WHAT DOES POOR GUT HEALTH LOOK LIKE?
One of the easiest ways to identify a ‘gut in trouble’ is the experience of any of the symptoms or disorders discussed above. Mood issues, digestive problems, inflammation, imbalanced blood sugar, and nutrient deficiencies may all be signs that your gut needs a little extra TLC. That being said, there are a number of key behaviors, which have become the norm in modern-day society, but have actually been identified as detrimental to our gut health:
Let’s face it, we’ve become a ‘pill-popping’ society and our bodies are beginning to rebel. Overuse of medications such as anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, steroids, and acid blockers can disrupt and prevent normal digestive functioning (13).
It’s common knowledge that eating highly processed, sugar dense and nutrient-poor food poses harmful influences on health. This harm is largely due to the impact of poor diet on the gut. These foods can lead to pathological, yeast, and bacterial overgrowth, while the low fiber content of processed, high-sugar diets essentially starve the healthy gut bacteria by completely eliminating their main food source.
Stress is a plague in modern society that is slowly running humans into a state of poor health. When stress is detected, the sympathetic nervous system is automatically switched on, regardless of whether a physical, emotional, or biochemical stressor is perceived. When the sympathetic nervous system becomes dominant it switches on the ‘fight or flight’ mode, which automatically turns down any process that is not deemed to be vital during a survival state - including rest and digestion. Over time, a digestive system that is forced to operate within a sympathetic state can alter the normal gut bacterial constitution and lead to conditions in which the health of the gut lining becomes compromised, such as having a leaky gut which cannot appropriately differentiate between the uptake of nutrients and toxic substances (14).
A subpar digestive system is a breeding ground for infection; particularly a chronic low-grade infection such as yeast overgrowth, parasites, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. In fact, research has shown that individuals with compromised gut health have demonstrated greater levels of low-grade inflammation, resulting in impaired mucosal integrity within the duodenum; the first part of the small intestine (15).
INCREASED TOXIC EXPOSURE
As mentioned above, a healthy gut works to minimize exposure to high-level toxins through the acidic stomach environment. Additionally, as the gut acts as a semipermeable barrier to let in nutrients and keep out toxins and pathogens, the integrity of the gut barrier is critical for appropriately controlling toxic exposures.
If the health of your gut becomes compromised, gut bacteria can easily become exposed to toxins such as mercury and mold which have been linked to endocrine and neuronal disruption as well as respiratory disorders such as asthma (16,17).