Do you experience regular stomach upset? Do you have gas, feel bloated, are constipated, or have diarrhea? Maybe you’ve developed a food intolerance or have sleep disturbances. These are all signs of poor gut health.
It surprises many people to hear that poor gut health affects the rest of your body. Sure, belly bloat, constipation, or gas are common symptoms. Poor gut health shows up in other areas of your health, too. If you’re experiencing seasonal allergies, skin issues, hormonal imbalances, or brain fog, the root cause could be poor gut health.
Conventional medicine treats poor gut health symptoms as solely digestive issues. This approach is unfortunate because it fails to address the root cause of the issue. As functional medicine physicians, we look at everything to get to the root cause of your symptoms. Instead of viewing the body as a specialty, functional medicine views the body as a whole. Chronic illness stems from a combination of factors. Body products or at-home cleaning supplies contain toxic elements that get into your skin. The food you eat may be highly processed. Lifestyle choices such as smoking are 75% of the root cause of chronic illness. The empowering part is that you have control over those factors.
I’m going to give you the tools you need to begin healing your gut. These tools enable you to get on the path toward optimal health. Let’s talk about why the gut is so important to your overall health.
Your Gut is the Gateway to Health
I’ve said it more than 100 times, the gut is the gateway to health. Nearly 80% of your immune system lives in your gut.1
Without a healthy gut, you cannot have a healthy immune system.
Your immune system and your gut are allies in fighting off invasion, whether that is bacteria or a virus. When your gut is in good health, your immune system functions optimally and can tell the difference between good bacteria and bad bacteria.
However, sometimes your immune system goes rogue and begins attacking your own tissues. Your thyroid may be under attack, or your intestines. Sometimes it’s 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 reverse autoimmunity, you’ll need to get your immune system back under control. In order to do that, you must address your poor gut 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 about my proven method to repair your gut. I’ll also give you the tools you need to take back control of your health.
Earlier, I mentioned digestive issues that could indicate poor gut health. Digestive problems are just one sign of poor gut health. Here are some other ways you can tell your gut is unhealthy.
7 Signs of Poor Gut Health
Our modern lifestyle has many factors that contribute to poor gut health such as high stress, bad sleep patterns, diets full of processed and high sugar foods, and taking antibiotics. There are a few warning signs your gut will give you to tell you it might have an issue.
Gas, bloating, or diarrhea are more frequently associated with poor gut health. That said, there are also less obvious signs there is an underlying gut health issue. In fact, Leaky Gut, SIBO, or Candida overgrowth might be the root cause of your problems. Don’t worry, I’ll discuss these conditions in just a bit.
Before I get into those, here are seven signs of poor gut health.2
1. Digestion Issues
The occasional gas and bloating are completely normal. However, if you experience pain with your digestive issues, you may have poor gut health. A healthy gut will have less difficulty digesting food and eliminating waste.
2. A Diet High in Processed Food
The Standard American Diet is one of the worst diets in our modern society. It’s full of processed and inflammatory foods. Caffeine, alcohol, and processed sugar are among the biggest culprits of inflammation. It’s also high in sodium, trans fats, and refined sugars and lacks important fatty acids and nutrients.
This way of eating can simultaneously lead to obesity and malnourishment because of the high amount of processed food that is a part of this diet. The more processed a food is, the more likely it is to be high in calories, sugar, and salt. This same “food” also lacks nutrients, leading to weight gain. Eating a diet loaded with bread, pasta, potatoes, and sugar causes inflammation. Chronic inflammation increases your risk of developing leaky gut, heart disease, or even autoimmune disease.
3. Unintentional Weight Changes
Losing or gaining weight without diet or lifestyle changes is one of the first signs of poor gut health. If the bacteria in your gut microbiome is out of balance, your gut is not able to absorb the nutrients in your food, which can lead to overeating. Weight gain may also be linked to hypothyroidism, insulin resistance, or other hormonal imbalances.
