigue is so strong that one study estimates that 80 percent of people with chronic fatigue could be diagnosed just by looking at their gut bacteria. 

An unhealthy gut can also negatively affect your circadian rhythm, which can disrupt sleep and leave you feeling overly tired during the day.

9. Weight gain and obesity

There are several factors that contribute to weight gain, but the bacteria in your gut is one that’s often overlooked. One study looked at the gut microbiome in lean and overweight twins and found that the overweight twins had reduced bacterial diversity—or fewer types of bacteria in their gut.  Certain types of bacteria can also influence weight gain, since bacteria help break down food and the way your body absorbs nutrients.

10. Autoimmune diseases

Your gut microbiome directly influences your immune system. When your gut is healthy, your immune system is healthy. But when things become imbalanced, it can lead to immune abnormalities, like autoimmune diseases.

Research has connected an unhealthy gut to several autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and autoimmune liver disease. 

Another study found that when a certain bacteria, called Enterococcus gallinarum, multiplies too much, it can travel outside your gut to your liver and other tissues where it contributes to the development of autoimmune disorders.

The takeaways

Chronic digestive complaints, like gas, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea, are all signs of an unhealthy gut, but imbalances in your gut microbiome can also cause more widespread problems like difficulty concentrating, skin troubles, and more. 

Luckily, there are lots of things you can do to help improve your gut health. While diet is often the first line of defense, taking probiotics and other digestive supplements, reducing stress levels, and exercising regularly can also play a big role in getting your body back to optimal health!

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If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking medications, consult with your doctor before starting a supplement routine. It is always optimal to consult with a health care provider when considering what supplements are right for you.

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