Amy Shah, MD, an Ivy League-trained, double board certified physician, is one of the few doctors who masterfully integrates mainstream medicine with Eastern thought and a mind-body approach. This week, we're thrilled to share Dr. Shah's expertise in a new series on total gut health. To learn more, head to her new mindbodygreen course: The 7-Day Gut Reset: How To Get Your Digestion Back On Track In Just One Week.
As an integrative medicine doctor, I emphasize the importance of great gut health for overall wellness. But most people assume that poor digestion is the only indication that they might have an unhealthy gut.
In fact, because the gut is deeply connected to so many other parts of the body, including the brain and immune system, there are many surprising signs that suggest your gut is in need of a reboot. Here's what to look for:
1. You're bloated, constipated or gassy.
This is more obvious, since these are digestion issues indicating that your gut isn’t breaking down food into energy properly.
However, you may have simply been told by a doctor that you have IBS, leaky gut, SIBO or acid reflux, and that you need to take over-the-counter medication daily. But this merely treats the symptoms of your digestive problems, and doesn't get to the root cause. Over time, this could cause intestinal damage—so it's important to get down to the real issues and heal your gut.
2. You can't seem to lose weight, especially around the waistline.
The simple explanation for this is that your gut affects metabolism. If your gut is out of whack you could, for example, lack certain strains of flora that effectively break down fat or carbs. As a result, excess metabolic waste could be stored as adipose tissue, that pesky fat that's usually around your middle.
3. You often get sick.
At least 70 percent of your immune system is actually in your gut. That means that if your gut is out of balance, you could be more susceptible to viruses and sicknesses, and less able to fight them off.
That's why I recommend healing your gut first before you reach for medications to reduce symptoms or boost immunity. If you really want to boost immunity, you need a healthy gut first.
4. Your skin is going crazy.
Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and has long been considered an indicator of what's going on inside. For example, you’ve probably noticed when you eat well, your complexion glows, but when you feel sick or aren't eating clean your complexion becomes lackluster.
That's because people with good skin tend to have good gut bacteria. On the other hand, a gut out of balance means inflammation, immune breakdown and hormone disruption, leaving you more susceptible to things like athlete’s foot, allergic reactions, very dry or oily skin, acne and eczema.
5. You constantly feel tired and run down.
Although this is a complex issue, the simple explanation is that your digestion's job is to break down food into energy. So if your gut flora is off, then you may not be extracting the right energy from what you're eating.
The CDC estimates that at least one million Americans suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Now, clinical research is finding that leaky gut may be a contributor to CFS, and that focusing on digestive health could help.
6. You're anxious, moody or depressed.
Did you know that 95% of serotonin, your key mood-regulating neurotransmitter, is actually located in your gut—not your noggin? So there's a clear symbiotic relationship between gut health and neuro-health.
7. You're struggling with brain fog.
Like an old lawn mower that needs a rev up, you may feel like your brain just won’t kick-start. You forget simple vocabulary words, where you put your phone and how to do math in your head.
What's to blame? When your gut is inflamed, your brain could also be inflamed, contributing to cognitive breakdown.
8. You have autoimmune Issues.
Gut permeability is associated with autoimmunity. With leaky gut, antibodies attack the particles that have escaped, which can overstimulate the immune response, and lead to autoimmunity, like thyroid issues or adrenal fatigue.
Now that you know the signs, if you'd like to learn more about how to heal your gut naturally, check out my new mindbodygreen course, The 7-Day Gut Reset: How To Get Your Digestion Back On Track In Just One Week.