5 Symptoms Of An Unhealthy Gut That Will Surprise You


Some medical experts say that the gut is our “second brain.” That’s because our enteric nervous system is highly reliant on the same type of neurons and neurotransmitters that happen to be found in the central nervous system. And when working together, the gut and the brain play important roles when it comes to particular diseases as well as our overall mental health.

The gut is home to trillions of microorganisms, and in recent decades, both experts and the general public have taken a major interest in it. Most people believe that inferior gut health causes bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and constipation, and they’re not wrong. But they aren’t also the only things to watch out for.

The following five symptoms, which may just surprise you, may also indicate an unhealthy gut. Thankfully this article will also cover how to address them.


1. Unwanted or Unintentional Weight Gain


If you happen to be experiencing unwanted or unintentional weight gain, and it cannot be blamed on current lifestyle changes or a medical condition, the culprit could actually be your gut microbiome. A study published in the November 2020 journal, Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, gut bacteria has the ability to affect energy expenditure, as well as the number of calories a person extracts from their food.

In the study, researchers sequenced the gut microbiomes of more than 500 participants, finding that as the diversity of their gut microbiomes decreased, the participant’s Body Mass Index (BMI) increased. Meanwhile, another study published in the July 2020 Journal of Internal Medicine showed that the researchers were able to predict those who were living in obesity just by analyzing the composition of the participants’ gut microbiomes.

A review that was published in the Nutrients journal back in November 2020 shares that one potential explanation for these particular findings was that some gut bacteria are more efficient at breaking down food as compared to others. That means they allow people to absorb more calories from eating the same exact foods. Moreover, other research that appeared in the Frontiers in Immunology journal in October 2020 found that particular gut bacteria promote inflammation, which may also contribute to insulin resistance which indirectly affects one’s weight.

Researchers now share that the link between gut microbiome and weight is so well established that there has been newly recommended strategies that treat and prevent obesity actually directly target the gut microbiome. A review from March 2019 in Nutrients journal found that a handful of clinical trials has been in effect, examining the effects of various probiotic formulations on weight loss. The research is said to be quite promising, but it’s also too early to tell which specific probiotic supplements or protocols are doing the job. Experts share that in the meantime, it’s best to stick to a diet that’s high in plant fibers such as vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and fruits, which promote a healthy gut microbiome.


2. Extreme Sugar Cravings

Josie Field

Recent years have proven just how addictive sugar is, and extreme sugar cravings may be partially caused by a number of microorganisms within your gut. As explained by a review in the Bioessays journal, because our bodies are composed of a variety of organisms that compete for nutritional resources, some cravings could be an effect of evolutionary conflict between a person and their own microbiota gut microbes, which are manipulating their eating behaviors in order to benefit their survival.

If you notice that you have a stubborn sweet tooth, one way to discourage your sugar-obsessed gut microbes from calling the shots is to slowly but progressively decrease your intake of added sugars. This can be done by replacing sugar-sweetened drinks with water infused with citrus fruit or herbal teas. Or by making smarter eating choices, like replacing the usual candy bar for some dark chocolate and nuts. Another way is to change up your added sugars to some food and drinks like oatmeal, coffee, or tea by adding a naturally sweet flavoring agent like cinnamon. Be sure to read nutrition labels as well as this will help you make smarter food choices. You may just be surprised at how many added sugars there are in regular household items such as pasta sauce, ketchup, breads and nut butters. Slowly you will find over time that choosing to be more careful about your sugar intake will make a huge difference in your overall gut health.


3. Skin Ailments

Dr. HM Liews Clinic

Even if you’re not allergic to any food, there are some that tend to cause or exacerbate skin ailments or irritations, which could actually be caused partially by your gut bacteria as well.  Explained in a research paper published in the journal Microorganisms back in February 2021, foods that are higher in saturated fats and refined sugars tend to promote an unhealthy balance of gut bacteria. Considered to be a state of disbiosis, it’s associated with abnormal immune function, which then contributes to inflammatory skin conditions such as acne, eczema, dandruff, psoriasis, and rosacea.

