The American Academy of Family Physicians say that 38% of men go to the doctor only when they have symptoms that don’t go away on their own. What’s more, men’s gut health issues are more likely to be ignored and brushed off as something they ate “not agreeing” with their stomach.
As a functional medicine doctor, I hate how much conventional medicine fails when it comes to men’s gut health. Conventional medicine is a “one-size-fits-all” approach that focuses on treating symptoms rather than trying to help you get to the root cause of what’s causing them.
The truth is that digestive issues in men such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, and stomach pain can be signs of an underlying men’s gut health issue such as IBS, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), a leaky gut, or even autoimmune disease.
With gut health being at the forefront of so many wellness discussions today, I wanted to talk specifically about men’s gut health, why digestive issues in men shouldn’t be ignored, and how to improve men’s gut health. First, let’s discuss the four common men’s gut health problems.
4 Common Digestive Problems in Men
The occasional gas and bloating is completely normal. In most cases, bloating and gas are just regular parts of the digestive process. If you’re dehydrated, ate high-fiber or fatty foods, or drinking from a stray it can contribute to excess bloating or gas. However, if you are experiencing regular bloating and gas or feel pain from it, then you may have an underlying men’s gut health issue such as SIBO or IBS.
If you’re experiencing symptoms such as seasonal allergies, brain fog, skin issues, or hormonal imbalances, the root cause could be your digestive system – specifically leaky gut. These are three of the most common digestive issues in men. However, one of the most common men’s gut health issues that goes ignored is a dairy intolerance. Let’s discuss these four common digestive problems in men.
1. Dairy Intolerance
A lot of people have an intolerance to cow’s dairy and don’t realize it. A dairy intolerance was one of the most common men’s gut health problems I saw in my clinic. A dairy intolerance is caused by one of two reasons.
The most common dairy sensitivity in men is lactose intolerance. A lactose intolerance occurs in people who do not produce the lactase enzyme that breaks down lactose, a sugar found in cow’s dairy. Most adults (around 65–70% of the world’s population) are affected by lactose intolerance. 1
People who do produce the lactase enzyme yet still experience dairy sensitivity are reacting to one or both of the proteins found in milk, casein and whey. Casein is a protein with a similar molecular structure to gluten. Nearly 50% of people who have an intolerance to cow’s dairy also have an intolerance to gluten. I’ll discuss gluten later.
Signs of a Dairy Sensitivity
Symptoms of a dairy sensitivity typically begin from 30 minutes to 2 hours after eating dairy foods. The common symptoms include:
- Stomach cramps
Eliminating dairy is essential for stopping the assault on men’s gut health. However, you’ll want to repair the damage caused by this inflammatory food. That way, you can fully restore your gut and get on the path of optimal health.
Fortunately, because individual gut cells turn over quickly (roughly every 48 hours), you can repair your gut in 30 days. I will tell you how later. First let’s talk about the damage dairy can cause.
2. Leaky Gut
Remember what I said about how casein has the same molecular structure as gluten. The two go hand-in-hand. Gluten is the number one cause of leaky gut because it triggers the release of zonulin in your intestines, a protein that tells your gut lining to open. For some people, gluten contributes to a disease known as celiac disease. In others, gluten is another inflammatory food that can overstress your immune system. I recommend that everyone remove gluten and dairy from their diets.
Leaky gut is a men’s gut health issue that often goes unnoticed. Leaky gut happens when the tight junctions that hold your intestinal wall together become loose. Your gut uses projections called villi to control materials passing through your gut and into your bloodstream. These villi look like little fingers covered with hairs called microvilli. The villi grab micronutrients floating in your gut that have been broken down from the food you eat. The villi and microvilli push these micronutrients towards tiny openings in your gut wall directly into your bloodstream. Then, your blood carries this nourishment to all the cells in your body.
To better illustrate this process, think of your gut as a drawbridge. Your gut is naturally semi-permeable to let teeny-tiny boats (micronutrients) pass through your intestinal wall and into your bloodstream. External factors, including certain foods, infections, toxins, and stress, can break apart the tight junctions in your intestinal wall, leaving the drawbridge open. Once this happens, you have a leaky gut.
When your gut is leaky, much larger boats that were never meant to get through (toxins, microbes, and undigested food particles) can escape into your bloodstream. Your immune system marks these foreign invaders as pathogens and attacks them.
Signs of a Leaky Gut
Gut imbalances and leaky gut have been linked to hormonal imbalances, autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and hashimoto’s thyroiditis, diabetes, fibromyalgia, anxiety, depression, eczema and rosacea, just to name a few.
