11 Signs of an Unhealthy Gut and How to Improve Gut Health Naturally

Have you been feeling pretty dumpy, and something’s telling you that you might have an unhealthy gut? Okay, that something talking to you IS your gut. After all, the gut is your second brain. This smarty-pants controls more than just your digestive system. Microbes that live in your gut microbiome influence your overall health! 

There are many signs of an unhealthy gut that we’d never expect to be warning signals. However, your gut has an overarching connection to your immune system, mental wellness, and skin health. So, other changes in your overall health might really be signs of an unhealthy gut. Let’s discuss 11 signals that bad bacteria are causing a load of issues throughout the gut microbiome. 

11 Signs of an Unhealthy Gut 

11 signs of an unhealth gut

Poor gut health typically develops over time. The majority of us are born with a diverse microbiome, teeming with commensal bacteria that work together to keep everything going smoothly.

Over time, we adopt poor diet habits, get lazy with our workouts, endure daily stress, and other environmental factors begin to comprise good bacteria throughout the intestinal tract. 

Inevitably, bad bacteria can start to take over the system, causing several unfavorable symptoms. If you experience any of these warning signals below, there’s a good chance you are developing an unhealthy gut. 

You might want to consider buying a microbiome test to determine which gut flora is taking over. Based on the results, you can order custom probiotic supplements to help reclaim a balance of bacteria. 

Gut Issues 

Suffice to say; if you perceive you have an unhealthy gut, you’re probably experiencing a fair share of gut issues. Our digestive system has to put up many high-fat foods, artificial flavorings, and preservatives. A lifetime of these eating habits can cause several common symptoms associated with poor digestive health. 

Those who have an unhealthy gut can commonly experience the following digestive issues:

  • Abdominal Pain
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Indigestion
  • Hemorrhoids 

Over time, bowel frequencies may change. These are clear indicators that you are in danger of developing a condition, such as Leaky Gut Syndrome, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and Irritable Bowel Diseases (IBD). 

Weight Gain and Obesity 

Many of us forget that we eat food for calories that our body converts into energy. Sure, tacos taste amazing, too. That’s just icing on the cake. Mmm…cake…You see why weight loss is so hard?!

When you have poor eating habits, your digestive system will get backed up. It just keeps storing your food calories in your adipose tissue that lines your belly. This region is where you backup storage for energy. 

However, we’re constantly eating. So, our body never gets to that reserve. It’s just always working on the newest item we just shoved down our throats. Inevitably, our good bacteria get overworked and overwhelmed, and we increase proinflammatory bacteria that contribute to energy harvesting. 

Not to mention, probiotic bacteria also get underfed. The good guys like good choices, like fruits and veggies. Bad guys enjoy fast food and ice cream. 

One meta-analysis of bacterial infection and weight gain noted,

“The association between the gut microbiota and obesity has also been observed in humans. In overweight/obese humans, low fecal bacterial diversity is associated with more marked overall adiposity and dyslipidemia, impaired glucose homeostasis and higher low-grade inflammation [1].”

Nutr Today

Even more fascinating, researchers noted that those who are obese tend to have 90% less Bacteroidetes active cultures in their gut than people with a healthy digestive system. Subsequently, those who were obese had an abundance of opportunistic bacterial species, Firmicutes

Heartburn 

Heartburn is the uncomfortable burning sensation you get when you have deep-fried Oreos at the fair or go HAM at the movies with candy rich in high-fructose corn syrup. It’s your entire digestive tract begging you for a little reprieve from these poor eating habits. 

Acid reflux happens when stomach acid begins to make its way back up the gastrointestinal tract, creeping up your esophagus. Chronic acid reflux can develop into gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). 

If you experience acid reflux symptoms more than a couple of times per week, you might also have an underlying condition. So, please speak to your physician or a GI doctor to figure out what’s going on. 

Food Allergies and Sensitivities 

If you notice yourself becoming susceptible to many allergen triggers, then you might have an unhealthy gut or “leaky gut.” Beneficial gut bacteria produce digestive enzymes that help us break down difficult carbohydrates, such as lactose and gluten. When we lack a balance of bacteria, we have fewer hands on deck to help break down these dietary fibers. 

Instead, they set off an immune response. Immune system cells spark inflammation to help control the threat of these indigestible food compounds. This inflammation continues until the perceived threat is gone.

Unfortunately, the Western Diet is laden with artificial sweeteners, high-sugar foods, and dairy products. These become too much for our gut ecosystem, perpetuating a vicious cycle of chronic inflammation. 

Yeast Infections

Bacterial infections aren’t the only microbes that get out of control when we have an unhealthy gut. Yeast infections are also extremely common. 

One study looked at the yeast and gut connection. In the study, antibiotics were applied to human cells to wipe out any gut flora [2]. 

Experts found that cells that had no bacterial activity were far more susceptible to a yeast infection. Furthermore, it took up to 40 days for the gut to restore itself post-antibiotics. 

