Stomach aches are no fun to experience, but in addition to feeling uncomfortable and making you stress about what you eat, they can also impact your wellbeing in ways you may not have imagined. There are a number of surprising ways digestive issues can affect the rest of your health, from your mood and even to your skin. Your body is more intertwined than your realize, and if it's not breaking down your food correctly, it's going to have an effect on other aspects of your mental and physical health.
"Digestion is one of the most important physiological functions of the body," gastroenterologist Ashkan Farhadi, MD, tells Bustle. "As a prerequisite of absorption, digestion prepares the food to be transported across the body boundaries in our gut. Without digestion, our body cannot access nutrients that we consume and we will be starved."
As more research comes out, we are starting to learn how digestion affects more than just your gastrointestinal health. Your gut serves as a communication center for the brain, which is why it can affect other important health functions such as mental health. If you're suffering from digestive problems, it can have body-wide effects. Here are six surprising ways digestive issues can affect other parts of your health, according to experts.
1. It Can Ruin Your Mood
"The problem with food digestion is that it does not stay isolated as gastrointestinal symptoms," Dr. Farhadi says. "The lack of proper digestion can not only result in irritability, lack of energy and weakness, it may also affect our mood and overall sense of happiness." In fact, research out of the journal Annals of Gastroenterology has found a link between gastrointestinal disease and psychological disorders such as anxiety and depression.
2. It Can Affect Your Skin
Skin troubles? Your digestion may be to blame. "Your gut is the gateway to many other organ systems, including your face," Monica Auslander Moreno, MS, RD, LD/N, nutrition consultant for RSP Nutrition, tells Bustle. "Inflammation from high-glycemic foods, and even dairy in susceptible folks, can cause an increase in acne." For those with food sensitivities or intolerances, such as Celiac's, it is even possible to get skin lesions, according to Dr. Farhadi.
3. It Can Ruin Your Self-Confidence
Because digestive issues can make you physically and mentally uncomfortable, they can affect how good you feel about yourself. "In a study that was published recently [in the journal Neurogastroenterology & Motility], it has been shown that GI symptoms are closely related to our sense of trust, confidence, sense of financial securities, feeling loved, and sense of independence," Dr. Farhadi says.
4. It Can Cause Joint Issues
"People with undiagnosed/untreated autoimmune diseases like Celiac's, lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis can be consuming foods that leak through the tight junctions of the intestine and contribute to systemic inflammation, which sometimes manifests as joint pain," Auslander says. "If you suspect your joint pain may be because of an undiagnosed autoimmune disease, consult your physician for adequate testing and then a dietitian to create a diet protocol to mitigate inflammation."
5. It Can Create Aversions To Certain Food
When you have issues digesting food properly, it makes you afraid to eat certain foods, which could have long-lasting effects. "Some people's bloating is so severe that they begin to avoid many foods altogether that they perceive to be bloat triggers (mostly unnecessarily)," Auslander says. "This can result in unintentional weight and muscle loss, nutrient deficiencies, and disordered eating."
6. It Can Weaken Your Immune System
Having a proper balance of gut bacteria in your body affects your digestion, and when that balance is off, it can also weaken your immune system, according to WebMD. Your gut bacteria affects your body's metabolism, and when you have too little or too much of certain bacteria, it can put you at risk for different types of diseases.
It may seem like digestive issues would only impact your stomach, but problems with your gut can affect everything from your mood to how likely you are to get sick. So if you are experiencing digestive issues, see your doctor, who can help you feel more like yourself.