7 Signs of an Unhealthy Gut

7 Signs of an Unhealthy Gut
September 02 10:25 2021 by admin Print This Article

To most people, the digestive system is one long tube in which food goes in, nutrients are absorbed and undigested food comes out. However, it’s not that simple. The human ‘gut’, which is a generic word for stomach and intestines put together, is an incredibly complex ecosystem made up of innumerable micro-organisms living there, collectively called the ‘microbiome’. While some of these microorganisms are harmful, most of them are beneficial to human health.

There are as many as 500 different species of these, and they directly impact our mood, immune system and mental health. There is even a relation between them and skin conditions, cancer and autoimmune disorders.

That is why, in the last couple of decades, scientists and doctors worldwide are of the opinion that maintaining good gut health can go a long way in ensuring good overall health, at any age or time in life. So it’s important to look out for symptoms of an unhealthy gut, as described below, so that timely medical help can be provided.

7 Signs of an Unhealthy Gut

1. Stomach upsets

A dysfunction of the gut bacteria is called dysbiosis and this can cause food to be improperly digested or eliminated. Dysbiosis can cause constipation, diarrhea, discomfort, distension (swelling of the abdomen), gas and a bloated sensation. Gas and bloated feeling are an indication that not enough stomach acids are being produced, so the food is fermenting in the stomach. For some people, dysbiosis can lead to them developing Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or colon cancer.

2. Food intolerance

Dysbiosis can also cause food allergies and food intolerance. These are different from food poisoning, where-in a high content of bacteria or virus in the food cause the body to throw out the dangerous food. In food allergy, the person shows all kinds of reactions when consuming a particular type of food. Where-as, in food intolerance, the person’s body is not able to digest certain foods properly causing the earlier mentioned conditions like gas, constipation, diarrhea, discomfort, indigestion, and distension.

3. Sugar cravings 

Gut bacteria secrete proteins that are similar in nature to leptin and ghrelin which are hunger-regulating hormones. These bacteria affect mood and food cravings. So if you are constantly eating healthy food, you are feeding the good bacteria that thrive on them, so you are more and more inclined to eat healthy food over time.

In the same way, if you are constantly eating unhealthy or junk food that is rich in sugar and refined foods, you are feeding the bacteria that thrive on them. As a result, you crave more and more for sugary or refined foods.

This explains why some people are always inclined towards junk food while some are always inclined towards healthy food (remember your grandparents).

Over a period of time, the good bacteria start dying out and bad bacteria start multiplying.

But the good news is that, by fixing the gut bacteria, you can fix the problem and transition towards healthy eating habits

4. Unexplained weight changes, bad breath, vitamin deficiencies

Gut bacteria affect the way nutrients from the food are absorbed, sugar is absorbed and fat is stored. And all these 3 parameters have a direct link to weight.

  • If the person is losing weight without reason, he/she could be suffering from a gut bacteria condition called small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
  • If people are putting on weight without any change in diet or exercise, it’s possible the person has insulin resistance, which is a trigger for Type-2 diabetes. Insulin resistance causes poor nutrient absorption, causing the urge to overeat. Diabetics are found to have higher concentrations of gut bacteria such as Blautia, Serratia and Akkermansia as against people without diabetes. Diabetics are also found to have less diversity of gut bacteria compared to healthy people.
  • Bad breath or halitosis is caused by bacteria that reside in the gums, between teeth and the tongue. However, changes in gut bacteria can indicate kidney conditions and poorly managed diabetes and both these cause bad breath.
  • In-spite of eating a healthy diet, some people show Vitamin deficiency and the reason for this is an imbalance in the gut bacteria. Deficiencies of Magnesium, Vitamin B7, B12, D and K have gut bacteria to blame.

5. Allergies and Skin conditions

A damaged gut caused by consuming an unhealthy diet can cause food allergies and proteins from the body to leak out. This can cause skin conditions like eczema, rosacea, acne, rashes and psoriasis. A research review published in the journal ‘Frontiers in Microbiology” have found that imbalanced gut bacteria can cause all the 3 kinds of allergies: skin allergies, food allergies and respiratory allergies.

6. Disturbed sleep, Fatigue, Bad mood, Migraine and Cognitive ill-health

These 5 signs are clubbed together here as they are closely linked to each other.

  • Serotonin is a hormone which affects our mood and sleep and majority of it is produced in the gut. A gut imbalance can disturb serotonin production, causing insomnia and poor sleep.
  • Insomnia or poor sleep in turn causes fatigue and tiredness all through the day, along with increasing the risk for a condition called fibromyalgia.
  • An imbalanced gut, and inflammation of the Central Nervous System can cause depression, anxiety and mood-swings which can also be caused by insomnia, so it’s double trouble. This is caused by certain hormones called gut peptides that control neurotransmitters or signals between the gut and brain.
  • Gut peptides can also affect cognitive abilities like concentration and focus. A gut imbalance can also affect learning and memory.
  • A research review published in “The Journal of Headache and Pain” has shown that the gut-brain connection can affect migraines, triggering migraines in some people and worsening the condition in those who already have it.

7. Auto-immune conditions

A healthy gut is indispensable for good immunity as nearly 70% of the immune system lies in the gut. When the gut is imbalanced, it causes a host of conditions such as inflammation and auto-immune disorders.

  • Some of the gut bacteria form toxins that cause inflammation and trigger some of the conditions mentioned above – such as insulin sensitivity, eczema, abdominal pain, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and migraine headaches.
  • An auto-immune condition or disorder is one in which the body’s immune system attacks the body-cells, wrongly recognizing them as invaders. A research review published in the journal ‘Clinical & Experimental Immunology’ throws light on a particular gut bacteria called Bacteroides fragilis. This produces proteins that can trigger autoimmune conditions like multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and ulcerative colitis.
  • Certain gut bacteria called Enterococcus gallinarum multiply rapidly, and travel outside the gut to the liver, fat cells and other tissues where they create an immune imbalance and affect metabolism in the body too.
  • There is also evidence that systemic inflammation caused by certain gut bacteria can trigger autoimmune disorders such as Psoriasis, Celiac Disease, or Hashimoto’s.


If gut bacteria are so important for our overall health, is there no way to fix the imbalances in them? Yes, there is! Some of the ways are: lowering your stress levels, getting enough sleep, eating healthy, eating slowly, staying hydrated, taking a prebiotic or probiotic, checking for food intolerances, and changing your diet. However, before you do these or resort to self-medication, it’s important to consult a doctor.

If you or any of your dear ones are showing any of the signs listed here, rush to a reputed hospital. A qualified gastroenterologist or gastrointestinal surgeon will conduct the required tests on your overall health and gut environment. He/she will then put you on a course of treatment for quick recovery and rehabilitation.


Kauvery Hospital is globally known for its multidisciplinary services at all its Centers of Excellence, and for its comprehensive, Avant-Grade technology, especially in diagnostics and remedial care in heart diseases, transplantation, vascular and neurosciences medicine. Located in the heart of Trichy (Tennur, Royal Road and Alexandria Road (Cantonment), Chennai, Hosur, Salem and Bengaluru, the hospital also renders adult and pediatric trauma care.

Chennai – 044 4000 6000 • Trichy – Cantonment – 0431 4077777 • Trichy – Heartcity – 0431 4003500 • Trichy – Tennur – 0431 4022555 • Hosur – 04344 272727 • Salem – 0427 2677777 • Bengaluru – 080 6801 6801

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1 Comment

  1. Siva
    September 23, 05:04 #1 Siva

    Stomach problems are common and thus we ignore it. Thanks for listing all these small changes and symptoms!

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