4. Sleep Disturbances or Chronic Fatigue
Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep can signal that your gut is unhealthy. Poor gut health can also lead to fatigue and decreased energy levels throughout the day. Your gut microbiome affects sleep quality and your mental state via the gut-brain axis.3
Around 95% of the serotonin in your body is produced in your gut. Serotonin is a key neurotransmitter responsible for regulating mood and sleep. Poor gut health can influence serotonin production. This imbalance can lead to anxiety, depression, lack of appetite, brain fog, and sleep disturbances.
5. Skin Problems
Skin problems such as eczema, psoriasis, and acne are also common signs of poor gut health. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that speeds up the lifecycle of your body’s skin cells. Typically, your skin renews every 4 weeks. Yet, with psoriasis, it could go through this process within days. This results in itchy, painful, thick, and scaly skin patches.
Gut infections, inflammatory foods, and stress influence the development of autoimmune diseases. Additionally, newer research suggests that psoriasis is also closely associated with metabolic syndrome.
6. You Develop Food Intolerances
You may have enjoyed dairy all your life, then one day you notice ice cream doesn’t sit well with you anymore. This is common as we get older. As we age, our body stops producing digestive enzymes that process certain proteins. Gluten or dairy contain proteins that are difficult to digest.
Remember what I said about how 80% of your immune system lives in your gut? Poor gut health confuses your immune system. This may start a chain reaction of treating certain proteins as foreign invaders. Chronic inflammation sets in, moving you further along the autoimmune spectrum.
If you are unsure of any food intolerances, I recommend doing an elimination diet. With an elimination diet, you remove inflammatory and toxic foods for 30 days. As you reintroduce foods one by one, you track your symptoms, giving you a better idea of your personal triggers.
7. Autoimmune Disease
If you haven’t noticed, there’s a common theme with poor gut health and autoimmune disease. Leaky gut is the leading cause of autoimmune disease and it all begins with your gut microbiome.
I like to think of the gut microbiome as a rainforest. In a rainforest, many types of plants live together in a symbiotic ecosystem. If the balance gets disrupted, the good or beneficial plants begin to die and the bad ones start to take over. This also happens in your gut.
If you’re eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates, sugar, and alcohol, you feed the SIBO and yeast (Candida). They’re then encouraged to grow even more out of control. This is called dysbiosis.
Over time, having this dysbiosis in your gut microbiome will eventually lead to a leaky gut. In this state, food particles, toxins, and infections can get through your intestinal lining and into your bloodstream. This is where your immune system detects them as foreign invaders and goes on high alert. White blood cells go into attack mode and create inflammation.
The Leaky Gut and Autoimmunity Connection
Leaky gut happens when the tight junctions in your intestinal wall together loosen. Think of your gut like a drawbridge. If your gut is healthy, these tight junctions allow teeny tiny boats to travel back and forth. These “boats” allow vital nutrients from your food to be absorbed into your bloodstream.
A poor diet and gut infections can cause these tight junctions to open up. These allow much bigger boats to get through and into your bloodstream. Toxins, microbes, and partially digested food particles then pass through and wreak havoc.
Once your gut is leaky, your immune system marks them as dangerous invaders and attacks them. Wave after wave of inflammation is sent in an effort to ward off these invaders. Eventually, it becomes overstressed and starts firing less accurately. An overactive immune system leads to autoimmunity and other health problems as your tissues get caught in the crosshairs.
I know this can sound a bit scary and I don’t want you to worry. I’m going to give you the tools to take back your health, heal your gut, and get on the path of optimal health.
Addressing Poor Gut Health with The Myers Way®
The good news is that you can reverse your autoimmunity and get to the root cause with The Myers Way®. My proven approach is functional medicine-based, resting on four pillars identifying how all body systems interact.
As a physician, I’ve tested these pillars for years. It thrills me that thousands of my patients have experienced amazing results!
Pillar I: Heal Your Gut
You start with healing the gut. In functional medicine, we use the 4R approach:
- Remove the bad – Get rid of things that negatively impact the GI tract. Inflammatory and toxic foods and intestinal infections such as yeast overgrowth and SIBO are top of the list for this stage.
