Your gut affects every other system of your body. If it’s unhealthy or unbalanced, you’re likely to feel unwell and unmotivated. Conventional medicine takes a symptomatic approach to addressing poor gut health, which may mean just prescribing medicine to try and reduce your discomfort. A functional medicine doctor, on the other hand, will look at the root cause of your condition, develop a treatment plan that addresses your health as a whole, and help you feel well again.
If you want to feel energized and live a full, healthy life, Dr. Joseph Radawi at Tri-Cities Functional Medicine can help. He’ll take the time to understand what’s going on with your gut and get it back on track. In the meantime, let’s look at the signs of an unhealthy gut and what changes you can start making today to start feeling yourself again.
Ready to begin healing? Start with a free discovery call.
What Are the Signs of Poor Gut Health?
1. Digestive Issues
If you frequently get stomach pain or deal with digestive issues like constipation, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and heartburn, your body is giving you clear signs that your gut needs attention. A balanced gut should function smoothly and digest food without putting you through extreme discomfort. However, when bad bacteria are allowed to thrive, your stomach is often the first to know.
2. Skin Problems
The appearance and health of your skin depends on more than just your daily skincare routine. Too much bad bacteria in the gut can lead to inflammation, contributing to skin conditions like rosacea, eczema, and acne. This imbalance can even hinder collagen production – your body needs an abundance of certain nutrients like amino acids to create this important protein. This can cause wrinkles, sagging, and volume loss, among other things.
3. Food Intolerances
If you deal with a food intolerance, such as lactose intolerance or a gluten sensitivity, it could be due to leaky gut syndrome or an imbalance. Poor gut bacteria can make it harder for your stomach to digest specific foods, leading to discomfort and digestive problems when they are eaten. Other common sensitivities include eggs, MSG, caffeine, and FODMAPS (which is the most common intolerance for people with irritable bowel syndrome).
Your gut and your energy levels are closely connected. In fact, the bacteria in your gut produce more than 90% of your body’s serotonin, which plays a large role in regulating sleep. If you’re constantly getting poor sleep at night, and struggling with fatigue during the day, an unhealthy gut might be a big part of the problem. Not getting enough sleep at night will definitely make you tired during the day, and people with chronic fatigue syndrome most often have an abnormal gut microbiome.
5. Weight Changes
Have you been gaining or losing weight without making any major changes to your diet or exercise routine? A well-balanced gut allows your body to absorb enough nutrients from the food you eat and properly store fat. However, an imbalance can deplete your body, causing you to lose weight. Or this may lead to overeating and inflammation, causing unwanted weight gain.
6. Sugar Cravings
You may have heard that your cravings are tied to nutrients or foods your body is lacking, but this often isn’t true — rather, they can be linked to things that help your gut microbes grow, like sugary foods. Not to mention, a diet high in sugar and processed food can lead to inflammation and poor gut health to begin with, kicking off a cycle. Remember, nothing in your body happens in isolation.
7. Autoimmune Disorders
An autoimmune disease is a condition that causes your immune system to attack cells in your body, causing a range of uncomfortable issues. They are very common and primarily affect women. Common examples include Type 1 diabetes, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, celiac disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. Addressing an unhealthy, inflamed gut is often the first major step toward healing.
8. Brain Fog
The “brain-gut connection” is something you may have read about online – it’s a real phenomenon. Your gut health is strongly linked with both your mental health and cognitive functioning. If you consistently struggle with brain fog, you may feel that your thinking is fuzzy, you struggle to make decisions, and you have difficulties concentrating. Things like stress, lack of sleep, hormone changes, and medication can cause cloudy thinking, but your gut health likely plays a major role as well.
9. Depression and Anxiety
We already discussed how the brain and gut affect each other. Not only can an imbalanced gut cause brain fog and issues with fuzzy thinking, but it can also make you feel depressed or anxious. It is this link that causes you to feel nauseous when your nervous about something or causes a major lack of appetite when you’re feeling depressed. By restoring the right balance of bacteria in your gut and healing your gut lining, you can potentially improve your mental health. This is something you should discuss with Dr. Radawi.
10. Hormonal Imbalance
An unhealthy gut can also cause unwanted changes in your hormone levels, like serotonin and estrogen. Your gut microbiome makeup can also lead to thyroid problems, causing issues such as hair loss, skin dryness, digestive problems, joint pain, weight gain, depression, fatigue, low libido, and more.
Do any of these sound familiar? Learn more by watching our free webinars.
How Can You Improve Your Gut Health?
The keys to improving your digestive system and having a well-balanced gut are adding good bacteria to your gut microbiome and making healthy life choices. We know bad bacteria and inflammation are the main contributors to poor gut health and uncomfortable symptoms, so how do symptoms start?
A poor diet, antibiotic use, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking cigarettes or excessive alcohol consumption, lack of sleep, and high stress levels all can lead to an imbalance. That means if you want to improve your gut health and reclaim your health, we recommend starting with lifestyle changes.
Monitor What Goes Into Your Body: Diet, Water, and More
Now is the time to take control of what goes into your body. A diet high in sugar and processed foods is sure to give your gut trouble — especially when you load it with high-fructose corn syrup.
Your body needs a well-balanced, varied diet high in lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. Look for fiber-rich foods and consider adding fermented foods like yogurt or kombucha to add more good bacteria to your gut.
Don’t forget to drink plenty of water! The rule of thumb is about eight glasses of water a day, but how much you should drink depends on factors like gender, age, weight, the weather, and activity level. You can even add some lemon — which can help reduce inflammation and acts as an antioxidant.
You also need to take a look at other substances you consume. Smoking cigarettes and drinking too much alcohol can kill good gut bacteria while promoting the growth of bad bacteria.
Get More Sleep and Exercise
In many cases, a good night’s sleep is the first step toward allowing healing. However, consistently not getting enough hours of rest each night can disrupt your body’s natural rhythm and lead to a range of digestive issues — especially if you tend to grab late night snacks.
Getting enough sleep can be difficult when you’re stressed, have insomnia, or are simply too busy. Be intentional about getting to bed at a decent time, limiting caffeine intake, reducing blue light exposure at night, and taking time to unwind.
Exercise also does wonders in improving gut health, while also improving sleep, reducing stress, and improving your metabolic health. Try to set aside time every day, even it’s just 30 minutes to start out, to get some physical activity in. Pursue more activities you love that get you outside and moving, like playing fetch with your dog, gardening, or swimming.
Ready to take control of your health? Schedule your free discovery call today.
Tri-Cities Functional Medicine is located in Johnson City, Tennessee, and serves patients throughout East Tennessee and into Virginia and North Carolina. These areas include but are not limited to: Washington County, TN, Sullivan County, TN, Carter County, TN, Greene County, TN, Knox County, TN, Bristol, TN, Holston Valley, TN, Tri-Cities, TN, Walnut Hill, TN, Elizabethton, TN, Greeneville, TN, Morristown, TN, Blountville, TN, Bluff City, TN, Kingsport, TN, Jonesborough, TN, Colonial Heights, TN, Limestone, TN, Knoxville, TN, Bristol, VA, and Abingdon, VA.