A well-functioning gut is essential for overall physical wellbeing, ranging from joint & skin health to heart health and immune defence.
Optimum gut health can also help underpin good mental wellbeing and there are numerous studies exploring the link between the gut and the brain (gut-brain axis) – a complex interaction between the gut, gut bacteria, and the brain.
A poor functioning gut has been associated with many chronic health conditions, including low mood and anxiety, and gut-targeted protocols are gaining momentum and traction to successfully modulate good mental health.
What is good gut health?
From the beginning of the digestive system to the end, good gut health requires well-functioning:
Stomach – aids breakdown & sterilisation of foods
Liver & pancreas – essential for digestive enzyme supply, metabolism & absorption of fats
Small intestine – final site of the digestion & absorption of nutrients
Large intestine – where the most variety of the gut bacterial population resides & where stools are formed.
10 signs your gut is telling you it needs attention:
1. Bloating & pain: food that is not digested properly can sit in the digestive tract where unfriendly gut bacteria can encourage its fermentation and subsequently produce gas as a waste by-product.
2. Constipation/diarrhoea: both a too slow or too fast transit time can cause health complications and are a common sign that the gut is not working optimally. Reasons can range from the types of foods eaten to an unbalanced gut bacteria population (dysbiosis).
3. Wind/belching: this might be caused by insufficient stomach acid production (common, particularly as we age), or an unbalanced gut bacteria population producing trapped wind.
4. Reflux: many people take acid reflux tablets to counter the burn of reflux thinking they have too much stomach acid. Actually, the opposite can be true, and it is insufficient stomach acid that prevents the closing off of the valve of the stomach, promoting acid escaping back up the oesophagus (where the lining is thin and sensitive to acid) making it feel like there is too much acid.
5. Food sensitivities: the intestines have a specialised lining that allows the absorption of nutrients, whilst preventing toxins and other unwanted, larger substances from entering circulation. A breakdown of this lining can permit entry of such substances (including larger food particles), alerting your immune system which can promote unwanted sensitivities to foods.
6. Cravings/weight gain: a gut comprising of unwanted bacteria and yeasts can promote cravings for foods, particularly sugary and starchy foods.
7. Frequent bugs/infections: it is estimated that around 70-80% of the immune system resides in the gut, making it the first line of defence between us and the outside world. Frequent illnesses such as colds and tummy bugs can be a strong indicator that the gut is not working at its best. This is often exacerbated by the taking of medications such as NSAIDs (e.g. ibuprofen) & antibiotics – these can be detrimental to gut health and friendly bacteria populations.
8. Fatigue/low energy: we rely on our gut to extrapolate nutrients and energy from foods we eat. An under-functioning gut is compromised in its ability to do so, rendering less available energy for the body to use.
9. Migraines/headaches: there is a bidirectional relationship between the gut and central nervous system. An inflamed gut can cause the gut microbiome (bacteria) to send inflammatory signals to the brain & influence its blood vessel supply, which can ultimately result in migraines/headaches.
10. Joint pain: similarly, gut inflammation can also impact joints by inflammatory messengers leaving the gut, entering the bloodstream, and translocating to joints, which are very susceptible to inflammation. Unexplained joint pain can often be linked to poor gut health.
I frequently recommend stool testing to clients which can help reveal the root causes of many chronic symptoms.
Stool testing is a highly specialised diagnostic tool that provides useful clinically actionable and personalised data about how well a person’s gut is functioning. From there, personalised strategies can be implemented which can make a profoundly positive impact on overall health and wellbeing.
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