Signs of an unhealthy gut and how to heal it

Many health issues have been linked to problems in the gut - ranging from digestive issues such as bloating, gas and diarrhoea, to food allergies or sensitivities, depression, anxiety and other mood issues, skin issues such as eczema and more serious health issues such as diabetes and autoimmune disease.

The health of your digestive system is generally controlled by the amount and types of bacteria it contains, and an overgrowth of bad bacteria leads to an imbalance. This is known as ‘gut dysbiosis’ and can result in some of the symptoms and health issues listed above.

Signs of an unhealthy gut and how to heal it

The types of bacteria we have in our gut is influenced by everything that we eat and do and different colonies of bacteria have been found in those consuming high sugar diets compared with those on a more natural, plant-based diet. Research has also shown that there is a difference in the types of gut bacteria found in those with depressive disorders compared to those without and in obese individuals compared with those of a normal weight.

The standard protocol that nutritional therapists use to support and balance the digestive system is known as the 4Rs – Remove, Replace, Reinoculate, Repair – which involves the following:

Step 1: Remove problematic foods and toxins from the diet – this can include caffeine, alcohol, processed foods, bad fats and other foods that might be causing issues, such as gluten and dairy.

Step 2: Replace the essential ingredients required for proper digestion and absorption, including digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid and bile acids.

Step 3: Reinoculate by restoring the balance of bacteria in the gut by introducing good bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobactera, which can be achieved through a probiotic supplement. Prebiotic foods can also help to feed the population of good bacteria to help restore the balance.

Step 4: Repair the gut by eating an unprocessed diet and including nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, L-glutamine and antioxidants (vitamins A, C and E, zinc and selenium).

The gut also contains trillions of bacteria that communicate directly with the ENS and are a major factor in digestive health. This microbiome affects the body’s vitamin and mineral production and absorbency, hormone regulation, digestion, energy production, immune response and ability to protect against and eliminate toxins.