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Got Gut Health? 5 Symptoms of an Unhealthy Gut

Written By: Bonny Southworth

Bonny Southworth is a highly skilled writer with a Master's degree in English and over 10 years of experience in the field. With a passion for health and fitness, science and technology, and food and beverages, she has honed her writing skills to deliver high-quality content that engages, informs, and inspires readers.

Expert Reviewed By: Emily Sullivan, RD

Emily Sullivan, RD is a food data curator at MyFitnessPal. She earned her bachelor's degree and completed her dietetic internship at The Ohio State University, and obtained her culinary arts degree from Johnson and Wales University. Her experience extends from nutrition research, oncology nutrition, culinary nutrition education and recipe development.

5 Poor Gut Health Symptoms You Should Look Out For | MyFitnessPal

Key Takeaways

  • Your gut microbiome is a complex ecosystem containing trillions of microorganisms, mainly bacteria. 
  • Diet is a large contributor to gut health. Eating added sugar and processed foods in excess may cause imbalances.
  • An imbalanced gut may lead to various digestive issues and could impact overall health.
  • Awareness of potential bad gut health symptoms is vital in taking proactive steps towards better gut health.
  • Adopting a more colorful diet, reducing stress levels, and incorporating probiotics is believed to help improve gut health.
  • Gut health research is still limited. More is needed to draw direct causations between gut health and overall health. 
In This Article

Understanding the root cause of gut problems is vital. The modern lifestyle, with its high stress, low movement, and a diet high in processed food, is often to blame. However, diet plays a big role in gut health. Refined sugars, artificial sweeteners, and highly processed foods are like may negatively impact good bacteria in your gut and encourage the growth of harmful bacteria.

The good news is that you can likely improve your gut health with some conscious effort. It all starts with awareness and then making small, consistent changes.

Fun Fact: Our FREE Small Steps Plan helps you develop better nutrition habits, one (small) step at a time. Learn more

5 Symptoms of Bad Gut Health

It’s a mysterious world, your gut. It contains about 100 trillion microorganisms, mainly in the form of bacteria, that may significantly contribute to your overall health and happiness.

But how do you know when something’s off in your gut? What symptoms should you be on the lookout for?

Let’s explore five bad gut health symptoms to be aware of. From insomnia to food intolerances, understanding the signs of a troubled gut is the first step in steering your health back on track.

1. Insomnia or constant fatigue

When your sleep schedule is thrown off by late nights or stress, it’s not just your energy levels that can suffer. This disruption can potentially lead to an imbalance in your gut bacteria, a condition known as microbial dysbiosis. 

This imbalance can affect more than your digestive health; it can influence your overall well-being and circadian rhythm—that 24-hour cycle that influences your sleep patterns. 

In this way, sleep and gut health are a two-way street. If you don’t get enough sleep, your gut health may be negatively impacted. And if you have poor gut health, you may have a hard time getting a good night’s rest. 

That’s why a disrupted sleep cycle—often resulting in feelings of insomnia or constant fatigue—may be an indicator of poor gut health.

2. Weight fluctuations and stomach issues

An imbalance of gut bacteria can hinder the absorption of nutrients and potentially lead to weight loss or gain. And stomach issues like chronic bloating, acid reflux, and gas may hint to an unhappy digestive system and be a warning signal that something is amiss.

Additionally, gastrointestinal disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease can often be related to gut health. Bad bacteria in the intestines can cause inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, leading to abdominal pain and discomfort. 

3. Skin conditions

Experts have linked conditions like skin allergies, eczema, acne, and psoriasis to intestinal issues. When your gut lining becomes permeable, it is thought that toxins might escape and travel throughout your body, promoting inflammation that can manifest on your skin. That’s why it might be worth looking to your gut as a source of the issue when treating skin conditions. Based on this study, a healthy gut could potentially lead to healthier skin.

4. Intolerance to some types of foods

If you experience allergic reactions to specific foods—such as swelling, rashes, or difficulty breathing— this could be related to your gut health. A compromised gut can lead to “leaky gut syndrome,” which may make you more susceptible to food allergies and intolerances. 

5. Extreme sugar cravings

Cravings that seem to control you could very well be controlling your gut bacteria instead, suggest some studies. 

For example, one study done on mice found a link between sugar intake and gut bacteria. This leads to questions on the relationship between human gut microbiota and sugar cravings. 

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Ways to Improve Your Gut Health

Now that you’re more aware of the symptoms of bad gut health, you’re probably wondering how to improve your gut health. Here are a few strategies to consider:

  • Stay hydrated: Water aids in the digestion of food and absorption of nutrients. Proper hydration is essential for a healthy gut. 
  • Learn how to eat for your gut. Think: a diet rich in whole, colorful, fiber-filled foods. MyFitnessPal’s newest Gut Health Plan provides the do’s (and don’ts!) when it comes to regulating your digestive system and feeding the good bacteria in your gut.
  • Manage stress: Chronic stress can damage gut bacteria. Practices such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, and yoga can help reduce stress, which in turn may improve gut health.
  • Proper antibiotic use: While sometimes necessary, overuse or misuse of antibiotics can disrupt the balance of your microbiome gut bacteria. Always consult with a healthcare professional before taking antibiotics.
  • Consider probiotic food sources: Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health, especially your digestive system. They exist in supplements and some foods, like yogurt and fermented foods. It’s important to note that getting probiotics from foods is more beneficial than from supplements.

You can help improve your overall well-being by being mindful of your digestive health and taking steps to improve your gut. Oh, and MyFitnessPal’s free 7-day Gut Health Nutrition Plan can help too!

About the Authors

Meet the people behind the post

Written By: Bonny Southworth

Bonny Southworth is a highly skilled writer with a Master's degree in English and over 10 years of experience in the field. With a passion for health and fitness, science and technology, and food and beverages, she has honed her writing skills to deliver high-quality content that engages, informs, and inspires readers.

Expert Reviewed By: Emily Sullivan, RD

Emily Sullivan, RD is a food data curator at MyFitnessPal. She earned her bachelor's degree and completed her dietetic internship at The Ohio State University, and obtained her culinary arts degree from Johnson and Wales University. Her experience extends from nutrition research, oncology nutrition, culinary nutrition education and recipe development.

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