If there’s one thing the medical community agrees on it’s the fact that “normal” is a relative term. Every person’s body has little quirks and variations.
With that in mind, how do you know what normal digestion feels like? Are your stomach cramps just a normal glitch or a sign that something is out of whack?
Today is the day to put your questions to rest. Read up on the signs of an unhealthy digestive system and the best ways to clean your gut and get everything back in working order.
Signs of An Unhealthy Gut
We all have digestive problems now and again. When is it a sign that you have a larger problem? Take a healthy gut inventory with this checklist of symptoms.
1. Frequent Digestive Discomfort
No one likes to deal with bloating, gas, cramping, heartburn, and other uncomfortable gut situations. That’s why your drug store has an entire aisle dedicated to them.
It’s normal for these problems to appear every once in a while. If they’re happening more than once every several weeks, though, your gut is trying to tell you something.
When the bacteria in your gut are imbalanced, it can lead to any number of these symptoms happening on a regular basis.
2. Mood Swings
This one tends to surprise people. If you haven’t been feeling as perky and predictable as you used to, it could be a gut problem.
A hormone called serotonin is one of the major ways your body regulates your emotions. A large amount of your serotonin is produced in your gut.
Inflammation or other problems in this area throw your serotonin levels out of balance. This tends to make you irritable and bring on mood swings.
3. Unexpected Weight Changes
Small weight fluctuations are part of life. We all have times when we slack on our diet or get an extra surge of workout motivation.
It’s a different story if your weight is changing even though you haven’t changed your diet or your exercise routine.
When your digestive system isn’t performing at its best, it hinders your ability to absorb nutrients and to use the sugar in your blood. These changes, along with an overgrowth of bacteria in your small intestine, can make you gain or lose weight.
4. Bathroom Routine Changes
We’re going to get real for a moment: your bathroom routine matters. It might not be pleasant to think about but it’s an important indicator of your health.
Constipation is a sure sign of a gut issue, especially if it happens on a regular basis. The same goes for using the toilet more often than usual. In truth, any change in your bowel movements could be a sign that you need to make healthier choices.
5. Non-Allergic Food Reactions
Have ever said, “Something I ate didn’t agree with me”? If you’re saying that more than once in a blue moon, your gut may be sending you a sign.
Getting reactions like cramping, gas, and other abdominal symptoms after eating specific foods may mean your gut isn’t at its best. If your gut bacteria is poor in quality, it doesn’t digest specific foods as well as it should.
Keep in mind that this is different than an anaphylactic reaction from a food allergy, like swelling from eating shellfish.
6. A Sweet Tooth Takeover
Sugar cravings are the bane of every dieter’s existence. As it turns out, you may be able to keep them at bay by improving your gut health.
If you don’t have enough good bacteria in your gut, it tends to lead to sugar cravings. The cruel irony is that eating too much sugar can lead to inflammation which unbalances your gut bacteria.
In other words, eating too much sugar causes a problem which makes you want to eat too much sugar.
7. Chronic Fatigue
Who among us doesn’t feel the weight of a busy schedule? Even still, if you find yourself dragging all day every day, you need more than a nap.
As we mentioned above, your gut produces most of your serotonin. In addition to regulating your moods, serotonin keeps your sleep cycle in line. This can cause fatigue during your waking hours and it can keep you awake at night as well.
Ways to Clean Your Gut
If more than a few of the items above sound all too familiar, you could have a problem with your gut health. Does that mean you’re in for years of doctors’ visits, expensive tests, and medications? Not necessarily.
Instead, start with some of these gut-cleaning healthy lifestyle changes.
1. Go Natural
Our way of life as humans has changed remarkably quickly, and far faster than our bodies can keep up with. We aren’t built to handle the processed foods that have become common in today’s world.
Those processed foods can lead to gut inflammation. To keep your inflammation to a minimum, stick to foods that are as close to their natural form as possible. This means fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy meats.
2. Slow Your Roll
When you were a child, did your mother ever tell you not to eat so fast because you’d get a stomach ache? She wasn’t wrong.
When you chew your food well and eat slowly, it helps your body digest it better. That digestion allows you to absorb the nutrients you need.
As an added bonus, eating slowly helps you avoid overeating. Overeating can cause temporary gut problems, and obesity tends to raise your risk for issues like frequent heartburn.
3. Manage Your Stress
This shouldn’t be a surprise because most of us have some digestive discomfort during times of extreme stress. It doesn’t need to get to that level to affect your gut.
Even more moderate levels of negative stress will impact your health over time. Now is the time to take advice from Frankie Goes to Hollywood and relax.
In the short term, try some new stress management techniques to restore more zen into your life. For a more long term solution, identify your biggest unnecessary sources of stress and cut them out.
That’s easier said than done, but your health will thank you in countless ways.
4. Shelve the Sugar
Yes, we know. Something about a piece of chocolate cake seems to soothe your soul. It doesn’t soothe your gut, though.
Too much sugar, especially processed sugar, leads to inflammation throughout your body. This includes gut inflammation which can lead to a range of gut health problems.
Most foods and drinks that are high in sugar are also processed and full of additives. See gut-cleaning tip #1.
5. Find Ways to Improve Your Sleep
This might feel frustrating because, as we mentioned above, poor sleep is a symptom of gut problems. But that makes it even more important to get your sleep on track. If you don’t you’re in for an endless cycle.
You can counteract your sleep disturbances by making lifestyle changes.
Get on a regular sleep schedule and stick with it on work days as well as your days off. Eventually, your body will get on schedule.
You can also cut out any caffeine after mid-afternoon. Turn off all your screens an hour before bedtime. This is also a good time to try some stress reduction before bed, like meditation.
6. Drink Like a Fish
Every cell in your body needs water to function. That includes the cells in your gut that govern your digestion.
Drinking enough water will keep your digestive system hydrated. It’s especially important for your stomach lining.
As an added bonus, drinking more water also cuts down on overeating. This is another way to cut down on gut problems.
7. Keep a Food Journal
As we mentioned above, you may have less-than-stellar gut health if you react poorly to certain foods. Some people don’t realize that this is the problem, though.
If you’re having frequent digestive discomfort, start journaling. Take note of everything you eat and when. Keep track of your digestive symptoms too.
This lets you notice patterns in the types of foods that trigger your symptoms.
Keep in mind that this is a temporary symptom management tactic. It isn’t a long-term solution. You should use it alongside some of the other tips above so you can avoid symptoms while you’re in the process of improving your gut health.
Restoring Your Gut to Greatness
One of humankind’s greatest assets and greatest liabilities is our ability to adapt. We can find a way to get through in almost any circumstance.
The problem with this is that we sometimes accept things we don’t have to accept. If you’ve been dealing with frequent digestive discomfort for years or decades, you may forget that it isn’t normal.
Today is the day to take charge of your health and improve your life. If you have several or more of the symptoms above, start by using our tips to clean your gut and get your body back on track.