We are told from a very young age to follow our gut instincts…but you may not be aware of how truly important your gut is to the optimal functioning of your physical and mental well-being. The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is central to the health of the whole body. When the GI tract is unhealthy, faulty absorption of minerals, vitamins, and nutrients occur, which has negative consequences that can be seen throughout the body.
Here are just some of the side effects one might experience if they have an unhealthy gut:
1. Constipation, diarrhea, bloat, and pain
These are the uncomfortable symptoms commonly associated with issues related to the GI tract. The GI tract is a source of major inflammation in the body. It can be like a fire. When the GI tract is out of balance, it creates a sort of fire that results in an inflammatory response that can cause you significant discomfort. In fact, it can increase all inflammatory conditions throughout the body. Parasites in the GI tract can also create inflammation-causing toxins, which affect every cell in the body.
2. Constant fatigue
When you are sick, you feel tired. The GI tract is the place in the body that filters and deals with bacteria, parasites, and food intolerances (like gluten and dairy) and it sucks the body of its energy. Just like with a virus, when the GI tract is "sick,"1 its ability to filter out impurities weakens, allowing more unhealthy elements to invade the body. The fatigue you feel comes as the body works to try and regulate the imbalances caused by these outside influences.
3. Joint pain
While you may be unaware, joint pain is another expression of inflammation in the body. As previously mentioned, the GI tract is the source of inflammation within the body. Consequently, when part of the body becomes inflamed, all of the body's immune response systems direct their resources to that area. All of the white cells and immune complexes are focused on treating that singular problem.
Research has shown2 that people with “leaky gut” who have an increased level of microbes in the gut correlates with increased joint pain and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). As discussed in this article, leaky gut leads to inflammation all over the body, if you are predisposed to joint pain, this inflammation will result in an increase in joint pain (which by definition, is a form of inflammation in your joints).
4. Weight gain
One of the major sources of weight gain is an imbalanced or "sick" GI tract (sometimes called leaky gut) and is, oftentimes, a key factor for weight gain. Additionally, food intolerances or allergies may be causing your gut imbalance. The inability to properly digest and break down certain foods may cause them to metabolize ineffectively and can thus contribute to weight gain.
5. Hair loss
When the GI tract is imbalanced, it doesn't make its healthy digestive enzymes. When we don't have proper digestive enzymes, we don't absorb all of the key nutrients needed to sustain hair growth and healthy hair. One of the things I often do for hair loss is to treat the culprit parasite(s) as well as take a patient off of gluten and/or dairy. I may also give them digestive enzymes to aid in the absorption of their dietary nutrients.
6. Vaginal health
Parasites and yeast in the GI tract can also create inflammation and infection in the vagina. When we eat foods that we have an allergy or intolerance for, they can cause the mucus membranes in the body to react, including the vaginal mucus membranes. The pH of the vagina is very important for vaginal health. Anytime there is poor digestion, the pH of the body is altered, causing more vaginal pain, dryness, and infections.
Other common symptoms that can occur from leaky gut include migraines, heart palpitations, rashes, and allergies.
If you are suffering from any of the above symptoms, your gut is most likely not functioning at its best capacity. It is important first to know whether or not you have any dietary issues, food allergies, parasites, or yeast that might be causing the digestive issues or inflammation. Targeted blood tests can easily determine which foods or food groups as well as parasites might be the culprits. Once the root cause(s) are known, simple adjustments to your diet as well as treatments to detox your body of the irritant parasites (through a course of natural treatments, enzymes, and supplements) will help heal your gut.
It is very important to listen to your body and what it's trying to tell you. If you think that you may have gut issues, I recommend that you speak with your doctor about getting the necessary blood tests to get to the root cause of your symptoms.
I also urge you all to be proactive in ensuring you are at optimal health. You should never accept feeling anything less than your most healthy and radiant self!
Prudence Hall is a traditional medical practitioner turned pioneer of regenerative and integrated medicine and founder of The Hall Center in Santa Monica, California. Her practice is focused exclusively on regenerative medicine, looking into the root causes of conditions and diseases rather than simply treating symptoms. She strives to help clients achieve optimal health and actively prevent disease without the use of pharmaceutical drugs when appropriate. She is also the author of Radiant Again & Forever, available now.