Here are 9 leaky gut symptoms:
- Digestive issues such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Food allergies or food intolerances
- Brain fog, difficulty concentrating, ADD, or ADHD
- Mood imbalances such as depression and anxiety
- Skin issues such as acne, rosacea, or eczema
- Seasonal allergies or asthma
- Hormonal imbalances such as low testosterone or estrogen dominance
- Diagnosis of an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, lupus, psoriasis, or celiac disease
- Diagnosis of chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, leaky gut may be the culprit. Take this quiz to find out!
Do you think you have leaky gut?
Have you ever experienced bloating so bad that you can’t button your pants? If you experience gas or bloating regularly or have been diagnosed with IBS, there’s a strong likelihood you may have SIBO or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.
SIBO is a common men’s gut health issue. It happens when the bacteria in your small intestine get unbalanced and overgrow, instead of living in a balanced state. In fact, I like to think of your microbiome as a rainforest, with many different species living together in harmony. Together, these species play a vital role in your immune system, thyroid function, bone health, and overall health.
Most of your gut bacteria are meant to be in your large intestine and colon, where they help break down food, synthesize vitamins, and eliminate waste. However, medications or a poor diet, for example, can cause your rainforest to become unbalanced. When this happens, the bacteria normally found in the large intestine and colon overgrow and colonize in your small intestine.
What’s more, your gut is naturally lined with mucus that lubricates and protects it. However, an overgrowth of intestinal bacteria can damage your gut’s mucosal lining. Damaged mucus creates an opportunity for bacterial biofilms — or groups of microorganisms that are protected by a layer of protective slime — to attach to your cell wall, making them harder to control.
Signs of SIBO
SIBO’s symptoms can range from digestive imbalance to chronic illness and autoimmune conditions. Here are the main ones you might experience.
- IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome
- Intestinal issues such as gas, painful bloating, diarrhea, and stomach pain
- Chronic health issues such as fibromyalgia, diabetes, celiac disease, chronic fatigue, and Hashimoto’s disease.2
- Leaky gut
- Skin problems, including rashes, rosacea, and inflammation.3
- Histamine intolerance
- Nutritional deficiencies, especially vitamin B12 deficiency.
Do you think you have small intestinal bacterial overgrowth? Take this short quiz to find out!
Do you think you have small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)?
There are a number of different types of SIBO testing, some of which are only available through functional medicine practitioners, and others that are generally available through traditional doctor’s offices and generally covered by insurance. Keep in mind that conventional medicine doctors are likely to treat SIBO with antibiotics, so if you prefer to treat your symptoms without harsh medications, taking matters into your own hands or finding a functional medicine practitioner may be your best option. Here are the most common SIBO tests:
- Dysbiosis test: This test, specially ordered and administered by a functional medicine practitioner, measures the urine levels of organic acids that are produced by the bacteria in your gut. The results may show high levels of acids such as hydroxyphenylacetate and cresol which could indicate SIBO.
- Comprehensive Stool test: This test allows lab technicians to see what bacteria, yeasts or fungi are present in your stool. Your practitioner will be looking for changes in bacteria composition and fat malabsorption to try and diagnose SIBO.
- Breath test: This is the gold standard of testing for SIBO if you’re determined to get diagnosed by a doctor. It can be administered by a functional or traditional medicine practitioner. The breath test measures the amount of hydrogen and methane in your breath.
4. Candida Overgrowth
You might think yeast infections are an issue exclusive to women. Well, I’m here to tell you that yes, men can get yeast infections or Candida overgrowth.
Candidiasis, or yeast overgrowth, is a very common men’s gut health issue that is overlooked because men often don’t believe they get yeast infections. In fact, yeast infections are common in men because the fungus that causes yeast infections, Candida, is present in moist skin. When some contributing factor — such as having sex with a partner who has a vaginal yeast infection — causes an overgrowth of Candida, infection can result.4
Candida naturally lives in your mouth and intestines in small amounts. Its job is to aid with digestion and nutrient absorption. It is a part of your body’s normal microflora — the microorganisms that live in a delicate balance in your mouth, throat, gut, vagina in women, and on your skin.
Ideally, your good bacteria, bad bacteria, and Candida (among other forms of yeast, viruses, and even mites) that make up your gut microbiome exist in a balanced state. When this balance is tipped between Candida and other microorganisms, Candida overgrowth occurs.
Common causes of Candida overgrowth in men include: high carb diets, excessive alcohol consumption, eating fermented foods, medications, chronic stress, and autoimmune disease treated with immunosuppressants.
Signs of Candida Overgrowth
Candida overgrowth symptoms can be experienced in many different forms nearly anywhere in the body. Here are 9 common signs of Candida overgrowth:
- Skin and nail fungal infections such as athlete’s foot, ringworm, and toenail fungus.
- Feeling tired, worn down, or suffering from chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia.