- Restore what’s missing — Add digestive enzymes and Gut Restore with Betaine and HCL to your daily regimen. These will help support optimal digestion and nutrient absorption. This dynamic duo also assists your body’s intestinal repair and inflammation responses.
- Reinoculate with healthy bacteria — Restore beneficial bacteria with probiotics. Healthy bacteria re-establishes a balance of good bacteria to heal your gut.
- Repair the gut — Provide nutrients necessary to help the gut repair itself. L-glutamine is an amino acid that will support the gut lining. Drinking bone broth or collagen will also help to heal your gut. Supplementing with omega-3s, zinc, and herbs such as slippery elm and aloe vera also help.
Pillar II: Get Rid of Gluten, Grains, and Legumes
As I mentioned earlier, gut infections put you further along the autoimmune spectrum. Now you understand why healing your gut is the first pillar of The Myers Way®. Once you’ve healed your gut, it’s time to make lifestyle and diet changes! Permanently eliminate foods that are causing inflammation and damage to your intestinal tract. Yes, this includes gluten, grains, and legumes!
I also recommend that those with autoimmune diseases avoid nightshade vegetables. Tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes are among the most common. These plants are very high in lectins that damage the gut lining. Lectins do not break down and can easily enter the bloodstream.
If you are following an elimination diet, there will be many foods you will avoid temporarily and then reintroduce. Grains, pseudograins, legumes, and a few other foods will probably need to stay out of your diet for good. I don’t recommend that anyone add gluten back into their diet.
Pillar III: Tame the Toxins
Most people see improvement after addressing the first two pillars. If a patient was still having symptoms after addressing the first two pillars, I knew we had to go a little deeper.
You are exposed to thousands of toxins every day, even if you don’t live in a polluted area or work in an industrial job. They’re found in the air you breathe, the water you drink, and the food you eat. Believe it or not, they’re also in cookware, cosmetics, and cleaning products.
While you can’t avoid toxins completely, the solution is to reduce your body’s toxic burden and detox it. First you address the toxins in your home by:
- Buying clean body products.
- Buy clean food and eat organic whenever possible. It can be expensive, so if anything, buy grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, and wild-caught seafood.
- Clean your water by installing water filters on your sinks and shower taps. I, myself, have a full filtration system from Aquasana.
- Cleaning your air by getting a HEPA filter for your home. I use AIRDoctor® air filters in my home.
- Use clean skin care products.
Your body creates its own master detoxifier called glutathione. I recommend supplementing with extra glutathione while your body is trying to excrete toxins, especially if you are anywhere on the autoimmune spectrum.
Pillar IV: Heal Your Infections and Relieve Your Stress
If your symptoms haven’t cleared up after addressing the first three pillars, there’s more work to do. Healing your infections and relieving your stress is the final pillar in The Myers Way®:
Adopt daily stress-relieving strategies. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Breathing: When you find yourself overwhelmed with stress, take a moment to connect with your breath. Concentrate on breathing in and out until your anxiety has calmed.
- Music: Listening to music can release endorphins and reduce your cortisol levels.
- Dance: Just moving your body can help you shake off your stress.
- Gentle exercise: Try stretching or a long walk in a natural setting. Changing your environment can also help you get away from your stress.
For total support, try my The Myers Way® Autoimmune Kit . This combination of four of the most important nutritional supplements is for anyone concerned with autoimmunity. Your immune system is a complex puzzle influenced by many aspects of health. The integrity of your gut barrier, oxidative damage done by free radicals, toxic load and detoxification, inflammation, and much more all play a role in how your immune system functions.
Your gut is the gateway to optimal health. Addressing poor gut health is the first step to taking back your health and reversing your symptoms. Eating organic whole foods and supporting your gut health is one of the best ways you can take back your health and restore your vitality!
- The Interplay between the Gut Microbiome and the Immune System in the Context of Infectious Diseases throughout Life and the Role of Nutrition in Optimizing Treatment Strategies. Selma P Wiertsema. Nutrients, vol 9. 2021.
- What’s an Unhealthy Gut? How Gut Health Affects You. Megan Dix, RN, BSN. Healthline. 2020.