Is your 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.
Many people are surprised to hear that poor gut health symptoms aren’t isolated to just digestive issues such as belly bloat, constipation, or gas. If you’re experiencing seasonal allergies, skin issues, hormonal imbalances, or brain fog, the root cause could be poor gut health.
Conventional medicine treats these poor gut health symptoms as digestive issues rather than getting to the root cause of them in the first place. As a functional medicine physician, we look at everything to get to the root cause of your system. Instead of viewing the body as a specialty, functional medicine views the body as a whole. Factors such as environmental toxins that can get in your skin through body products or at home cleaning supplies, the food we eat, and lifestyle choices such as smoking is 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 and get on the path toward optimal health. Let’s talk about why the gut is soguyu 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 You cannot have a healthy immune system if you have poor gut health.
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. 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 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 and the tools you need to take back control of your health.
Earlier, I mentioned digestive issues that could indicate that you have 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.
While gas, bloating, or diarrhea are more frequently associated with poor gut health, there are also less obvious signs that an underlying gut health issue such as a 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 are experiencing pain alongside these symptoms or frequently experience other digestive issues, it’s a good sign that 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 such as caffeine, alcohol, and processed sugar. It’s typically high in sodium, trans fats and refined sugars and lacks important fatty acids and nutrients.
This way of eating has the ability to make you overweight and malnourished at the same time because of how much processed food 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, and lacking nutrients, which leads to weight gain. If you eat a diet loaded with simple carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, potatoes, and sugar, it causes inflammation and increases your risk of many health problems such as leaky gut, heart disease, or 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.
In contrast, bloating and inflammation or an obsession with healthy eating may lead to undereating and cause weight. Unexpected weight loss can be due to an overactive thyroid or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
4. Sleep Disturbances or Chronic Fatigue
Having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep can be a sign that your gut is unhealthy. Poor gut health can also lead to feelings of fatigue and decreased energy levels throughout the day. Your gut microbiome affects sleep quality as well as your overall 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. If you have poor gut health it can influence serotonin production, which 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, a diet rich in inflammatory foods, and stress play a role in the development of autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis. Additionally, newer research suggests that psoriasis is also closely associated with metabolic syndrome.
6. You Develop Food Intolerances
You may have been able to eat dairy your entire life, and then one day, you notice that you start having digestive issues after eating ice cream. This is common as we get older as our body stops producing digestive enzymes that allow us to process foods such as gluten or dairy.
Remember what I said about how 80% of your immune system lives in your gut? If you have poor gut health, your immune system could start mistaking proteins in dairy (whey and casein) and gluten as foreign invaders. This leads to a chronic state of inflammation that moves you further along the autoimmune spectrum.
If you don’t know if you have an intolerance to certain foods, I recommend doing an elimination diet. With an elimination diet, you remove inflammatory and toxic foods for 30 days and reintroduce them one-by-one and track your symptoms.
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 but 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 then you will feed the SIBO and yeast (Candida), letting them grow even more out of control and this is called dysbiosis.
Over time, having this dysbiosis in your gut microbiome will eventually lead to a leaky gut. If your gut is leaky, food particles, toxins, and infections can get through your intestinal lining and into your bloodstream where your immune system detects them as foreign invaders and goes on high alert, attacking them and creating inflammation.
The Leaky Gut and Autoimmunity Connection
Leaky gut happens when the tight junctions that keep your intestinal wall together loosen. Think of your gut like a drawbridge. If your gut is healthy, these tight junctions allow teeny tiny boats travel back and forth to allow vital nutrients from the food you eat to be absorbed into your bloodstream.
A poor diet, other gut infections, can cause these tight junctions to open up and allow much bigger boats to get through and into your bloodstream such as toxins, microbes, and part partially digested food particles.
Once your gut is leaky, your immune system marks them as dangerous invaders and attacks them invaders and sends out wave after wave of inflammation. Eventually, it becomes overstressed and starts firing less accurately. An overactive immune system leads to autoimmunity and other health problems as your tissues end up in the crosshairs of the war.
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.
Heal Your Gut 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 to autoimmune disease. The Myers Way® is based in functional medicine, a medical approach that looks at how all the body’s systems interact and aims to get them functioning optimally. I’ve successfully used it with thousands of patients and seen amazing results.
The Myers Way® rests on four pillars, each of which has been tested through extensive research and years of experience as a physician.
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 affect the environment of the GI tract, such as inflammatory and toxic foods, and intestinal infections such as yeast overgrowth and SIBO.
- Restore what’s missing — Adding digestive enzymes and HCL to your daily regimen will help support optimal digestion and nutrient absorption, as well as assist your body’s intestinal repair and inflammation responses.
- Reinoculate with healthy bacteria — Restore beneficial bacteria with probiotics to re-establish a healthy 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 gut lining. Drinking bone broth or collagen will also help to heal your gut, as will supplementing with omega-3s, zinc, and herbs such as slippery elm and aloe vera.
Pillar II: Get Rid of Gluten, Grains, and Legumes
Gut infections put you further along the autoimmune spectrum, which is 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 by eliminating foods that are causing inflammation and damage to your intestinal tract: Gluten, grains, and legumes!
I also recommend that those with autoimmune diseases avoid vegetables in the nightshade family, which includes tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes. These plants are very high in lectins that damage the gut lining, easily enter the bloodstream, and do not break down in cooking.
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, the food you eat, 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 yoga, or a long walk in a natural setting–changing your environment can also help you get away from your stress.
For total support, The Myers Way® Autoimmune Kit is a combination of four of the most important nutritional supplements 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. By eating a diet full of organic whole foods and supporting your gut health, 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.
- The Role of Microbiome in Insomnia, Circadian Disturbance and Depression. Yuanyuan Li. Frontiers in Psychiatry, vol 9. 2018.