The biggest “ah-ha!” moment I’ve ever had with my health was the day I learned how many health conditions stem from an unhealthy gut. I’m talking health conditions that appear on the outside to have absolutely nothing to do with the gut. Think anxiety, skin conditions, joint pain, the list goes on. How can what is happening inside my GI tract be responsible for what’s happening in my brain, on my skin and in my joints?
Our bodies are made up of a set of interconnected systems. And, as it turns out, our overall health starts in our gut. Therefore, if your gut is unhealthy, you’re likely to see this come through in your other bodily systems. Think nervous system, detoxification system, musculoskeletal system, etc. If you’re interested in learning more about the interconnection between the gut and the rest of the body, I recommend you read my article on The Inflammation Spectrum. In the meantime, let’s discuss a few symptoms of an unhealthy gut that you do not want to ignore.
Brain & Mood Disorders
Are you suffering from anxiety or depression? Are you feeling more forgetful than normal, or like your brain is in a fog? Maybe you’re suffering from unexplained mood swings? All of these conditions can be caused by an unhealthy gut, leading to inflammation of the brain and nervous system. So, before you start thinking your symptoms are all your head, reconsider if they might be stemming from your gut instead.
Joint Aches & Pains
Do you have periodic or chronic pain in your joints? Do you wake up with stiff or aching joints? Do you suffer from chronic neck or back pain? When our gut health is compromised, this can cause inflammation in the musculoskeletal system. This in turn can lead to unexplained achy joints and muscles. Rather than visiting a chiropractor or taking medications to ease the pain, consider if the problem might be related to your gut. Is the pain especially bad after eating inflammatory, processed foods? Or drinking alcohol? If so, the pain is likely related to an unhealthy gut rather than unhealthy joints.
Many autoimmune disorders, such as Celiac Disease, Chron’s disease and inflammatory bowel disease directly impact the GI system. But did you know that other autoimmune conditions, such as Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, MS, Psoriasis and Hashimoto’s can also be caused by an unhealthy gut. When our GI tract is out of balance, this causes inflammation in our bodies. Our immune system is in charge of keeping inflammation at bay. However, advanced or prolonged periods of inflammation can cause our immune system to overreact or attack itself, leading to autoimmunity.
If you have previously been diagnosed with an autoimmune condition or suspect you might have one, the best way to treat the problem is to treat the underlying cause of the problem: inflammation. And as mentioned, inflammation stems from an unhealthy gut. By healing your gut, you will reduce your inflammation levels and allow your immune system a chance to recover. As someone living with Celiac disease, there is no cure for the disease. However, by following a strict gluten free diet and taking other measures to maintain a healthy gut, I’m able to keep my symptoms at bay.
So many people today are suffering from a number of unexplained food intolerances. A leading cause of this is a condition called Leaky Gut in which the GI tract becomes permeable and food particles enter a persons blood stream. In response, food intolerances develop.
But this is just one cause of food intolerance that stems from an unhealthy gut. The inflammation alone that results from an out of balance GI system can also contribute to food intolerance. In fact, this has become such a widespread problem that I actually wrote a separate article on the topic. Check out the article here. The gist of the article is that multiple food intolerances is not normal and is likely a symptom of an unhealthy gut. The good news: heal your gut and you will likely be able to enjoy these foods again without issue in the future!
Sugar Cravings and Uncontrollable Hunger
While you might think your sweet tooth is to blame, craving sugary foods, especially after you have already eaten and feel full, can be a sign of a problem within your blood sugar/insulin system. Uncontrollable hunger and thirst are also a symptom of unstable blood sugar or excess insulin. These symptoms, which may be a sign of prediabetes, could be the result of inflammation in your blood sugar/insulin system. To calm the inflammation, first focus on repairing your gut. This just might be what your body needs to calm your cravings, control your appetite, and reduce your risk of developing diabetes.
I hope this article is helpful in drawing the connection between your gut health and your overall health. When we focus on building a healthy, diverse gut microbiome, calming the inflammation in our GI tract and fueling our bodies with anti-inflammatory foods, we are indirectly caring for every part of our health.
So, what can you do to improve your gut health? Check out my article, The #1 Thing I did to Heal my Gut. Also, consider adding a probiotic to your diet, focus on eating anti-inflammatory foods (check out my article on anti-inflammatory foods here) and make your mental health a priority as well. Check out my article on managing stress here.
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