- Men’s gut health issues such as bloating, constipation, or diarrhea
- Autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, lupus, psoriasis, scleroderma, or multiple sclerosis
- Difficulty concentrating, poor memory, lack of focus, ADD, ADHD, irritability, mood swings, anxiety, or depression, and/or brain fog
- Itchy rash, red skin, swelling, irritation, and itching around the head of the penis, lumpy discharge under the foreskin, or pain when urinating and during sex.
- Skin issues including eczema, psoriasis, hives, and rashes
- Severe seasonal allergies or itchy ears
- Strong sugar and refined carbohydrate cravings.
After hearing about the many Candida overgrowth symptoms, do you think you have Candida overgrowth? Take this short symptoms quiz to find out!
Do you think you have Candida overgrowth?
If you believe you have one of these 4 common men’s gut health issues, I recommend talking with your functional medicine practitioner to get testing. I’m going to tell you about my proven method for repairing your gut in just a minute. However, let’s talk about why it’s important to focus on men’s gut heath.
Why Men’s Gut Health is Important
Your gut is the gateway to health. This is true for everyone. Nearly 80% of your immune system and 90% of your neurotransmitters (mood-regulating chemicals) such as serotonin are made in your gut.
You cannot have a healthy immune system without a healthy gut. Your gut health and immune system are allies in the fight against foreign invaders. When working correctly, it can distinguish between different types of bacteria, keeping the good and warding off the bad.5
However, sometimes your immune system goes rogue and begins attacking your own tissues. It could be your thyroid under attack, your intestines, your skin, your brain, your pancreas, or another organ. No matter what part of your body is under siege, the underlying problem is within your immune system.
This means in order to treat, prevent, and reverse your autoimmune disease you’ll need to get your immune system back under control. In order to do that, you must address your gut health. Your gut is the foundation of your whole body’s health. Without a healthy gut, you can’t have a healthy immune system. Without a healthy immune system, you’re open to infections, inflammation, and autoimmune disease. Don’t worry, I’m going to tell you my proven approach to improving men’s gut health.
How to Improve Men’s Gut Health?
Instead of treating symptoms of digestive problems in men, you need to get to the root of the problem and it starts by repairing your gut. In Functional Medicine, we use a simple approach that we call the 4R program to heal your gut. I have successfully used the 4R approach with thousands of patients to heal their gut and reverse their symptoms.
- Remove: Remove all inflammatory foods that can contribute to an unbalanced gut, such as gluten, dairy, corn, soy, and eggs. You’ll also need to ditch toxic foods, including sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. Finally, eliminate any gut infections you have, whether caused by Candida overgrowth, SIBO, or parasites. I recommend trying an elimination diet to determine if you have a sensitivity to any foods.
- Restore: Add back in the essential ingredients for proper digestion and absorption that have been depleted by diet, medications (such as antacids), chronic illness, or aging. This includes digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid (HCL), and bile acids required for proper digestion.
- Reinoculate: Restoring beneficial bacteria to reestablish a healthy balance of good bacteria is critical. This may be accomplished by taking a probiotic supplement that contains beneficial bacteria such as bifidobacteria and lactobacillus species. I recommend anywhere from 25 -100 billion units a day. Also, taking a prebiotic (food for the good bacteria) supplement or consuming foods high in soluble fiber is important. If you have SIBO, I recommend taking a soil-based probiotic.
- Repair: Providing the nutrients necessary to help the gut repair itself is essential. My most comprehensive weapon against leaky gut is Leaky Gut Revive® powder, which contains powerful gut-repairing ingredients l-glutamine, aloe, deglycyrrhizinated licorice, arabinogalactan, slippery elm and marshmallow root. With these ingredients, Leaky Gut Revive® nourishes and soothes your gut cells, restores your gut’s natural mucosal lining, and maximizes gut-mending fatty acid production. It also comes in a delicious strawberry lemonade flavor. I drink a glass of Leaky Gut Revive® Strawberry Lemonade everyday.
We do not discuss men’s gut health enough. Common men’s gut health issues such as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), Candida overgrowth, leaky gut syndrome, and lactose intolerance could be an indication of a bigger problem. Using the 4R approach you can get to the underlying cause of your symptoms and get on the path of optimal health.
- Can You Become Lactose Intolerant as You Age?. Susan Bernstein. WebMD. 2021.
- Malabsorption, Orocecal Transit Time and Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth in Type 2 Diabetic Patients: A Connection. SV Rana, et al. Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry, vol. 32. 2017.
- Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth in rosacea: clinical effectiveness of its eradication. Andrea Parodi. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology: The Official Clinical Practice Journal of the American Gastroenterological Association, vol. 6. 2008.
- Yeast infection in men: How can I tell if I have one?. Patricio C. Gargollo, MD. Mayo Clinic. 2021.
- The Gut: Where Bacteria and Immune System Meet. Helen Fields. Johns Hopkins Medicine. 2021.