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Linwods logoInterest in gut health has been on the rise recently. And, as more and more research emerges, we’re beginning to understand the significant impact of gut health on overall wellbeing.

While we’re familiar with some of the more common signs of poor gut health, such as stomach cramps, bloating, or diarrhea, there are many other, lesser-known signs worth being aware of.

With this in mind, we’ve partnered with Linwoods, to explore eight surprising signs of poor gut health and how to fix it. Linwods aims to enhance the health and wellbeing of their customers by selling nutritionally dense, healthy foods that use the finest quality ingredients.

8 surprising signs of poor gut health

surprising signs of poor gut health

Stomach cramps, nausea, and bloating are among the more obvious signs of an unhappy gut – but what about the less obvious signs?

We’ll cover some of these below…

1. Bad breath

Research suggests that bad breath may sometimes signal poor gut health.

One of the most common causes is small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) – a condition that causes a build-up of bacteria in the small intestine. This overgrowth can lead to symptoms like gas, diarrhea, and an inability to absorb and digest nutrients from food.

Research has also found that, in some cases, poor digestion can cause bad breath. Other gastrointestinal conditions, such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) have been linked with elevated levels of sulfur in breath too.

2. Unintentional weight changes

Gaining or losing weight without changing your diet or activity levels can be a sign of poor gut health. Imbalances in the gut microbiome can affect the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, store fat, and regulate blood sugar.

For example, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) can cause malabsorption and result in weight loss. Similarly, having large numbers of ‘bad’ bacteria in the gut (a condition known as gut dysbiosis) has been linked with weight gain.

3. Sugar cravings

Different gut microbes thrive off different food sources. For example, while fibre feeds good gut bacteria, bad bacteria prefer sources like added sugar, salt, additives, and unhealthy fats.

This means that diets high in ultra-processed foods can lead to an overgrowth of bad bacteria in the gut. And research suggests that the more you indulge in cravings, the more the microbes influencing these cravings will grow.

4. Fatigue

If you get enough sleep but often wake up feeling groggy, it could be a sign that your gut needs some TLC. Research has linked both physical and mental tiredness with poor gut health.

In this study, researchers found that how awake and alert a person felt was directly influenced by the state of their gut microbiome. Other research has linked specific digestive symptoms, such as constipation, with fatigue; and this study found that almost half of people with chronic fatigue syndrome also had IBS.

Meanwhile, having a healthy gut microbiome has been associated with high-quality sleep.

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5. Headaches

If you’ve been experiencing headaches recently, it could signal poor gut health. This connection can be explained by the gut-brain axis, which is the communication system between the gut and brain.

For example, among other things, we know from research that gut microbes produce chemicals that directly affect how the brain works. Microbes are also involved in regulating inflammation throughout the body which, unchecked, is associated with symptoms like headaches and several brain disorders, including depression and Alzheimer’s disease.

This study found that migraines may be linked with inflammation in the gut and gastrointestinal disorders like IBS. The same study also noted that making healthy diet changes to improve gut health, such as adding more fibre to your diet, may reduce headaches and migraines.

Other research has confirmed this too; revealing that people who experience symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, reflux, and nausea are more likely to suffer from headaches than those who don’t.

In this study, when people with celiac disease who also suffered from migraines eliminated gluten from their diet for six months, they reported significant improvements in their migraines.

6. Stress, anxiety, and depression

Continuing on the same line of the gut-brain axis, research shows that gut health is closely linked with a risk of stress, anxiety, and depression.

Research suggests that the gut microbiome plays a significant role in stress response and the development of anxiety and depression. For example, in this study, inflammation and disturbances in the gut were linked with a higher risk of depression and anxiety.

Plus, did you know that 95% of the body’s serotonin is produced in the gut? Serotonin, also known as the ‘happy hormone’, is responsible for mood regulation and – at normal levels – can help you feel happier, calmer, and more focused. So, it’s no wonder that low mood can signal poor gut health.

7. Skin problems

Our skin has a unique microbiome, which research shows can be influenced by the gut microbiome.

You may have noticed that your skin becomes irritated or breaks out in spots when you eat certain foods – particularly those high in saturated fats or added sugar.

Research has found that these foods cause imbalances in gut bacteria that can contribute to various skin issues, including acne, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, and dandruff. Dysbiosis (imbalances in gut bacteria) has also been linked with an increased risk of acne.

Other studies have highlighted a deeper connection between skin issues and gut health. For example, research shows that people with rosacea are also likely to experience gastrointestinal issues. Similarly, while only 2% to 3% of the general population have psoriasis, this increases from 7% to 11% among people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

8. Joint pain and arthritis

The link between your gut and joints may be less obvious, but recent research has suggested that joint pain, particularly arthritis, may be affected by gut bacteria.

