Your digestive system works tirelessly every day. Researchers have discovered that this system — once considered simple — is incredibly complex and can be linked to health issues throughout the entire body. Various studies over the past 20 years have shown that the issues in the gastrointestinal system can be linked to a number of chronic illnesses, the immune system, mental health, and more.
Gastroenterologists have explained that the GI tract — also known as the gut microbiome — is made up of bacteria that assist with digestion. However, the trillions of bacteria in the gut microbiome also help our bodies maintain a balance that’s essential to our overall physical and mental health. Learning to listen to the gut and identify problems could lead to improved digestion, as well as a variety of other benefits.
Identifying Problems in the Gut
A number of factors can contribute to poor gut health, ranging from excess stress to poor diet. If your gut microbiome is damaged, it can show itself in numerous ways. Some symptoms are obvious, while others might be easily mistaken for different health problems. The following are several signs that your gut microbiome is out of balance.
Upset Stomach/Stomach Pain
One of the most common symptoms of poor gut health is an upset stomach. This might include bloating, gas, diarrhea, heartburn or constipation. A well-balanced gut microbiome processes food and eliminates waste effectively.
Chronic fatigue or sleep disturbancesmay be linked to your stomach. The gut produces a majority of the body’s serotonin, a hormone that promotes deep sleep and a superior overall mood. An unbalanced gut could lead to poor sleeping patterns or insomnia.
Skin irritation and acne can be signs of a poor diet. The inflammation caused by food allergies or unhealthy food choices could cause certain proteins to exit the body. This may result in skin issues such as acne or eczema.
Researchers have recently begun to link gut health to the immune system. A damaged gut microbiome couldinduce inflammation and prevent the immune system from functioning properly, potentially leading to autoimmune diseases.
Unhealthy gut microbiome may also manifest itself in the form of food intolerances, unexpected weight changes, inflammation and a number of other complaints. Experiencing any of these symptoms might be a sign that your gut needs attention.
Improving your gut health is often as simple as following a doctor’s orders. Experts explain that consuming a well-balanced diet, sleeping well, and exercising often are some of the best ways to promote a strong gut microbiome. In fact, an overall healthy body can help maintain a healthy gut.
Choose fruits, vegetables and fiber-rich whole grains over processed meats and refined sugars. Experts suggest eating 20 to 40 grams of fiber per day, based on your gender and age. Certain foods — including broccoli, walnuts, cranberries, and cherries — have also been linked to superior gut health in recent studies.
The bacteria in the gut microbiome live on what is left in the colon after the cells have digested the amino acids and nutrients. Excellent gut health involves feeding these bacteria complex fibers, as opposed to processed foods and other unhealthy snacks.
Learning to listen to your gut will take time and could involve eliminating certain foods from your diet entirely. However, research has proven that maintaining a diet rich in whole grains, regular exercise and good sleep habits are some of the keys to improving digestion, and ultimately, your overall health.
This infographic was created by Factor, a gluten free meal delivery service.
Author bio: Kara Kash, RD, LDN, is a registered dietitian at Factor — a premium weekly meal delivery service that fuses world-class culinary dishes with the latest in nutrition science to produce fully prepared meals that are as delicious as they are nutritious.