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How to Identify Poor Gut Health, and How to Fix it

Recent studies have indicated that the gut contributes to our health and well-being in more ways than we ever thought possible. If you are experiencing a decrease in mood, nutrient deficiencies, bloating, and irregular bathroom habits, you may be suffering from poor gut health.

Stress

The most important thing to recognize is the gut is a stress-depleting system. This means that when we are stressed, the gut suffers! This can result in a variety of symptoms such as gas, bloating, and acid reflux.

Probiotics can help support your gut during times of high-stress. If you know there will be a turbulent period ahead, consider taking a probiotic supplement. On top of probiotics, managing stress levels should also be a priority.

Bloating

Feeling bloated is uncomfortable, and can impact appetite. There are multiple reasons why a person feels bloated: drinking liquids very quickly and drinking carbonated beverages. If this applies to you, decrease your intake of these beverages and slow down!

Certain foods can also cause bloating. Although vegetables are important for good health, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbages, etc.) can cause bloating. To decrease the risk of this happening, eat these vegetables cooked whenever possible.

Legumes and pulses classically contribute to bloating. Consider removing them from your diet, or decreasing portion sizes. There are over-the-counter products that can reduce the gas produced after eating beans.

Food Intolerances

Eating foods that do not agree with your system can also lead to bloating, gas, and discomfort. The most common food culprit which causes this is lactose! Other typical culprits can include gluten and FODMAPs.

The best way to tell if these foods are hurting your gut is to remove them from your diet. After eliminating lactose, you can expect to see an improvement in your symptoms within ten days. Other foods like gluten and FODMAP need more time to assess. You will need to eliminate these foods for at least 4 weeks before you have a conclusive result.

Backed Up

Bathroom habits are an indicator of how well your gut is functioning. If you are feeling backed up you may be lacking fiber in the diet. A teaspoon of ground flax seeds, or blueberries every day, can promote regular bowel movements.

Hydration is also critical to keep things moving along smoothly. Consider increasing your water and fluid intake to help resolve symptoms of constipation. Physical activity will also promote regular bathroom habits. Be sure to include daily activity in your routine, even ten minutes can make a difference.

Nutrient Deficiencies

If you are running to the toilet often (more than 3 times per day), you may be at risk of nutrient deficiencies. This is because the food from the diet has not spent enough time in the digestive tract for nutrients to have been properly absorbed.

Common nutrient deficiencies observed in a poorly functioning gut can include iron, which is a very difficult mineral to absorb. Magnesium and Vitamin D are two other common nutrients that can be low in people with poor gut health. This can result in decreased energy levels, decreased immune function, and decreased mood.

To ensure your body is getting adequate nutrition, you may want to consider starting a supplement. This will act as vitamin-insurance, and will give your body an extra opportunity to absorb these essential nutrients.

Make sure you are also drinking adequate fluid throughout the day. Dehydration is very common in people who suffer from excessive bowel movements. This will impact your level of energy, can cause headaches, and will strain your gut. If you forget to drink water during the day, try to keep a filled water bottle close by!

Final Notes

Symptoms of an unhappy gut should not be taken lightly. Too often people live with uncomfortable symptoms which negatively impact health and quality of life. To improve gut health, start by assessing your symptoms. Different symptoms will need different solutions. It is important to make the appropriate dietary and lifestyle changes, but do not discount the importance of also managing stress levels. Probiotics can help in tough times, but they should not be the only solution.

Image credit: Ava Sol on Unsplash and Davies Design Studio on Unsplash

Julia Zakrzewski

Julia Zakrzewski is a Registered Dietitian and a lifelong foodie. Her passions include eating great food, debunking nutrition myths, and educating people on how they can improve their health! Her specific interests include diabetes and cardiovascular health. In her spare time Julia teaches yoga, and walks her miniature schnauzer.

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