7 Signs of an Unhealthy Gut & Its Negative Impact on Weight Loss

An unhealthy gut can mean something different for many individuals. Due to your genetics, your gut can have specific symptoms that others may not experience or you may have sensitivities to certain foods that others don’t.

An “unhealthy gut” is just a term that grabs your attention, but as a dietitian, I want to focus on how this can impact your overall health and maybe explain why you’re having trouble losing weight. As I always say, gut health is COMPLEX and if your gut health is off, there is probably some room for improvement in your diet and lifestyle.

One of the biggest misconceptions is that ANY bacteria in the gut is bad, but that’s just not the case.

There are over 620 species of bacteria in the gut that are responsible for a wide variety of functions in the body, but most importantly, the bacteria in your gut is a balance of the good and the “bad.”

If you’ve been on a weight loss journey and are finding it more challenging than you expected, your gut health might be the missing piece of the puzzle. Your gut plays a crucial role in your overall well-being and can significantly impact your ability to shed those extra pounds.

Let’s dive into the signs that your gut might be in need of some TLC and explore effective ways to improve your gut health.

7 Signs of an Unhealthy Gut

1. Digestive Discomfort

Do you often experience bloating, gas, constipation, or diarrhea?

These digestive woes could be a sign of an unhealthy gut. Research suggests that an imbalance in gut bacteria can lead to various digestive issues, making it harder for your body to absorb nutrients properly.

2. Persistent Fatigue

Feeling tired all the time, despite getting enough sleep?

A distressed gut can affect your energy levels. Studies have shown that the gut and brain are closely connected, and an unhealthy gut can contribute to chronic fatigue and mood disturbances.

3. Stubborn Weight

Struggling to lose weight even after sticking to your diet and exercise routine?

An imbalanced gut microbiome might be to blame. Research has highlighted the link between gut health and metabolism, suggesting that an unhealthy gut can hinder your body’s ability to burn calories efficiently.

4. Sugar Cravings

Constantly craving sugary foods?

Studies have indicated that an imbalanced gut microbiota can influence your cravings and food choices. A healthy gut promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria, which can help reduce those sweet cravings.

5. Skin Issues

Acne, eczema, or other skin problems could be a reflection of your gut health.

Research has demonstrated the connection between gut inflammation and skin conditions, emphasizing the importance of a balanced gut for clear and healthy skin. Some individuals have sensitivities to gluten and/or dairy, which could contribute to skin health.

6. Weakened Immune System

If you find yourself falling sick frequently, your gut health might be compromising your immune system.

A significant portion of your immune cells reside in the gut, and research suggests that a diverse and balanced gut microbiota is essential for a robust immune response.

7. Mood Swings and Anxiety

Your gut is often referred to as your “second brain” due to the gut-brain axis, a communication network between the gut and brain

Emerging research has linked gut health to mood disorders and anxiety. An unhealthy gut can disrupt this communication, leading to mood swings and increased anxiety levels.

Improving Your Gut Health

Now that we’ve identified the signs of an unhealthy gut, let’s explore some natural ways to improve your gut health and enhance your weight loss journey:

1. Eat Fiber-Rich Foods

Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes in your diet. Fiber promotes a healthy gut environment and supports the growth of beneficial bacteria.

If you are struggling to increase your fiber intake, start off slowly and make sure to drink plenty of water when you eat more fiber!

2. Incorporate Fermented Foods

Yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi are excellent sources of probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that promote gut health.

These foods have the ability to reduce overall inflammation in the gut, which is pretty amazing when you think about it! Food really is our medicine!

3. Stay Hydrated

Did you know water plays a key role in digestion?

Drinking an adequate amount of water is crucial for maintaining a healthy gut lining and supporting digestion. Water is essential to breaking down nutrients in the body so if you’re not drinking enough water and are experiencing symptoms of an unhealthy gut, slowly increase your daily water intake!

4. Manage Stress

In my opinion, stress is one of the MOST COMMON reasons for an unhealthy gut. Chronic stress can negatively impact your gut health. With all of my experience working with clients, stress is most often the reason my clients experience flare-ups in their symptoms.

It’s important to practice relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises daily to help relieve stress.

5. Consume Probiotics & Prebiotics

If you struggle to incorporate probiotic-rich foods into your diet, consider high-quality probiotic supplements after consulting with a healthcare professional.

Prebiotics are carbs that are non-digestible and cause the body to respond by multiplying good bacteria in the gut. Prebiotics include onions, whole grains, asparagus, bananas, chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke, and garlic just to name a few.

6. Limit Processed Foods

Processed foods high in sugar, unhealthy fats, and additives can harm your gut microbiota. Processed foods can cause more bloating, cramping, nausea, and even diarrhea due to the high fat consumption.

Be mindful of how much processed foods you consume and opt for whole, unprocessed foods as the majority of your diet.

7. Prioritize Sleep

I know, easier said than done, but try to aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night.

Sleep plays a vital role in gut health and overall well-being. Insufficient sleep over long periods of time can cause many different diseases over time due to the body being in a state of constant stress.

Your body, although asleep, has the ability to recover throughout the night. In the day and age where we’re all on our phones at night, aim to be off your phone one hour prior to bedtime.

Remember, improving your gut health is not an overnight process. Be patient with your body as you make these positive changes, and you’ll likely notice improvements not only in your gut health but also in your weight loss journey.

Here’s to a healthier gut, a happier you, and successful weight loss! If you have any questions or want to share your gut health tips, feel free to drop a comment below. Happy gut, happy life!

References

  1. https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/16/4/7493
  2. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00071660802538632
  3. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325293#prebiotic-fiber
  4. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/13/2/699
  5. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/19490976.2022.2096995
  6. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272735820301318
  7. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/1743-7075-7-79

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