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Did you know that the health of your gut affects more than just your digestion? It turns out that the gut is intimately connected to almost every system in the body, from your brain to your immune system. This is because the gut is where nutrients come from and where we eliminate toxins. When it’s working well, we’re able to extract all the goodness from our food and maintain good health. Without the ability to digest and absorb nutrients, your body lacks the building blocks for muscle, bone, enzymes, hormones, and every component of your body’s ecosystem.
Non-Digestive Signs You Have an Imbalanced Gut
You’re constantly tired or have low energy.
Do you wake up tired? Or find yourself dragging at times throughout the day? Maybe you find yourself debating if 7 pm is too early to go to bed.
When the gut isn’t healthy, it can prevent us from absorbing the right nutrients from our food – no matter how clean your diet is. This can leave us feeling exhausted and drained. If you’re constantly tired or have low energy, it’s a sign that something is wrong with your gut health.
You’re struggling with mood swings, anxiety and/or depression.
One minute you’re happy…the next you’re ready to bite someone’s head off for no obvious reason. Maybe you find yourself reacting more extremely to things than you think you should – but you can’t help it.
Your gut has a lot of influence over your mood. Researchers even call it the “second brain”! Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, mood swings, or an inability to handle stress – look to the gut! Many of your neurotransmitters are made in the gut. Toxins can also contribute to mood instability – so having proper detoxification pathways is vital to a healthy brain. And again, without the proper building blocks, you can’t make neurotransmitters, brain tissues, or the fuels your brain needs to operate!
You’re experiencing unexpected weight changes (gaining or losing).
You’ve made no changes to your diet or activity level, yet you’ve gained or lost weight. While losing weight may sound like a dream to some, losing too much weight (or losing lean tissue) can be very detrimental to health.
An imbalanced gut can cause weight loss, because we’re not absorbing the nutrients we need to maintain a healthy weight, or it can lead to weight gain, because of the way the gut microbes impact our hormones and metabolism.
You’re battling skin conditions.
Maybe you’re finding you have acne again in your 30s and beyond. Maybe you have patches of rough skin that you can’t exfoliate your way out of. Maybe your skin looks flushed, pale, or otherwise not your normal color.
Conditions like eczema and acne can be directly related to inflammation in the gut due to food sensitivities, poor diet, an imbalanced microbial population, and poor detoxification in the gut. The skin is also a secondary detoxification pathway, so if your primary pathways (liver/urinary/fecal) aren’t functioning properly, those toxins can be pushed out through the skin causing irritation and various skin conditions.
You have discovered new and worsening food sensitivities or intolerances.
Foods you used to love tear up your insides now. Or you find that you’re exhausted after eating them. Maybe you even start sneezing or coughing after consuming certain foods.
Food sensitivities, food intolerances, and food allergies can get worse over time and gut imbalances are a major contributor. You’ll often hear these terms used interchangeably, but they’re actually different conditions. It’s important to know if you have true allergies, sensitivities or intolerances. This can be determined via functional testing. Most conventional doctors will run allergy panels only – most often a skin prick test which is the least likely to show food-related issues.
You have hormone imbalances.
Ladies: Struggling with irregular or heavy cycles? Have extra high PMS or menopause symptoms? Have increased appetite and decreased satiety?
Gentlemen: Struggling with weight gain around the middle? Feel like you’re losing your strength, vigor, and zest for life?
The microbes in your gut have a lot to say about your reproductive hormones, your appetite hormones, and your blood sugar regulation hormones. There are specific microbes that are supposed to help metabolize hormones after we’re done with them – if you don’t have the proper type or amount of these microbes, hormones can recirculate longer than they should, leading to higher than normal levels, especially estrogen. These microbes are also responsible for signaling the body to produce and release certain hormones at the right times. Without this signaling, low levels of certain hormones may be present.
You struggle with sugar or carb cravings.
Every day sugar beckons you…calls you in to indulge in its sweetness. Maybe the cravings are related to stress or fatigue…but most of the time, it’s just because sugar is delicious and gives our brain a big dopamine hit. The same is true for bread, pasta, crackers, and other refined carbohydrates. They all break down to sugar… even though we can’t necessarily taste the sweetness.
The microbes in your digestive tract have cravings and preferred foods of their own. They can actually manipulate your cravings and your tastes! Some microbes are fiber-loving, some are fat-loving, and some are sugar-loving! One common cause of sugar and carb cravings is yeast overgrowth in the gut.
You have experienced sleep disturbances.
You toss and turn all night long, or you fall asleep, but then when you wake up partway through the night, you can’t go back to sleep. Or maybe you lay awake for hours on end trying to fall asleep.
Those microbes in your gut also affect your sleep and change your circadian rhythm. The microbes in the gut actually have a communication network directly to the brain – called the microbiota-gut-brain axis or the gut-brain connection. These microbes play a role in synthesizing your calming neurotransmitters and hormones which contribute to how prepared for sleep your body gets. Studies have also found that people with higher microbial diversity (more different types of microbes) displayed better and deeper sleep than those with less microbial diversity.
You have been diagnosed with at least one autoimmune condition or constantly have to fight off infections.
Researchers estimate that 70% of the immune system lives in the gut. The microbes in your gut help to fight off pathogens, produce new vitamins and send signals to activate certain portions of your immune system. If you have imbalances in your microbial profile or have chronic inflammation in the gut, this can make your immune system under or overactive.
Autoimmune conditions are on the rise, and researchers are starting to understand that poor gut health is a contributing factor. When our gut isn’t healthy, it can lead to an imbalance in our gut microbes. This, in turn, can trigger the immune system to start attacking our own cells – leading to autoimmune conditions like Crohn’s disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and multiple sclerosis.
Whew…there you have 9 major signs you have an imbalanced gut – that have nothing to do with digestive distress.
An imbalanced gut can lead to a wide variety of issues – from PMS symptoms to sugar cravings, and even autoimmune conditions. Luckily, there are many things you can do to help maintain a healthy gut. Whether you’re struggling with digestive or non-digestive signs of gut imbalance – this is the first place to start your healing journey. Digestion should always be the first healing priority!
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