In particular, Candida albicans took over. With over 47 million unnecessary antibiotics being written each year, no wonder why candidiasis is the number one fungal infection in the world.

Sugar Cravings 

Are you suddenly craving sweets when you didn’t use to? Perhaps you always did? No matter where you fall on this spectrum, sugar cravings are surefire signs of an unhealthy gut. 

Healthy bacteria like prebiotic-rich foods. These are fruits and veggies that are rich in complex carbohydrates and dietary fiber that are not digestible by our body and end up being food for our good bacteria. 

Bad bacteria crave artificial sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup, and other processed foods that cause inflammatory responses. That way, there’s less probiotic bacteria to fight them off, making it easier for a bacterial overgrowth to happen. 

Sugar cravings can also be a sign of a fungal or yeast infection. Candida albicans love sugar. So, if you have Candida overgrowth, stay away from sugar…including natural sugars found in fermented foods

Skin Problems 

As we peel back the onion layers that are an unhealthy gut, you’ll see a common theme in the form of inflammation. Inflammation is the biggest threat to human health because it’s the precursor to all diseases. It destroys healthy cells, including the ones that make our skin glowing and elastic!

The gut-skin-axis is deeply entrenched with one another because our gut bacteria rely on the skin to protect the microbiome from environmental factors that can disrupt the natural flow of things. In fact, our skin is teeming with bacteria that have potent antimicrobial properties [3]!

So, when bacteria on the outside are doing their jobs, they’re expecting the same from the good bacteria within the human gut. Unfortunately, it’s a war zone in there! 

One common condition associated with skin problems is Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). The SIBO-acne connection is strong because bad guys destroy healthy skin cells. When we have gut problems, it reflects as itchy, flaky, and reddish skin on the outside. 

If you develop patches of eczema or psoriasis out of nowhere, think about what you recently ate. Imagine classic movies when a person unknowingly eats shellfish. They get red and break out in hives. Trigger foods for food intolerance can cause skin flare-ups! 

Bad Breath 

It’s very common for people with poor gut health also to exhibit bad breath. One of the most common gut bugs associated with bad breath is Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). Studies have linked this particular bacterial species to halitosis [4]. 

As we mentioned earlier, specific bad bacteria produce a lot of methane. This methane will get trapped through your esophageal tract. That’s another reason why you may develop bad breath. It’s also why the most effective way to test for SIBO is a breath test! 

Sleep Problems and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Bacterial overgrowth disrupts things on a cellular level. So, your cells must start some physiological processes over again. Therefore, a microbial balance in the GI tract can throw off our circadian rhythm.

Cells require a 24-hour period to perform most of the processes necessary for healthy people to function [5]. This process is regulated by light absorbed through the pineal gland. 

The pineal gland uses sunlight to regulate our sleep-wake cycle. Therefore, cells follow the same schedule as we do. In fact, they’re working around us!

Sleep is pivotal for cellular functions to happen. That’s when hormone levels even out, the immune system regroups, and our body gets a dang rest. When the 24-hour cycle gets thrown off rhythm, so does your sleep cycle

That’s why we offer in-depth insights into your sleep hormone levels in the premium section of the Thryve Gut Health Program. Getting adequate sleep is the first step to reclaiming control of the microbial war in your gut. 

Hormonal imbalances caused by a lack of diversity in gut bugs inevitably disrupt more than just your sleep. It will alter your mood and focus, ultimately promoting Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Your days will be laden with brain fog and heavy eyes. 

Mental Health Issues 

Remember when we said that the gut is your second brain? There’s a reason for this correlation. The gut-brain-axis is regulated by the vagus nerve [6].

Our vagus nerve spans the entire digestive tract. So, it has a perfect sense if the normal gut flora balance has been disrupted. This discrepancy is relayed back to the central nervous system. In turn, we may experience various symptoms of mood disorders.

There is growing research that psychobiotics may help prevent mood disorders caused by a decline in healthy bacteria. A recent study looked at the connection between the gut microbiome and mood. They found that Bacteroides create large quantities of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) [7]. 

GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. This hormone helps calm the system, ultimately lowering stress levels. When we experience stress, our body produces a ton of stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline. With the use of probiotic supplements, you might be able to help with some symptoms of mood disorders and improve your sleep patterns. 

Autoimmune Conditions 

Our immune system and bacterial cells communicate. In fact, they go way back to our mom’s womb. They have each other’s backs (or guts…or cells…) so much that over 80% of our immune system cells reside within our gut microbiome.

This placement isn’t by mistake. Our gut is in close proximity to our small intestine. This organ is essential for nutrient absorption. 

However, it’s also the most abundant source of toxins. One of our immune system’s most important functions is to snuff out these pathogens before they can cause chronic illness. 

Sadly, our poor immune system is overworked. Inevitably, chronic inflammation can ignite the wrong chain of events on a cellular level. It can cause electrons to go rogue and cause a litany of autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis (MS), or scleroderma.

