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Leaky Gut

Common Symptoms of Unhealthy Gut

Common Symptoms of Unhealthy Gut
Written by Suesan Sullivan

Hostile Elements in Your Gut

Starting in your mouth, your gut travels through your stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and ends in your rectum.

Your stomach and intestines are filled with hostile elements: digestive enzymes, undigested food material and trillions of microorganisms.

The surface of the small intestinal lining is only one cell layer thick.  When this delicate surface is damaged, we suddenly have hostile elements “leaking” into our bloodstream and spreading inflammation throughout the brain and body.

Allowing even the tiniest amount of these contents to leak into the bloodstream is enormously unhealthy.

So how do you know if this applies to you?

Signs and Symptoms

Constipation

We all know that horrible feeling of sitting on the toilet unable to poop. As time ticks, you begin to feel more uncomfortable, even embarrassed.

A bowel movement occurs when the food you eat passes through the digestive system. Your body takes the nutrients it needs from the food. What’s left over is called stool.

Constipation is the common condition that makes it difficult to have a bowel movement.

Chronic Constipation: Probable Causes

  • Not Eating Enough Fiber
  • Not Drinking Enough Water
  • Flora Wars: Out of Balance Gut Bacteria
  • Certain Medications
  • Too Much Supplemental Calcium or Iron
  • Eating Too Much Dairy
  • Eating Too Much Sugar & Unhealthy Fats
  • Depression
  • Lack of Physical Activity
  • Laxative Abuse

Common Symptom: Diarrhea

When you have diarrhea, your bowel movements are loose, watery and most often, urgent.

Diarrhea is common and usually not serious, normally lasting a few days then disappearing on its own. Pharmacies sell over-the-counter medicines that treat bouts of diarrhea.

Diarrhea: Probable Causes

  • Alcohol abuse
  • Allergies to certain foods
  • Diabetes
  • Diseases of the intestines (such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis)
  • Eating foods that upset the digestive system
  • Infection by bacteria or other organisms
  • Laxative abuse
  • Medications
  • Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)
  • Radiation therapy
  • Some Cancers
  • Surgery on your digestive system
  • Trouble absorbing certain nutrients
  • Diarrhea may follow constipation, especially for those who have irritable bowel syndrome.

Diarrhea: Foods to Eat

While it might sound counterintuitive to eat if you have diarrhea, certain foods can help alleviate your diarrhea symptoms and ensure your health doesn’t worsen from not eating.

Stick to low-fiber “BRAT” foods that will help firm up your stool. These include:

  • bananas
  • rice (white)
  • applesauce
  • toast

Common Symptom: Intestinal Gas

Intestinal gas may occur in the form of flatulence, burping, or feeling a fullness in the abdomen.

Numerous factors contribute to excess gas. Swallowing air, drinking and eating milk products, beans, and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, watercress, bok choy. These can cause an increase in gassy symptoms.

Purna Kashyap is a gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

“We need to keep these colon-dwelling critters content,” Kashyap says. “When they gobble up food — and create the gas — they also make molecules that boost the immune system, protect the lining of the intestine and prevent infections.”

The most gas made by the microbiome is odorless. It’s simply carbon dioxide, hydrogen or methane. But sometimes a little sulfur slips in there.

“That’s when it gets smelly,” Kashyap says.

But here’s the hitch: Many of the smelly sulfur compounds in vegetables have healthful properties, begging this question.

Could passing gas, in some instances, be a sign that our gut microbes are busy keeping us healthy?

Being a bit gassy may be a small price to pay for large benefits to our health.

Common Symptom: Intestinal Bloating

You’ve been eating right. Exercising regularly. Drinking water and even taking your vitamins.

So why is my stomach bloated all the time?

Why does eating make it look like I’m carrying twins?

Bloating is uncomfortable, frustrating and quite common. It often comes with pain and embarrassing gas and wind.

Bloating Foods Not to Eat

The first simple step you can take is to reduce your consumption of some of the key “bloating foods”.

