The gut, which refers to the digestive organs, requires trillions of of both good and harmful bacteria that make up the microbiome – a crucial internal ecosystem that strengthens the immune system. Both types must be “carefully balanced” for a healthy gut.
Diet, sleep and mood all play a role in optimal gut health. But if you’re not looking after your stomach, your body will let you know with a number of unpleasant symptoms.
To offer a professional insight, practicing GP, Dr Sameer Sanghvi from Lloyds Pharmacy Online Doctor has highlighted the importance of good gut health and revealed the signs that could indicate a poor tummy, reports Wales Online.
According to Dr Sanghvi, the bacteria in your gut is responsible for the production of important nutrients. “Around 70 per cent of your immune cells are found in the gut,” he explained.
“What’s more, the bacteria in your gut is also responsible for producing necessary vitamins like vitamin B12. This means that if the balance of bacteria isn’t as it should be, your immune response, physical health and even your mood can be affected.
“The key to good gut health is ensuring the variety of bacteria present is carefully balanced. There are a range of diet and lifestyle factors that can negatively affect the balance of bacteria in your digestive system.
“Stress levels, lack of sleep, a highly processed diet and taking antibiotics can all have an impact.”
Dr Sanghvi explains that if you have an imbalance of gut bacteria, and therefore, your gut isn’t functioning optimally, you may be more susceptible to sickness and experience five particular symptoms.
1. Upset stomach
“Experiencing frequent discomfort, gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, and heartburn could be a sign that your gut is having a hard time digesting and eliminating waste.”
2. Unintentional weight changes
“When your gut is imbalanced, your body may be struggling to absorb nutrients, store fat and regulate blood sugar therefore resulting in unexpected changes in weight.”
“An unhealthy gut can result in insomnia or poor sleep, resulting in feeling fatigued.
“Most of the body’s serotonin (the hormone which affects mood and sleep) is produced in the gut.Therefore, when there is bacteria or inflammation, your sleep may be impacted too.”
4. Skin Irritation
“Some skin conditions such as acne and eczema can be a result of gut issues.”
5. Food intolerances
“In some cases, food intolerances can be due to poor quality of bacteria in the gut. You can have intolerances if you struggle digesting certain foods.”
Dr Sanghvi says diet is one of the most important contributors to gut health: “Diet has a big role to play when it comes to improving gut health. The aim is to help introduce good bacteria in your gut while reducing the number of bad bacteria too.
“Ultra-processed foods can impact your gut negatively. The best thing to do is eat a variety of plant-based foods. Try to “eat the rainbow”, ensuring your diet includes lots of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and legumes like beans and lentils.
“It’s also important to make sure your diet includes prebiotics. These are foods that contain a specific type of fibre that feeds good bacteria in the gut. Examples of foods rich in prebiotics include bananas, pomegranate, oats, rye crackers, pistachios and garlic.
“Similarly, you want to aim to include probiotics in your diet too. These are foods like natural yoghurt, kombucha and pickles which include live bacteria. It’s understood these can help improve the diversity of bacteria in your gut.”
As much as diet is a big factor for good gut health, there are other things you can do to help improve gut health, as Dr Sanghvi explains:
“Lowering stress levels, getting good quality sleep is equally important for maintaining a healthy microbiome. The same goes for staying hydrated.
“If you are concerned about your gut health, there are methods of evaluating how well your digestive system is working, such as monitoring bowel movements and symptoms. If you are noticing drastic changes then you should talk to your GP.”
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