Gut bacteria number more than 100 trillion cells. But not all bacteria are created equal. 'Good' gut bacteria, for instance, have been found to improve digestion, strengthen the immune system and produce vitamins your body needs. Meanwhile, 'bad' gut bacteria can cause digestion problems, mental health issues and skin conditions to arise, among others.
In fact, numerous studies have been conducted on the gut, exploring the connection between gut bacteria and overall human health. Results have shown that unbalanced gut bacteria can be detrimental to your health. But how can you determine whether something is wrong with your gut bacteria to begin with, and what can you do about it?
Be on the lookout for these common warning signs, indicating that something may be wrong with your gut. Here's what to watch out for:
1. Digestive issues
Unhealthy gut bacteria is often associated with digestive problems. While prescription drugs like Prevacid or generic antacids help people who struggle with digestive issues, these medications only address the symptoms at the surface. Some symptoms you may experience that indicate an unhealthy gut include:
2. Mental issues
Your gut health may also have an impact on your mental health. In fact, scientists have discovered that certain mental disorders can be linked to disturbances in gut bacteria. Depression and anxiety, brain fog, OCD and autism may all be a result of an imbalance in your gut bacteria.
3. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
A healthy gut helps your body produce and synthesize vitamins and minerals. If your gut bacteria is unbalanced, your body will have a harder time processing essential vitamins and minerals, like vitamin D, vitamin K, vitamin B12 and B7, as well as magnesium.
While it may be essential to take antibiotics on occasion to wipe out bad bacteria, antibiotics also kill the good bacteria in your gut. Furthermore, research has found that good bacteria wiped out by antibiotics will not replace itself naturally.
5. Chronic stress
Feeling stressed can make you feel worn down. It can make you anxious, as well as increase your blood pressure. Stress can also wreak havoc on your gut. However, while in certain situations stress is inevitable, learning how to manage it is paramount. Stress that isn't managed increases cortisol levels in the gut, inhibiting it from working effectively.
6. Skin conditions
Many skin problems are usually not associated with the skin itself. In fact, an unhealthy gut may be the reason for your skin issues, particularly if you suffer from acne, psoriasis and eczema.
7. Autoimmune disease
Autoimmune disease is not only difficult to manage (the body literally attacks itself) - it can be tough to spot the root of the problem and address it. However, more and more research suggests that autoimmune diseases may be linked to an unhealthy gut, particularly if you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.
4 Ways to Balance Your Gut Bacteria
Bearing in mind the symptoms above, you can take preventative measures to improve the health of your gut. These four simple steps are a great start:
1. Avoid toxins
Start off by examining what you eat. Eating foods that kill off good bacteria will encourage bad bacteria to grow, breaking down the lining in your gut. One of the ways to reverse this process is to avoid eating toxic foods, such as grains, conventional grain-fed dairy, sugar and unhealthy oils. Stick to a diet that is predominantly centered around vegetables, animal protein and fruits instead, creating an environment for good bacteria.
2. Eat fermented foods
While avoiding toxic foods is an essential place to start, it's not enough to promote optimal gut health. One of the best ways to promote good gut bacteria is to consume more fermented foods. Try to include kimchi, sauerkraut, non-pasteurized yogurt, cheese and kefir into your daily diet. Start with a small teaspoon or two a day, giving your body time to adjust.
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3. Take probiotic supplements
While fermented foods are a great source of good bacteria, you can restore your gut health faster by taking a daily probiotic supplement - a good way to make up for the lost good bacteria. Be on the lookout for supplements that are potent and contain strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
4. Manage your stress
Managing your stress levels is as essential as changing your diet. Doing so will help reduce inflammation, lower cortisol levels and improve your gut health. In addition, make sure you get enough sleep. A sleep deficit can raise cortisol levels and harbor bad bacteria in the gut.