10 Signs Of An Unhealthy Gut + How To Improve Your Gut Health Naturally

10 Signs Of An Unhealthy Gut + How To Improve Your Gut Health Naturally

When it comes to supporting overall health and wellbeing, our gut health plays a critical role. Maintaining a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut can help improve immune function, decrease inflammation, support mental health, and protect your body from certain diseases. That's why it's important to recognise the signs of an unhealthy gut and understand what you can do to support a diverse gut microbiota. Here we’re sharing a list of signs of an unhealthy gut and some helpful habits you can put into practice to improve your overall gut health.  

Before we get started, let’s get to know your gut a little better:

  • Your gut is the entire digestive tract that runs from your esophagus to your rectum
  • The gut wall is around 400 square metres in surface area and does so much more than just digest food - 70 to 80% of your immune system lives within your gut so it plays a critical role in your overall wellbeing
  • Your body contains trillions of bacteria cells with 300 to 500 different kinds living in your gut - our bodies actually contain 10 times  more bacteria cells than human cells
  • The mix of bacteria in your gut (or gut microbiota) is as unique as your thumbprint - no one else has a mix quite like yours
  • While some bacteria can be detrimental to our health, many are incredibly beneficial and a diverse gut microbiota is essential for supporting a healthy body
  • The gut is often referred to as our “second brain” because it has its own nervous system (the enteric nervous system) which is in constant two-way communication with the brain, helping to regulate hormone production, immune system function, digestion and metabolism, appetite, mood, and stress responses [1] - this connection is referred to as the ‘gut-brain axis’
  • What you eat feeds the good bacteria in the gut that allows your food to be used effectively by your body

But it's not just what we eat that impacts our gut health - stress, lack of sleep, illness, and overuse of medications, including antibiotics, can damage our gut bacteria. A growing body of medical research is demonstrating that an unhealthy gut can contribute to a range of health issues, such as obesity, diabetes, depression, autoimmune conditions, irritable bowel syndrome, and chronic fatigue syndrome. Being able to identify the signs of an unhealthy gut is key because there are a number of healthy lifestyle habits you can adopt to help balance your gut microbiota. Here are 10 of the most common signs of an unhealthy gut to look out for...

Signs Of An Unhealthy Gut

1. Digestive issues such as bloating, gas, constipation or diarrhea

When your gut bacteria is out of balance, your body is unable to digest food optimally. Ongoing digestive issues such as bloating, excessive gas, constipation, diarrhoea, and heartburn are the most recognised signs of an unhealthy gut. 

2. A diet high in processed foods and refined sugars

Eating processed foods and a high intake of refined sugars can compromise the ratio of good versus bad bacteria in your gut. High intake of refined sugar can increase inflammation [2], which is the precursor to a number of diseases.

3. Weight management issues

Difficulty in losing weight may be a sign of an unhealthy gut because this imbalance can limit your body’s ability to store fat, regulate blood sugar, and respond to hormones that control appetite [3].

4. Sleep issues

If you suffer from insomnia or other sleep-related conditions, it could be a sign that your gut health is in need of some attention. It's estimated that 90% of the body’s serotonin, the sleep-inducing "happy" chemical, is produced in the gut [4], meaning that gut damage can impair your ability to sleep well. 

5. Food intolerances

If you suffer from a gluten or dairy intolerance, this is often a sign of a damaged gut lining or "leaky gut". Leaky gut occurs when the permeability of the gut lining is altered so bacteria and toxins are able to pass through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream. This triggers an immune response from the body as it attacks the foreign substances, which leads to difficulty digesting certain foods. 

6. Moodiness, anxiety or depression

An imbalance of the gut microbiota and inflammation of the gut have been linked to causing several mental illnesses, including anxiety and depression [5]. If your gut bacteria are unbalanced, this can be reflected in your mood. Your gut microbiota influences serotonin and dopamine production and if you have leaky gut, your body can underproduce these "happy" chemicals which can trigger depression [6]. Treating gut dysbiosis is therefore critical for supporting mental health.

7. Skin problems such as eczema, acne, dermatitis or rosacea

The appearance of our skin is a reflection of what's going on internally and imbalances within the gut microbiota have been linked to skin conditions such as eczema, acne, dermatitis, and rosacea. Eating a diverse range of plant-based foods that contain skin-nourishing nutrients is vital to supporting optimal skin health. However, an imbalance of the gut microbiota can impact your body's ability to absorb those vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, thus compromising the overall health of your skin.

8. Auto-immune conditions

When there is a disturbance in the ratio of good bacteria versus bad bacteria in the gut (also known as dysbiosis), this can compromise your immune function and predispose the body to autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, diabetes, irritable bowel disease, and multiple sclerosis [7]. 

9. Bad breath

Bad breath is typically caused by a build-up of bacteria within your mouth, however, if you find that bad breath lingers even after brushing your teeth, this may a sign that your gut bacteria isn't optimal. If there is a thick coating on your tongue, this also points to a poorly functioning digestive system.

10. Low energy levels

If you're constantly feeling low on energy, even when you’ve had enough sleep, this could be linked to a gut issue. An unhealthy balance of bacteria in the gut can limit your body's ability to absorb nutrients from foods, leaving you feeling unexplainably tired. If you suffer from leaky gut, certain inflammatory compounds, called cytokines, are leaked into the body which can enhance feelings of tiredness and chronic fatigue [8].

