Experts say that roughly 70 percent of our immune system lies in our gut, which means that if our stomach is feeling bloated and uneasy, we won't be doing so hot ourselves, either. Yet, by eating a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods and checking in with our guts when we feel something is off, we'll be better able to target what the problem is and take the necessary steps to start feeling back to normal.
As a certified health coach, I work with people on restoring healthy bacteria in their digestive systems through the power of probiotic and prebiotic foods and beverages, as well as understanding how stomach complications can arise due to changes in hormones, stress levels, eating and lifestyle habits. If something feels off in their bellies or they are experiencing any abdominal or bowel discomfort, that's a clear warning sign. However, poor gut can be less obvious to pinpoint at times, and that's why it's important to get back to a gut friendly lifestyle at the first signs of imbalance.
Here are eleven signs that your gut might be inflamed and what to do about it to get back on track. Once the gut is fixed, you'll be back to feeling energized, happier and more like yourself!
1. Chronic Lethargy
"On-going lethargy could be an indicator that all is not well in your belly due to a potential inability to absorb everything properly," advises running coach and personal trainer Susie Lemmer, over email correspondence with Bustle. When your gut is "leaky" or not absorbing nutrients properly, it can make you fatigued. If you seem abnormally tired, despite adequate sleep and healthy, energizing food, it might be due to poor gut health.
2. Look In The Mirror
Unexplained acne can result from an inflamed gut. "Look for an abnormal proliferation of pimples in the T zone of your face," says Lemmer. "Sometimes that area of your face can tell you that your gut isn't happy," she adds. If you notice breakouts without a change in diet, lifestyle, or cleaning products, your gut could definitely be the culprit. Wash your face nightly and eliminate sugar, as that will only make acne worse.
3. Uncomfortable Bowel Movements
Symptoms of IBS, Crohn's and other autoimmune diseases that result in abdominal pain and digestive discomfort can often be due to a weakened and inflamed gut, advises certified holistic health coach and personal trainer Jen Bruno with J.B. Fitness and Nutrition, over email with Bustle. See a doctor for a diagnosis and ask advice for getting rid of some of potential food triggers. "Allergies — eggs, dairy, processed food, and gluten are some of the top gut flora disruptors (they kill the good flora and can add bad bacteria)," says healthy lifestyle coach Liz Traines, over email with Bustle. "Try an elimination diet by removing processed foods/artificial additives and preservatives," advices Bruno.
4. Joint Pain
If your muscles feel sore, you might be experiencing tummy troubles, advices Bruno. Studies show that sore joints can result a from leaky gut, as the inflammation in the gut can translate over into other areas in the body. Inflammation is hard to get rid of, but a warm bath, massage, and a low-intensity exercise followed by a foam rolling session could help.
5. Irritable Mood
An inflamed gut can affect our emotions, causing us to feel irritated, depressed and inconsistent with our temperaments, suggests Bruno. If you are feeling depressed or abnormally agitated, it could be due to poor gut health. Think of something positive or grab a glass of water to start thinking more clearly and refresh yourself. You can also eat foods with high serotonin content, such as salmon almonds, to boost your mood.
6. Bloat In The Belly
If you belly literally feels inflamed on the outside, then it probably is in the inside, as well. "If you are bloated, have gas, or experience constipation or diarrhea, you have gut dysbiosis," says inner vitality health coach Karen Grosz over email with Bustle. The best way to decrease inflammation is to eat gut-promoting foods and drinks, such as Greek yogurt, kombucha, chia seeds, walnuts, coconut oil, mushrooms and kimchi, all of which contain probiotic and prebiotic properties, to help slim you down.
7. Water Retention
If you notice your body holding on to water more, you might have a weakened gut. Inflammation and poor gut bacteria can cause the body to slow down its metabolism and hold on to excess water weight. "Increase filtered water intake," suggests Bruno, as drinking more and staying hydrated throughout the day will help the body flush itself free of toxins and get back to neutral.
If you have an inflamed gut, you may experience abnormal bowel movements, such as diarrhea and constipation. Constipation in particular can be incredibly debilitating and lead to even more bloat and potential weight gain that can be associated with inflammation in the gut. "Add fibers such as sweet potato and yam," suggests Bruno. You can also add "fermented foods such as kefir and sauerkraut, and a high-quality probiotic," recommends Bruno. Probiotics will keep digestion regular.
9. Thyroid Problems
An inflamed gut can affect your hormones and cause other organs to stop functioning as best as they should. A poor gut can alter production of thyroid hormone and result in Hashimoto's or hypothyroidism. Bruno suggests being mindful of symptoms of a thyroid condition. You can also see if you experience a goiter in your neck, which can signify a thyroid complication. Check with your doctor to figure out the next steps.
10. High Sugar Intake
Bacteria in our guts feed off of sugar, so if you know that you consume a lot of sugar in your diet, you could definitely be irritating your gut lining and producing bad bacterial strains within your gut that will cause inflammation and discomfort. "It is important to cut the junk food and sugar from your diet for your first step to correcting the problem," says Grosz. Limit processed foods in favor of whole foods, and steer clear of added sugars. Reducing fruit intake, while it's natural, can be beneficial too, as well as food combining rules indicating the process of eating sugar by itself for optimal digestion.
11. Asthma Problems
If you experience trouble breathing or exacerbated asthma symptoms, it may be due to a leaky gut. Experts suggest that food sensitives can contribute to asthma, and it's best to go through an elimination diet to target these triggers in order to reduce discomfort. It's also smart to make sure intake of key nutrients is high, such as zinc, vitamin C and fish oils to pair with the reduction of food allergens.
If you notice something off, go with you gut, and heal it. Trusting and listening to your body is the best way to check in with yourself and see if you may be experiencing poor gut health that can contribute to an overall weakened state of wellbeing. Once you realize there's a problem, correct your gut with these remedies and make an appointment with a physician to help target your symptoms.
Images: Pixabay (2); Pexels (10); Isla Murray/Bustle