  • Processed grains
  • Gluten
  • Cow’s milk
  • Sugar and sweets
  • Alcohol
  • Processed fruit juices
  • Raw “above the ground” vegetables

You may want to consider purchasing the book, Fart-Free Food for Every Body, a cookbook featuring recipes for people with food intolerances, stomach issues and “a need for new flavors and kitchen jazz.”

Food Allergies: Modern Epidemic

Food allergies have become an epidemic in our modern world. Whereas a food allergy was considered an anomaly just a few decades ago, today one in 13 children in the United States suffers from a life-threatening anaphylactic food allergy.

Food allergies have increased about 50% in children since 1997. There are various theories explaining why.

One is that the 21st-century lifestyle, which includes a diet very different from our ancestors’, has profoundly changed the makeup of microbes in the gut of many people in developed countries.

Food Allergies: All Roads Lead Back to the Gut

Food allergies are an abnormal immune response to certain foods that indicate symptoms of a larger digestive problem, primarily leaky gut. Your body begins to fight the perceived invaders, causing inflammation.

How to Reverse Food Allergies

Many people believe that a food allergy is a life sentence of restriction and misery but who wants to believe that?

First, you need to remove foods from your diet that feed the bad bacteria, like sugar, processed flour products, alcohol and too many animal products.

You also need to test yourself for food sensitivities and remove sensitive foods such as gluten, dairy, soy, corn, eggs, and the nightshade vegetables.

Keep in mind, if you do not heal your gut, you could be in for more food allergies down the road.

Bad Taste in the Mouth

Worries about bad breath appear to be a national pastime. But a lot of what is said and written on the subject is mouthwash – however, the problem may not be in the mouth at all.

Most breath odor doesn`t come from the mouth or lungs; it comes from the colon.

Everybody has bacteria in the colon, working on the residue of what has been eaten, causing gases, which are absorbed into the bloodstream.

The odors are carried by the blood to the lungs and breath which may account for long-lasting odors of garlic and onions still on the breath when you wake up in the morning after a flavorful dinner.

“Mouthwashes do kill bacteria”, said Dr. Richard Sherman of Florida`s East Coast District Dental Society.

“However, you must be careful, because some bacteria belong in the mouth. If you kill all the bacteria, you might make your mouth an environment for overgrowth of fungus.”

Bad breath is generally not something to worry about although you should note, continual malodorous breath indicates that something is wrong.

Brain Fog and Mood Swings

It is not an official medical term, but brain fog is defined as a loss of mental clarity, difficulty concentrating, and forgetfulness.

While these symptoms may describe how you feel before you’ve had your first-morning cup of coffee, brain fog is a symptom of a deeper issue: inflammation in your body.

Think of a time you had to do an exam and had “the runs” (diarrhea) or felt anxious and developed butterflies in your stomach. This is your brain driving your gut.

The gut and brain talk to each other through nerve signals, the release of gut or stress hormones, and other pathways. We have long known that emotions can directly alter gut function.

But lately, we’ve been discovering that it works the other way too. Our gut affects our brain.

And because it’s easier and generally safer to manipulate the gut than the brain, this knowledge provides the possibility that doing so could treat some chronic psychological and brain diseases.

The Gut: Our Second Brain

The gastrointestinal tract, or gut, is sometimes described as our “second brain” because it is controlled by its own complex nervous system, comprising hundreds of millions of neurons – more than all the nerves in your spinal cord.

Chronic, Silent Inflammation

All of us are at risk for chronic, silent inflammation because we live in a time of evolutionary mismatch.

Our modern lifestyles create incompatibilities between what our genes expect of us and what our world demands.

We eat foods that are processed beyond recognition, sit inside offices and cars most of the day and are exposed to thousands of modern chemicals. Inflammation is the result of these types of conflicts.

Encourage a Healthy Gut

Following a healthy diet is one way to encourage a healthy gastrointestinal tract. Base your diet on fruits and vegetables. Add fermented foods such as kefir and yogurt, for a natural source of probiotics.

