By now, I’m sure you know just how important gut health is…I mean, truly, almost everything starts in the gut. You have more bacteria in your gastrointestinal system than you have cells in your body, 80% of your immune system is housed there, and the majority of neurotransmitters are produced there. So, it makes sense that your gut really does control the overall health of your body. While there are more signs/symptoms to look out for, here are five that I commonly see in my practice.
Kind of a given but…you’d be surprised at just how many of my clients think their issues are normal. “Oh, it’s not good to only poop 3x a week?” No, it’s not. “Wait, my poop isn’t supposed to have little pieces of food in it, or float?No, it really isn’t. Poop is the gateway to your health (keep laughing but I’m serious), because it can tell you so much. From the frequency, to consistency, to color, you can learn quite a bit.
So what should you be looking for in terms of optimal poops? First, go check out the bristol stool chart here to see where you fall. Then, I tell my clients that you should be having a bowel movement 1-3x a day, it should more often than not sink, and you should not see any food in there. If your poops aren’t sounding or looking so ideal based on that chart…then it may be time to do some investigative work.
Another obvious one but, again, many people push these symptoms under the rug assuming they’re ‘normal.’ Bloating and gas are two common ones I see with my clients. Now, I’m not talking the occasional issue after a big meal, or after poor food choices, but daily issues, no matter what you eat. That’s not normal. Same thing with chronic heartburn or any type of stomach pain. Those are all sure-fire signs that you’ve got some work to do on your gut.
This one is near and dear to my heart. Why? Because I’m dealing with it myself (thank you SIBO). Hormone issues are so common to see when there are digestive issues, and many times, yes you’ll also notice symptoms of digestive issues too. But, not for all. See, your gut regulates estrogen as one example. If you’ve got too much ‘bad’ bacteria, that can just release estrogen back into the body, when it should be excreted.
For my science nerds, there’s a fancy word called glucuronidation. It’s one of the major detox pathways that helps our body eliminate excess hormones. An enzyme called beta glucuronidase can actually block this detoxification process, which then causes your hormones to get put back into circulation (again, it’s an imbalance of gut bacteria that does this). So when your gut is happy and working well, hormones stay in balance.
I can’t tell you how many people seem to think that skin issues are, well, skin issues. They aren’t. Things like acne, psoriasis, and eczema are all signs that something is amiss in the gut. Don’t believe me? Approximately 14% of patients with ulcerative colitis and 24% of patients with Crohn’s disease have skin issues. Those with SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) are 10x more likely to have rosacea. And we now know that those dealing with chronic issues like psoriasis and eczema show an imbalance of bacteria in their gut, and once it’s brought back to balance…the skin issues disappear. So while you may be tempted to find some topical solution, it’s likely going to be short lived since it isn’t addressing the real problem.
If you follow anything my biz bestie and I do (my other half Denise Loutfi is a functional health coach and we run group programs for women dealing with anxiety and/or depression), you’d know that we touch on this A LOT. Why? Because approximately 90% of the bodies serotonin and 50% of its dopamine is produced in, you guessed it, the gut. While other factors are absolutely relevant with these two, many times we also discover gut issues. If you’re dealing with either one of these, I highly recommend digging a bit deeper into the gut to see if you can find some relief.
My functional medicine training taught me that if there is any autoimmune activation in the body, then there is absolutely intestinal permeability (aka leaky gut). They just go hand-in-hand. My husband is the prime example of this. When he was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, we immediately altered his diet (AIP protocol), and his functional MD had him work on his gut health. A year later, he still had some healing to do, but for the most part he was in remission.
Plenty of research is available now in relation to autoimmune diseases and gut health. Those with Hashimoto’s often find they have an overgrowth of blastocystis hominis. Fibromyalgia clients have an increased rate of SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). And then other autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis are heavily linked to an alteration of gut bacteria.
What the heck do I do?
By now you’re probably wondering…well then what the heck do I do to improve my gut? Well, it depends. But there are several things you can do right now to make strides overall:
Adopt an anti-inflammatory diet. Eat things in their whole, natural form as much as possible, and avoid ‘factory foods.’ Basically if you can hunt it, fish it, forage it, or grow it…eat it.
Increase your fiber intake. We are a society that is chronically low, and in general you want to be somewhere between 25-35g a day. Eat those chia seeds or start adding psyllium husk to your water.
Check those beauty and cleaning products. Many people don’t realize just how perfumes and other toxins can impact their gut health. If you aren’t sure where to start, check out ewg.org.
Prioritize self care and sleep. You need to spend at least 10 minutes a day doing something that relaxes you, and that you enjoy (no, TV doesn’t count). Additionally, sleep is critical for maintaining gut health, so aim to get between 7-9hrs nightly, in a dark room with no WiFi.
Cut back on sugar! I’m not saying you need to fully give it up, but sugar alone can create an imbalance of gut bacteria. If you aren’t sure how to start this grueling task, I’ve got a free guide with my biz bestie called the 4-Step System to Eat Less Refined Sugar that you can grab by clicking HERE.