How To Heal Your Gut Naturally

1. Eat a diverse range of plant-based wholefoods

Eating a diet rich in a diverse range of plant-based wholefoods and avoiding processed foods is key to supporting healthy microbiome. Dr Megan Rossi, a Registered Dietician with a pHD in the area of gut health from the Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at The University of Queensland recommends:

"Try to get as many different plant-based foods in your diet each week, aiming for around 20-30 different foods. Variety is key, because each vegetable contains different nutrients that the gut thrives on."  [10]

To support optimal gut health, our smoothie boxes are designed to incorporate a diverse range of plant-based ingredients that actively promote the growth of beneficial bacteria. Every smoothie box from Craft Smoothie contains 25+ different plant-based foods, making it easy to incorporate a broad range of seasonal fruit, veggies, and organic superfoods into your diet. Here's how the ingredients in our smoothie boxes can support your gut health:

  • By expanding the variety of plant-based foods in your diet and rotating them seasonally, your gut benefits from a more varied population of beneficial bacteria
  • Our smoothies are high in dietary fibre which is a critical ingredient for gut health because it feeds the good bacteria
  • All of our smoothie recipes are gluten free, dairy free and refined sugar free which is key to supporting a healthy gut

2. Reduce stress

Because the gut and brain are intimately connected, intestinal stress can be triggered by emotional stress [5]. To lower stress levels, try using a meditation app on your smartphone like Headspace or Calm, taking a walk, reading a book, or practicing yoga - even just taking some time out with a cup of herbal tea can go a long way in reducing stress levels.

3. Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night

Sleep deprivation can have a considerable impact on your gut health, which can in-turn trigger further sleep issues. Aim to get at least 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night and try these handy hacks to optimally support your sleep cycle.

4. Eat slowly to support optimal digestion

Remember digestion starts in the mouth - to help maintain a healthy gut and reduce digestive discomfort, make sure you're chewing your food thoroughly and eating your meals slowly without distractions. Try to avoid using your devices or watching television during meal times and focus on digesting your food.

5. Keep hydrated

Drinking plenty of water is critical for optimal digestion and staying hydrated is one of the easiest ways you can support a healthy gut. Water helps break down the food you eat and support nutrient absorption. Drinking water can also help kick-start your metabolism and boost your body’s ability to burn fat. For further digestive support, try adding the juice of half a lemon or one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to your water 15 to 20 minutes before eating to help stimulate your stomach acid.

6. Look out for food intolerances

If you have recurring symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, nausea, acid reflux, skin rashes or fatigue, you may be suffering from a food intolerance. Start keeping a food diary, recording what you're eating and when, and any associated symptoms. You can then take this to a registered dietician who specialises in food intolerance to help you identify which food(s) that are contributing to your symptoms.

7. Exercise regularly

In addition to supporting muscle strength, healthy weight management, and detoxification, studies are also starting to link exercise to a healthy gut. A recent study from San Francisco State University found that exercise is critical for introducing beneficial bacteria in the gut [12] and an earlier study found that cardiorespiratory fitness is correlated with increased microbial diversity in healthy humans [13]. All the more reason to get in the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week!

8. Incorporate probiotic foods into your diet

Incorporating fermented foods into your diet such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and miso, can help improve gut health. These foods contain beneficial bacteria (or probiotics) that may help the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut.

9. Include prebiotics in your diet

Prebiotics are non-digestible plant fibres that act as food for probiotic bacteria. This means they pass through the gastrointestinal tract undigested, stimulating the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria in the large intestine. Our smoothie recipes are an awesome source of prebiotic ingredients, such as bananas, apples, carrots and linseed. Other good sources of prebiotics include onion, raw garlic, leek, and jerusalem artichoke.

10. Remember your polyphenols!

Gut Health Specialist, Dr Megan Rossi, is a big advocate for upping your intake of polyphenols to support your gut health:

"Polyphenols are special plant compounds and a favourite food of our good gut bacteria. In fact, regularly eating foods high in polyphenols is not only associated with optimal gut health, but promotes wide spread health benefits including lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels." [12]

Polyphenols are found in plant-based foods that you can expect in your Craft Smoothie boxes, including cacao, acai, blackcurrants, maqui berries, blueberries, hazelnuts, almonds, apples, plums, and spinach - just to name a few! Find out which other superfoods you can expect in your smoothie box.

Having a diverse plant-based diet is one of the best ways you can support your gut health and getting a superfood smoothie box delivered to your door makes it super easy to integrate 30+ different plant-based foods into your diet each week! If you want to bulk up the diversity of your diet to promote a healthy gut microbiota, give Craft Smoothie a try and we'll deliver everything you need to make gut-healthy superfood smoothies at home. 




[1] The Latest On Sleep And Gut Health - The Sleep Doctor

[2] The Sweet Danger Of Sugar - Havard Health

[3] How Gut Bacteria Help Make Us Fat And Thin - Scientific American

[4] Microbes Help Produce Serotonin In The Gut - Caltech

[5] The Gut-Brain Connection - Havard Health

[6] Gut Microbiota’s Effect On Mental Health: The Gut-Brain Axis - Clinics and Practice

[7] Dysbiosis Of The Gut Microbiota In Disease - NCBI

[8] 5 Top Reasons You Might Have Leaky Gut Syndrome and Feel Tired All the Time - University Health News Daily

[9] The Truth About Gut Health With Dr Megan Rossi - Well + Happy

[10] Healthier Heart Equals Healthier Guts - San Francisco State University News

[11] Cardiorespiratory Fitness As A Predictor Of Intestinal Microbial Diversity And Distinct Metagenomic Functions - NCBI

[12] 5 Gut-Friendly Foods That You Need In Your Kitchen - Net Doctor

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