If you don’t consume probiotic foods, consider taking a high-strain probiotic supplement to promote a healthy gut environment.

Common Symptom: Fatigue

Chronic fatigue syndrome—a condition that continues to baffle doctors—may be influenced by a person’s intestinal bacteria.

Researchers found that people with chronic fatigue syndrome had higher levels of certain gut bacteria and lower levels of others compared to healthy people who didn’t have the condition.

The new research “is yet another study that proves this is not a psychological disease,” said Zaher Nahle, vice president for research and scientific programs at the Solve ME/CFS Initiative

Common Symptom: Headaches

According to the World Health Organization, two-thirds of all men and more than 80 percent of women in developed countries around the globe suffer from migraine headaches.

If you suffer from headaches, you may have tried a number of different approaches to get relief from your headaches including over the counter or prescription drugs.

You may even have experimented with alternative treatments such as chiropractic, massage, and acupuncture, but find that your headaches return.

Migraines: More Bacteria?

Studies show that migraine sufferers have higher levels of bacteria, known to process nitrates, which typically are found in processed meats, leafy vegetables and some wines which could explain why certain foods appear to act as migraine triggers.

One highly effective approach for eliminating headaches is to eat clean and to improve your digestion. A headache and migraine relief start in your gut.

Common Symptom: Skin Problems

One cause of skin problems such as acne is about as far away from the skin as one can get –the GI tract. There’s good reason to believe that the health of your skin depends on what happens in your gut.

Skin rashes are your body’s way of trying to dump the toxins through skin perforations.

We know from research that gut issues are more prevalent in people with skin conditions. And the same studies show that if you treat those gut issues you can expect your skin to clear faster.

Gut Health and Immunity

The “gut” is hardly cocktail party conversation, but interest in gut health is gaining momentum.

Not only is gut health a popular topic in scientific research circles, but nutritionists, foodies and of course, natural health practitioners are following developments as well.

Microbiome: A Rainforest

Think of the gut microbiome as a rainforest, filled with a rich diversity of plant life, a symbiotic ecosystem residing in your digestive tract.

But what happens if the balance is disrupted? The good plants begin to die, and the bad ones start to take over.

This happens in your gut – even just one dose of antibiotics can throw off the balance of beneficial bacteria used to keep your immune system running optimally.

The good get killed or greatly reduced, and the bad bacteria that used to be kept in check can take over and grow out of control.

Autoimmune Disease: A Case of Mistaken Identity

Over time, having this imbalance in your gut microbiome will lead to leaky gut, the condition where food particles, toxins, and infections leak through your intestinal lining and into your bloodstream.

This sends your immune system into high alert, targeting normal proteins as if they were harmful foreign invaders.

Many of these food particles, toxins and infections look very similar to our own body’s cells, and our immune system gets confused and accidentally attacks our tissues, which leads to autoimmunity.

Gut Health: The Key to Wellness

The importance of gut health is the key to overall wellness because the gut connects to so many parts of the body, including the brain and immune system.

The National Institutes of Health claims that 60-70 million people suffer from digestive diseases in the US alone, stemming from a combination of unhealthy lifestyle choices, an aging population and an increase in the number of people claiming to have intolerances.

Evidence of the role digestive health plays in overall well-being drives the medical and wellness industry to achieve a better understanding of this paradigm shift.

Remember, optimal health throughout your whole body, begins in the gut!

About the author

Suesan Sullivan

Suesan works as a Registrar for BayCare Health Systems in the Tampa Bay area of Florida. She has a master’s degree in education and loves teaching fitness to seniors as a certified Silver Sneakers instructor and educating the community about essential oils as a distributor for Young Living. Suesan is a freelance writer and voice over specialist. She spends her leisure time kayaking, hiking, biking and cultivating friendships. Her favorite saying is “Don’t just be good. Make good things happen!”

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