The research also showed that for people suffering from inflammatory skin conditions, they usually have different gut bacteria as compared to those without these types of conditions. People with rosacea have been found to have a higher prevalence of gastrointestinal conditions as well, while an estimated 7 to 11 percent of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients usually have psoriasis, which proves the gut-skin connection.

For people dealing with skin health issues, by following the same anti-inflammatory dietary guidance is recommended to have the optimal gut microbiome health. A study in Gut journal published in April 2021 shares that people should eat a diet high in whole plant foods, while also incorporating omega-3 fatty acid sources, like fish, nuts, and certain plant oils, as well as eliminating or at least limiting their intake of animal-derived and processed foods.


4. Food Intolerances

Food Allergies Atlanta

When someone has a food allergy, it’s an immune response to particular foods they eat. When it’s a food intolerance, on the other hand, it’s more when someone has a hard time digesting a particular type of food or food component. Food allergies can cause itching or hives, swelling of the tongue or mouth, shortness of breath, and in severe cases, anaphylaxis.

When it’s a food intolerance, it doesn’t cause allergic reactions but rather, it can lead to gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal cramping, bloating, gas, and diarrhea. According to Mayo Clinic, unlike those with food allergies, individuals with food intolerances may still usually tolerate small quantities of the foods they are intolerant to. According to research published in the Nutrients journal, while they aren’t life threatening, they can still cause issues and are highly disruptive to the body.

There are a variety of reasons and  types of food intolerances that may possible develop, research suggests that a number of these food intolerances are due to changes within the gut microbiome, which are easily corrected through dietary adjustments. Research published in the July 2021 copy of Case Reports in Clinical Nutrition talked about a case where ‘fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) effectively treated a woman with food intolerances to dairy, gluten, eggs, and soy.’ The treatment altered the microbes’ ecosystem living in her gut, and she eventually felt significant improvements to her gastrointestinal symptoms and managed to reincorporate dairy and gluten back into her diet.

In order to identify food intolerances, most experts suggest keeping a food and symptom journal in order to pinpoint which food causes issues. Once you figure out the culprit, you will probably be told to eliminate that food from your diet for several weeks at first. If your symptoms finally lessen or disappear, you can attempt to reintroduce it in small quantities at first, then slowly increase the amount as you watch for your reactions. By following gradual reintroduction, it allows your gut bacteria to shift and adjust in a manner that makes the once intolerable food into something you can break down, which can potentially increase your tolerance to it. You may want to consider working with a registered dietician to best guide you through the entire process.


5. Issues with Moodiness, Depression, and Anxiety

She Knows

There are reasons why people tend to speak in the “vernacular” when it comes to associations between the gut and our emotions. Sayings like “butterflies in your stomach, “sick to your stomach” or “gut feeling” are all reasons why there is such a thing as gut-brain connection. In fact, a review in the Frontiers of Psychiatry from May 2018 shared that ‘gut microbes communicate with the nervous system, endocrine system, and immune system, influencing mood.’

For those diagnosed with anxiety and depression, they are believed to also have abnormal intestinal function, and a number of studies claim that prebiotic supplementation of specific probiotic strains can help improve symptoms. A metanalysis published in Frontiers in Neurology in May 2020 discovered that probiotic supplementation was linked with reduced symptoms of depression. But keep in mind that probiotic supplementation used to improves moods is more likely dependent on specific probiotic strains and formulation.

Aside from using particular probiotic supplementation as suggested by a health professional, by consuming a diet rich in whole, plant-based foods like that of the Mediterranean diet could possibly promote a better gut microbiome that’s conducive to optimal mental health. A review in the July 2020 copy of Advances in Nutritionshares that this type of dietary pattern will help promote gut microbial diversity and reduce gut inflammation, while also benefitting mental health. Moreover, adding higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids from particular fish or micro-algae can also have a positive effect on gut microbiome composition, which may also result in a lessened risk of depression.