Gut Health: Signs you have a gut issue and how to fix it
Your gut health plays an important role in not just the digestion of food, but also for supporting the functioning of many systems throughout the body. This includes supporting mood and neurotransmitter balance, focus and concentration, skin integrity, thyroid hormone production, and balancing sex hormones. Your gut is also integral to a healthy immune system. Seventy to eighty percent of the immune system is located in the gut and regulated by the microbiome. This means your gut is essential for preventing the development of autoimmune disease and allergy, whilst ensuring the immune system remains robust to prevent colds, flus, and other opportunistic infections.
Signs you may have a gut issue include:
- Bloating after meals or progressively throughout the day
- Abdominal pains and cramps
- Constipation – not moving your bowels daily
- Diarrhoea – loose or water stools and increased bowel frequency
- Blood or mucous in the stool
- Itching or hives after certain foods
- An intolerance to certain foods
- Difficulty concentrating, poor memory
- Poor energy, fatigue
- Restless sleep
- Joint pain
- Headaches, migraines
- Skin issues – such as eczema, acne rosacea, and dermatitis
- Poor stress tolerance, anxiety
- Autoimmune disease
So, why might you have a gut issue?
There are a wide range of factors that can cause an imbalance to the gut microbiome and/or impair digestive processes. These include:
- Poor dietary habits – e.g. high consumption of sugar, refined foods, alcohol
- Stress – either acute or chronic
- Medications – particularly antibiotic and anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) use
- Infections – such as traveller’s diarrhoea, gastroenteritis
If you suspect you have a gut issue, then testing can be a good option. There’s not one perfect gut test, so it’s really about choosing the most appropriate test for your presenting symptoms. That’s why it’s important to review with a qualified practitioner, like myself, so we can help determine what investigations are going to provide the best information to develop an effective treatment protocol.
Common tests for assessing the gut include:
- Breath testing for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
- Microbiome testing – to measure bacteria, yeasts, and parasites
- Coeliac screening
- Helicobacter pylori screening
- Digestive markers – to assess digestive process and gut barrier integrity
- Intestinal permeability – to measure leaky gut
- Food sensitivity and intolerance testing
Once you’ve completed the testing and have results, we can then determine what is contributing to your gut issues and how to fix it. Treatment generally includes herbal and nutritional interventions to remove problematic bacteria, improve health of the gut barrier, encourage the growth of beneficial flora, and to support digestive processes. Dietary modification is usually helpful and includes restricting problematic foods short-term, but the focus should really be on emphasising the types of food that can nourish the gut and feed the right types of bacteria long-term. If you get your diet right, then you are going to rely less on supplements and also prevent any relapse of gut issues.
If you’d like more information on gut testing or treatment, send me a message or book an appointment online.