Most people experience occasional digestive disturbances – but for some, these can be symptoms of an underlying health problem. Plus, gut health isn’t just about what’s going on in the toilet department or under your waistband – as gut health writer and nutritional therapist Jenna Farmer explains, a gut problem can have a wide impact and affect people physically and psychologically in numerous ways.
Jenna, who lives with Crohn’s disease – a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) which can result in a number of serious complications, particularly if left untreated – writes about gut health and living with IBD on her A Balanced Belly blog and is the author of Managing IBD: A Balanced Guide To Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
Concerned about your own gut health? Remember, these symptoms usually don’t mean anything serious is going on, plus food sensitivities and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be extremely common and may cause similar effects. The good news is, whatever the underlying cause, lots can be done to help, so it’s always best to get your symptoms checked with a doctor and find the advice that’s best for you.
Signs you may have a gut health problem
Here, Jenna shares nine – not always obvious – signs that something might be up with your gut…
1. Sudden allergies or intolerances
Although sudden allergies can have many causes, one of them can be your gut. Impaired digestion can lead your body to lack the enzymes it needs to break down foods in full (which is why many people have temporary lactose intolerance after a bout of food poisoning).
2. Skin breakouts
Our gut is closely connected to our skin. Many people with psoriasis and eczema also struggle with gut issues. Often, if our gut can’t do a proper job at eliminating waste, our skin (essentially another elimination route) takes the strain, and breakouts become more common.
Fatigue is a big sign something could be wrong with your gut. In fact, some studies show that those with chronic fatigue syndrome may have different gut bacteria to those who don’t. Other gut conditions, such as IBD, lead to fatigue due to malnutrition and nutritional deficiencies.
4. Mouth Ulcers
Our digestive tract begins in the mouth and mouth ulcers can be a sign of gut issues. Both coeliac disease and IBD can present as mouth ulcers. They can also be a sign of certain deficiencies – such as B12.
5. Irregular Periods
While there are many causes of irregular periods, your gut can certainly be one of them. Stress from IBS can cause periods to be irregular, and being low on certain vitamins and minerals can make them disappear altogether.
We all burp occasionally, but frequent burping can be a sign of low stomach acid or altered gut bacteria.
7. Food Cravings
It’s thought the bacteria on our gut can impact the food cravings we have. Individuals with candida may also constantly crave sugary food.
8. Brain Fog
Brain fog is defined as lacking focus, mental clarity or feeling confused often. What’s this got to do with our gut? Plenty! More research than ever is looking at our gut-brain connection and brain fog is common in coeliac disease, IBD and food intolerances. It’s not known exactly why this is the case, but hopefully research will reveal the answers soon.
Anxiety can be crippling and, of course, is always something you should seek medical advice for. However, a recent study found a clear connection between our microbiota and the genes in our body that regulate our emotions. Of course, it’s difficult to determine whether we’re anxious because of our gut issues, or whether it’s a symptom in itself.