Bloating, excessive gas, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal discomfort, heartburn, indigestion… These are common gut health complaints that my clients come to me with. A LOT of people struggle with one or two of these (or more) and think it’s not a big deal. “Eh, I’ll just take an antacid and be about my way.”
Listen… Just because something’s common, doesn’t mean it’s normal! Sure you can take an over-the-counter something and get some relief, but if these symptoms are occurring chronically- something is off! Investigating and trying to heal the root cause is always better than just covering up your symptoms. The symptoms mean there’s an issue needing help!
Digestive symptoms like the ones I listed above can absolutely be indicative of a gut imbalance. However, your gut health affects so much more than your digestion and digestive symptoms. Your gut affects your whole body!
Here’s how “common” symptoms may be instigated by poor gut health:
1. Mood Imbalances + anxiety
Your gut is called “the second brain” for a reason. Did you know you have a nervous system in your gut lining called the Enteric Nervous System (ENS)? The ENS is called your “second brain” because it has continuous two-way communication with your central nervous system (your brain and spinal cord). You know that feeling of anxiety or dread and how it can make your stomach hurt? The ENS is responsible for this!
Have you heard of the feel-good neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine? This may surprise you, but more than 90% of the body’s serotonin actually lies in the gut! While 50% of your dopamine lies in your gut. If our gut is out of whack, it can absolutely negatively impact our mood and brain health because of how it affects neurotransmitter synthesis.
If you’re experiencing imbalanced moods or have been diagnosed with anxiety or depression, it might be worth looking into supporting your gut health more.
Acne can be caused by different things, but dysbiosis (imbalanced gut flora) is one of them! If you have too many bad bacteria and not enough good bacteria, this can affect the health of your skin. Acne can be caused by other things as well such as stress or hormonal imbalance issues. If you’ve been suffering from acne for a while and the creams or elimination diets haven’t been working, it could be beneficial for you to work with a functional nutritionist. A functional nutritionist can help you find the root cause of your acne so that you know which health foundations need the most support.
I struggled with adult acne for so many years. I tried going to dermatologists and just found their prescribed products to be too drying for my sensitive skin. I eliminated dairy which did give me positive results, but I still would occasionally get a breakout. When I finally underwent functional gut testing to test my gut microbiome, the test showed major dysbiosis in my gut! I needed more good bacteria and needed to eradicate the bad bacteria. My acne is so much better now that I’ve gotten my gut into balance!
3. Food sensitivities
Have you eliminated foods from your diet to see if you felt any better? Maybe you’ve removed the common foods that can often be triggers for people. For example, eggs, soy, gluten, corn, peanuts, tree nuts, or dairy. If you eliminated one or more of these foods and noticed you felt better without them in your diet, it’s possible that you have a leaky gut.
A leaky gut means that your intestinal lining has become permeable (meaning the junctions of the lining aren’t all that tight anymore). This can occur for many different reasons such as stress, a diet rich in processed/inflammatory foods, heavy alcohol use and sugar intake. When your intestinal lining is permeable, that means the food particles, bacteria and toxins traveling down your intestine can leak out into the bloodstream.
When this happens, your immune system reacts to intruders in the body. It’s trying to defend the body against these intruders. If you have a leaky gut, it’s likely that your immune system is in a chronic state of overdrive trying to continue to defend against the foods, bacteria and toxins that are leaking into the bloodstream. If you find that certain foods always give you annoying symptoms such as acne, bloating, upset belly, diarrhea, runny nose, fatigue and so on- you may be having leaky gut issues.
4. Mineral deficiencies
We know that food is where we get our minerals needed in order to function. However, if your gut health is compromised, you may not be absorbing the minerals from your food that well. Just because we chew and swallow a beautiful grass-fed and grass-finished steak doesn’t mean we’re reaping all of the nutrients from that steak. The terrain of our gut may be too inflamed in order to absorb all of the nutrients. Or perhaps are stomach isn’t acidic enough to break the protein down. This will affect our ability to absorb calcium, vitamin B12 and other needed nutrients.
5. Frequent infections
As discussed in number 3, your gut and your immune system are linked! Did you know that 70% of your immune cells are in your gut? That means if your gut health is poor, your immune system is likely not well supported. This may manifest as frequent infections such as urinary tract infections, respiratory infections, skin infections, ear infections, etc. Your immune system relies on a healthy amount of beneficial bacteria as well as an acidic environment in the stomach in order to keep infections at bay.
6. Difficulty losing weight
Studies are showing that your gut microbiome can affect your ability to lose weight easily. If you’ve been struggling to maintain a healthy weight despite eating a nutrient-dense diet and incorporating consistent exercise, supporting your gut microbiome balance could be a great next step.
7. Chronic inflammation
Inflammation occurs from an immune system response. Just like #3 and #5, we’re talking about the gut-immune system link here! Are you someone who struggles with achy joints, chronic pain, or overall inflammation? If so, support your gut more in order to support your immune system and regulate inflammation. (Also, remove seed oils and processed foods from your diet! Those majorly perpetuate inflammation!)
8. Fertility struggles
If you’ve been trying to conceive and haven’t been successful yet, look at your gut health. If your body is struggling to digest food or if your gut is chronically inflamed, conception and pregnancy is not a priority to your body right now. If your immune system is constantly on guard because of leaky gut, your body has important matters to deal with before it will divert energy to conception. The human body wants to conceive when it feels safe and healthy. If there is a lot of imbalance present in the gut, it likely won’t feel safe or healthy.
9. Irregular periods + hormonal imbalance symptoms
You have something called an estrobolome in your gut. This is a microbiome in your gut solely dedicated to metabolizing and regulating estrogen levels. If estrogen levels are either too high or too low, this can manifest as uncomfortable or irritating hormonal symptoms. (This can also affect our fertility). Irregular, painful periods are one sign that estrogen may be too high. Because of the estrobolome, there is an estrogen-gut link! Your hormone health can depend on your gut health. If you’re struggling with a hormonal imbalance, don’t overlook the importance of supporting your gut more.
If you need help figuring out what your gut needs in order to be balanced and healthy, I can help you! The first step towards working with me is to fill out an application. I’ll reach out to you to discuss your goals and to make sure it’s a good fit! Then we’ll start connecting the dots and getting to the root of your issues!
Y’all take good care,
Disclaimer: The information presented in this blog post is intended for educational purposes only, and it hasn’t been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information isn’t intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any condition or disease, nor is it medical advice. One should always consult a qualified medical professional before engaging in any dietary and/or lifestyle change.
Corie is a functional nutritionist in Asheville, N.C. She specializes in helping her 1:1 clients with digestive discomfort, fertility struggles, skin inflammation, mood imbalances and more. She believes that a nourishing diet can support the body's innate ability to heal. She's a big fan of grass-fed butter and will not shut up about the gut microbiome.