Gut Balance: Signs of an Unhealthy Gut and What To Do About It
by Jelena Vulevic on Dec 13, 2022
Although it is impossible, even for the most healthy individuals, to feel good all the time, some of us experience regular physical discomfort without realising the source of the problem. The good news is that, in many cases, these issues can be improved or even eliminated with a few changes to our personal habits.
In this blog, we are going to help you assess your gut health and, should your unpleasant symptoms be stemming from a poorly-functioning digestive system, show you what you can do to try and solve them.
What Is Gut Health And Why Does It Matter?
Contrary to what many believe, gut health isn’t just about good digestion. Our gastrointestinal (GI) tract is responsible for a number of functions that go way beyond processing the food we eat and eliminating unwanted substances. Fully connected to different areas of the body, our digestive system is home to an enormous number of microorganisms, called microbiota, which play a significant part in the state of our overall health. It influences our ability to fight disease everywhere in the body, the ageing processes of our skin and brain, and many other aspects that determine a person's sense of well-being. In summary, how good you feel is closely related to how well your gut is working.
What are some of the symptoms associated with an unhealthy gut?
Unfortunately, gut issues are not exactly rare among the human species, which means that most of us will have experienced the most common signs of a malfunctioning digestive tract. These would be things like irregular bowel movements, constipation, diarrhoea, bloating and even cramps. However, other symptoms, which we normally wouldn't associate with our digestive function, might actually be a strong indication that our gut balance is off. Some of the lesser-known signs of an unhealthy gut would be the following:
- Headaches and migraines
- Changes in mood
- Sleep issues
- Food cravings
Skin problems are also not a rare occurrence when dealing with gut issues, as a result of the Gut-Skin axis, which stands for the very special relationship established between the trillions of microorganisms that make up our skin and those in our gut, and their constant interaction.
The full list of symptoms which can derive from poor gut health is a lengthy one, and some studies suggest that it could be responsible for more complex issues such as unintentional weight changes and even the occurrence of certain autoimmune conditions.
How Do I Check My Gut Health?
Some people will argue that many, if not all of the symptoms we have mentioned above could be provoked by other conditions that are not related to our gastrointestinal tract, and they would be correct. The point here is that, since we know that the digestive system has such an important impact on several areas of the body, if you are feeling unwell, it's usually a good idea to start by checking on your gut balance.
Not sure how healthy your gut is? Don't worry. A few simple checks can give you an idea of what's going on inside your intestines. Begin by taking note of how your body is working and trying to answer some of the questions below.
How Often Do You Go to The Toilet?
Digestive health studies have shown that, on average, a healthy adult will evacuate between three times a day and three times a week. So, if your bowel movements are working on a regular pattern that falls within that window, you shouldn't have much to worry about. Deviations from that pattern do not necessarily evidence that something is seriously wrong with your gut health but could be a sign that a stomach or intestine problem is under development.
What Does Your Stool Look Like?
However off putting this idea may seem to some people, inspecting your stool and paying attention to what things are looking like before flushing the toilet is an excellent way to learn more about the state of your gut function and microbiota. As a rule of thumb, your stool should be predominantly medium to dark brown in colour, smooth in texture, with a sausage-shaped form, be it in one single large piece or divided into smaller parts. While consistency may vary, from soft to firm, it is also important that it does sink in the toilet bowl.
Significant variations in texture, colour and shape for a prolonged period of time can be an indication that something is not working well, and should be discussed with your doctor.
How Long Is Your Food Taking to Be Digested?
Most of us probably haven't ever thought much about this, but the food we consume shouldn't take too long to be digested and have its byproducts eliminated from our bodies. That process should not be too fast either, lest we miss out on absorbing all the nutrients that our food contains and which our system requires to properly function. The time it takes for a meal to be digested and travel through the gastrointestinal tract actually has a name, and is called the gut transit time. A wide range of factors can influence a person's gut transit time but, for most adults, it will range between 16 - 50 hours. People adopting vegetarian, vegan or more Mediterranean diets will normally experience shorter gut transit times, while dominantly protein or more Western-like diets result in longer times. Once again, while variations are to be expected, if you notice that your average gut transit time is consistently much longer or shorter than that, it is probably something worth looking into.