How to Improve Gut Health Naturally 

how to fix gut health naturally

Now that you know the signs of an unhealthy gut, it’s time to do something about it. Here are a few life hacks to improve your gut, immune, skin, and emotional health!

Change to Natural Cosmetics 

Lifestyle changes are essential for improving gut health. One of the first transformations to make is through your skincare routine. Most mass-produced cosmetic items are laden with estrogen mimickers, plastics, and other potentially harmful ingredients. Be sure to read our article about toxic beauty ingredients to make educated beauty decisions. 

Also, take your beauty into your own hands. Start making all-natural moisturizers with sweet almond oil. Mix some tea tree and lavender essential oils to coconut oil to make a DIY shampoo. Essential oils have strong antimicrobial effects that prop up your immune system and good bacteria!

Collagen-Rich Foods 

Your gut lining is porous to absorb nutrients from the small intestine. Chronic inflammation causes these gaps to widen. To heal your gut, you must repair the barrier that protects us from bacterial overgrowth!

Collagen-rich foods are an integral part of the process. Consider making a bone broth with free-range bones. The soup gets fortified with these peptides, which then helps plug up the holes in your gut. 

Add some Vitamin C-rich foods like broccoli and bell peppers to the stock. This vitamin improves collagen production and supports a healthy immune system.

Exercise and Healthy Diet 

Your physical health can’t improve if you don’t get physical yourself. Get out and exercise. Exercise not only burns fat, but it forces interactions in the gut microbiome. This shakeup will force microbes to become more diverse. 

All of this hard work is useless if you don’t follow a healthy diet. Remember, probiotics like prebiotic-rich foods. Stock up on onion, garlic, artichokes, dandelion root (inulin), and a small amounts of red wine (high in polyphenols) to feed your probiotic bacteria.

Vaginal Microbiome Test 

If you suffer from frequent urinary tract infections or yeast infections, consider getting a vaginal microbiome test. This at-home test kit has everything you need to safely and discreetly test the bacterial flora causing vaginal discomfort. 

You must remember, the vagina is in close quarters to other entrances to the body. It’s another area where potential bacterial overgrowth can happen. Knowing your bacteria can be helpful for those trying to conceive, as well as improving skin irritations and dryness. 

Microbiome Testing

Women and men alike will benefit from microbiome testing. The Thyrve Gut Health Test Kit has everything you need to easily procure a fecal sample from your toilet paper and mail it to our laboratory for analysis. Based on the results, we can determine which gut bacteria have caused some of these unfavorable symptoms. 

Then, we can let you know which foods that these bacteria prefer. That way, you can omit any potential food intolerance from your diet. 

We also let you know which prebiotic-rich foods that the good bacteria you are lacking enjoy. With this information, you can stock up on the right dietary fiber foods on your next grocery trip. 

That planning gets even easier with our database of recipes. Our team has compiled hundreds of delicious recipes to help get your health back on track!

Custom Probiotic Supplements 

Sometimes you need to inoculate the live cultures into your gut yourself. You can go to the grocery store and get a generic blend. However, you might be adding unnecessary bacteria to your gut. It’s the equivalent of adding gasoline to a fire.

After your microbiome test, the guesswork is done. We know which gut bacteria your system needs. So, we provide a custom probiotic recommendation. 

his subscription-based service ensures that you have the right blend of probiotics that matches your dietary recommendations and recipes. That way, your gut has a fighting chance to survive!

Thryve Probiotics Gut Health
https://thryveinside.com

Resources

[1] Davis C. D. (2016). The Gut Microbiome and Its Role in Obesity. Nutrition today51(4), 167–174. https://doi.org/10.1097/NT.0000000000000167.

[2] Sam, Qi Hui et al. “The Fungal Mycobiome and Its Interaction with Gut Bacteria in the Host.” International journal of molecular sciences vol. 18,2 330. 4 Feb. 2017, doi:10.3390/ijms18020330.

[3] Chen YE, Fischbach MA, Belkaid Y. Skin microbiota-host interactions [published correction appears in Nature. 2018 Mar 21;555(7697):543]. Nature. 2018;553(7689):427-436. doi:10.1038/nature25177.

[4] HajiFattahi F, Hesari M, Zojaji H, Sarlati F. Relationship of Halitosis with Gastric Helicobacter Pylori Infection. J Dent (Tehran). 2015;12(3):200-205.

[5] Reddy S, Reddy V, Sharma S. Physiology, Circadian Rhythm. [Updated 2020 Jul 10]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519507/.

[6] Breit, Sigrid, et al. “Vagus Nerve as Modulator of the Brain–Gut Axis in Psychiatric and Inflammatory Disorders.” Frontiers, Frontiers, 1 Feb. 2018, www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00044/full.

[7] Strandwitz, Philip, et al. “GABA-Modulating Bacteria of the Human Gut Microbiota.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 10 Dec. 2018, www.nature.com/articles/s41564-018-0307-3.