The good bacteria in our gut are key for overall health because they break down and absorb food, and help the immune system identify and fight off harmful bacteria. It’s this latter function which may explain the link between gut and joint health.

This study found that many people with rheumatoid arthritis also had high amounts of a particular bacteria called Prevotella copri, in their guts. It also noted that the more abundant P. copri was, the fewer there were of other groups of ‘good’ gut bacteria.

Another study concluded that a lack of gut bacteria diversity was linked with symptoms of psoriatic arthritis (a type of arthritis linked with psoriasis).

Get 20% off and free delivery with Linwoods with code RESTLESS20

Linwoods Cold Milled Organic Flaxseed: Powerhouse plant food for your body. Just a sprinkle (20g) on your cereal, porridge, yogurt or smoothie boosts your heart health, immune system, and even helps maintain muscle mass!

Shop now

How can I improve my gut health?

How can I improve my gut health

We’ll cover some ways to improve gut health below. For further guidance, check out our article; 7 ways to improve gut health.

Add more variety to your diet

Experts have identified over 1,000 different species of gut microbiome bacteria. However, it’s believed that most people have only around 160 of these species in their gut.

Different bacteria thrive off of different foods, which means that eating the same foods over and over can increase the risk of gut imbalances. Meanwhile, eating a varied diet is considered one of the most effective ways to boost bacteria diversity and improve gut health.

This study found that people who regularly ate over 30 different types of plant foods per week had a more diverse and healthy gut microbiome than those who ate 10 or fewer plant foods per week.

Interestingly, these results were consistent among meat-eaters, vegetarians, and vegans alike, suggesting that plant foods may have the largest influence on gut bacteria diversity.

Aiming for 30 different plant foods a week may sound intimidating, but remember this includes everything from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to pulses, legumes, nuts, seeds, spices, and herbs.

For example, eating more legumes has been linked with a more stable gut microbiome; while diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids (foods like nuts and seeds) are associated with a more diverse gut microbiome.

There are plenty of easy and enjoyable ways to increase diet variety. For more information, check out our article; What are the benefits of adding more variety to your diet?

Increase your fibre intake

Fibre is key for a healthy gut because it supports healthy digestion. The government advises that we need 30g of fibre a day. However, according to the NHS, most UK adults only eat an average of 20g per day.

Examples of high-fibre foods that are easy to add to your diet include fruit, vegetables, beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. For example, flaxseed and chia seeds contain 5g and 5.8g of fibre per 20g serving, respectively.

Linwoods sells a range of healthy fibre-rich products, including flaxseeds and chia seeds.

For more ideas on upping your fibre intake, check out our article; 10 easy ways to add more fibre to your diet.

Get a good balance of prebiotics and probiotics

Probiotics and prebiotics are key for gut health. Simply put, probiotics are healthy gut bacteria; while prebiotics are a type of fibre that probiotics feed on.

It’s important to note that while prebiotics are a type of fibre, not all fibre contains prebiotics. So, increasing your general fibre intake is a great place to start, but focusing specifically on including enough prebiotics in your diet is important too.

Research shows that having a balance between prebiotics and probiotics is important for gut health.

For further guidance, head over our article; What’s the difference between probiotics and prebiotics? Or, for ways to add them to your diet, check out our articles; 13 prebiotic foods to add to your diet and 8 fermented foods for gut health.

Avoid ultra-processed foods

Research shows that people who eat lots of ultra-processed foods are more likely to have more ‘bad’ bacteria in their gut than people who avoid them. Likewise, people who rarely eat processed foods will typically have more ‘good’ bacteria in their gut.

It’s also likely that lowering your intake of these foods may help to reduce food cravings.

For further reading, check out our articles; 9 simple ways to cut back on added sugar and What are the benefits of a whole food, plant-based diet?

Get 20% off and free delivery with Linwoods with code RESTLESS20

Linwoods Cold Milled Organic Flaxseed: Powerhouse plant food for your body. Just a sprinkle (20g) on your cereal, porridge, yogurt or smoothie boosts your heart health, immune system, and even helps maintain muscle mass!

Shop now

Final thoughts…

Maintaining a healthy gut is key to almost every aspect of health. If you’ve been struggling with headaches, joint pain, or fatigue, your gut could be saying something to you. Luckily, whether it’s adding more variety to your diet or avoiding processed foods, there are plenty of ways to improve gut health.

Nuts and seeds like chia and flaxseeds are a fantastic source of dietary fibre. Head over to the Linwoods website to browse their full range of products.

And, for further reading, head over to the general health section of our website. Here, you’ll find information on everything from longevity to bladder health.

What steps are you taking to improve your gut health? Did any of the potential signs of an unhealthy gut on this list surprise you? We’d be interested to hear from you in the comments below.