Do You Regularly Experience Uncomfortable Symptoms?
Apart from what has already been mentioned, there are a few tell-tale signs that your gastrointestinal system might be struggling, and a lot of it has to do with how persistent your symptoms are.
It is of course natural for any individual to experience digestive problems while making a change in their diet, during travel or a change in routine, or due to some kind of infection. However, persistent symptoms, such as diarrhoea, constipation, abdominal distention or pain, should not be dismissed. Additionally, any occurrence of blood, pain while using the toilet and bowel incontinence warrants a visit to the doctor for a health check.
How to Restore Optimal Gut Health
Now that you know how to check for clues that your digestive health might not be in the best condition, it's time to go over some of the best strategies to help restore your gut balance.
Watch What You Eat
It should come as no surprise that being mindful of what we put inside our bodies has a great impact on how well our digestive system operates, so a well-balanced diet is definitely the first course of action to improve your condition. Nevertheless, there are specific types of food that you might want to prioritise, which are considered to be fibre and prebiotic-rich. Prebiotics act as fuel for the good bacteria to develop in your gut, so you really don't want to skip on them. They should also be fairly easy to integrate into your diet since they are present in many common products we consume, such as onions, garlic, leek, bananas, grapefruit, nuts and many types of legumes.
Another critical requirement for those looking to improve their gut function is the consumption of fermented foods. Yoghurt, kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha and miso are all very good sources of probiotics, which are in fact the microorganisms tasked with keeping our gut flora working and in good shape. You can pick yours according to your personal taste, but do remember that balance is key. The overconsumption of any food group could just as much damage as completely overlooking it.
In fact, it’s worth mentioning that most of the foods mentioned above could actually result in worsening of GI symptoms, potentially because they’re already present or they could be the reason behind the symptom in the first place. In such cases, the cause of the symptoms could be due to intolerance or IBS, in which case it’s important to keep clear notes and speak to a healthcare provider.
Make Changes to Your Lifestyle
Yes, we are what we eat, but not only that. Sleep and physical exercise, for example, play a major role in gut health, so it's essential to establish and follow a routine that caters for sufficient rest, but also some regular exercise of your choice. Stress affects the gut as well, so, even if you already prioritise sleep and exercise, you might have to adjust any other aspects of your routine that regularly cause you to feel anxious, restless and other forms of emotional discomfort.
Finally, it's important to note that our bodies respond best to consistent efforts. This means that the extent to which you are able to adhere to your new habits will have a significant impact on the results you will obtain. Nonetheless, even small changes can be beneficial, so don't worry if you need some time to ease into a healthier lifestyle.
Consider Adding a Supplement to Your Diet
If a balanced diet and lifestyle lay the foundations for a healthy body, adding supplements to your self-care routine can often leverage the changes you are making to improve your well-being. Gut health supplements can be especially beneficial due to the critical role that our gut function plays in our overall health, as we have previously discussed. That being said, it's important to do some research to learn more about the different types of supplements available on the market, and perhaps discuss your concerns with a doctor before making a decision.
When it comes to gut health supplements, there's no such thing as a "one size fits all" solution, and the best gut health supplement for you will depend on your individual objectives and symptoms. However, generally speaking, what you should be looking for are science-backed products from reliable brands, which include a mix of probiotics, prebiotics and postbiotics. A well-developed supplement, such as the Y GUT sensitive, will be able to boost your gut health through carefully selected ingredients, that not only increase your microbiota diversity but also minimise any potential side effects.
Now you know it: paying attention to how your body is working and taking note of any recurring symptoms is the best way to gain some insight into the state of your digestive health. After identifying any issues, you can rely on the technology contained in a good gut health supplement to help you get back to feeling your best as fast as possible. Nevertheless, significant and long-term health improvements are only achievable if these supplements are combined with balanced eating habits and a healthy lifestyle.
Looking for the right gut health supplement doesn’t have to be a struggle. Find out what Y GUT sensitive can do for you.