On my last post, I covered the importance of gut health and some of the things that can negatively affect it. Click here to read it if you haven’t already done so. For this second part on gut health, I want to discuss some of the more practical parts for gut health maintenance, including some of the signs and symptoms of a compromised GI tract and several ways that you can assess your own gut health at home, so let’s dive right in!
Signs & Symptoms
The most of obvious symptoms of an unhealthy gut are digestive upsets. Lots of people are walking around with digestive issues and assume that it is normal, and that it is simply how their bodies work without thinking much else of it. Something that lots of people may not be aware of is that digestion should not be uncomfortable. Proper digestion usually goes unnoticed, and if you are finding yourself frequently being annoyed by your GI tract, there is definitely room for improvement. Digestive symptoms can include things like acid re-flux, heartburn, bloating, belching, flatulence (especially with a strong odor), diarrhea and/or constipation, undigested food in stools, and pain or difficulty with bowel movements. Experiencing any of these symptoms, especially shortly after meals, is an indicator that your gut health needs improvement.
Interestingly enough, sometimes poor gut health can trigger dermatological symptoms as well. Things like dry/itchy skin, acne, and skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema, and rashes can all be related to the state of the gut. So if you’re craving some flawless looking skin, improving your digestive health can be a huge part of obtaining it.
Problems related to mood and energy can also be attributed to compromised gut integrity. These include chronic fatigue, brain fog, headaches/migraines, and mood disorders including anxiety, depression, and ADD/ADHD. Of course, mood disorders can also be attributed to various psychological issues, but gut health can play a part as well.
Some other symptoms that can indicate poor gut health include achy/creaky joints, other autoimmune illnesses, and poor muscular recovery that results in physical weakness. So if you are an active person and want to feel well during your workouts, consider the state of your gut health.
Assessing Your Gut Health
Perhaps after reading some of the symptoms listed above, you suspect that your gut health might need some work. But if you are still unsure, there are some ways you GI tract’s integrity at home.
1. Pay attention to your symptoms.
This is a good place to start if you’re wondering whether or not you need to address gut issues. While keeping in mind the symptoms listed above, pay close attention to how you feel and whether or not you’re symptomatic for about 3-7 consecutive days. Take note of how severely you experience your symptoms.
2. Note your stool frequency.
Examine how frequently you have bowel movements over the course of a week. Anywhere between 1-3 bowel movements per day is ideal. Anything less than 1 daily BM can indicate constipation, and any more than about 5 daily BMs can be an indicator of diarrhea.
3. Perform a transit test.
You can test to see how long after ingestion your food takes to be excreted. This can be done by mixing a teaspoon of white sesame seeds with water and swallowing the seeds whole. Take note of the time you ingest the seeds, and examine your stools until they contain sesame seeds. However long it takes for you to start excreting the seeds is your transit time. Ideally, transit time should range from about 12-48 hours. Too short of a transit time can lead to malabsorption or nutrient deficiencies, while too long of a transit time can mean that the body is inefficient at removing waste and toxins.
4. Try a bristol stool test.
You can examine your stools for a few consecutive days and see where they land on the bristol stool scale. An optimal stool will look mostly like a number 4 stool, but teetering into a 3 or 5 every so often is not much of a concern.
I know on my last post I had stated that I would divide this gut health series into two parts, but I found that there is too much information to cover, so I’ve extended it to three parts instead. Hopefully that number will be sufficient. Anyway, I hope you found this short and sweet post useful. My next post will cover a practical and detailed step-by-step process to healing your gut, and it will be much lengthier than this, but I promise to make it worth your while with useful information! As always, if you have any questions or comments, or would like to share some positive feedback, feel free to drop it in the comments section below!