How to Tell Your Gut Isn’t Healthy

The human race has been listening to the gut for as long as we’ve had axioms — what do you do when your belly rumbles?

You eat.

What do you do when you go with your gut instinct?

You listen to your emotions. 

What do you do when there are butterflies in your stomach?

Some people fall in love and start families. Some of us totally clam up and give into anxiety.

But no matter what, we heed the gut. 

Somehow, when our gut is telling us that something in the ecosystem of our microbiome is imbalanced, or infected, or undernourished, we can ignore that. Largely because we may not be able to recognize the call of the gut. 

There are several ways that your gut may try to reach you when something isn’t right — whether it’s leaky gut syndrome, or something more complicated like diverticulitis, or maybe even just good old fashioned bad gas. Nothing happens for no reason. It’s important to pay attention to what your body is telling you.

Especially the gut, since it’s the place sending vitamins, minerals, and enzymes to the bloodstream, and also the home of trillions of bacteria. If something’s not right, then pretty soon, lots of other things in the body won’t be right.

To start with, these are all symptoms of an unhealthy gut:

  • Skin rashes/itchiness
  • Brain fog
  • Chronic bloating and painful gas
  • Chronic constipation or diarrhea
  • Immobilizing cramps
  • Anxiety/depression
  • Frequent weight changes
  • Inability to lose weight while eating well and exercising
  • Excessive sugar or salt cravings
  • Persistent headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Acne and psoriasis
  • Food sensitivity or intolerance
  • Joint pain

Now, some of those may seem like symptoms of lots of things — how can you tell if your depression is a gut issue? 

Well, remember, the intestines are responsible for absorbing nutrients and sending out the food your cells need. If there’s a breakdown in communication, then your brain isn’t getting the help it needs to function optimally. And new studies have shown that some of these microbes may produce neuroactive compounds, which relate to…

The brain. Everything is connected to everything else!

How to Avoid an Unhealthy Gut 

Young, healthy people likely have a robust microbiome with diverse flora. This means their immunity is more elastic and has a stronger chance of regaining equilibrium should an issue arise.

However, the older and younger a person is, the more likely it is that they’ll encounter gut issues. Older people have less diverse flora, and younger people haven’t had as long to build up their ecosystem. 

Antibiotics, since they sometimes indiscriminately kill positive bacteria, can also make a body more susceptible to poor gut function, as can chronic stress, excessive weight, and a low-fiber diet.

Complex Tummy Troubles 

Sometimes, the cards are really stacked against you — like if you have Celiac’s disease. A recent study has found that those with a gluten allergy have increased permeability in their intestines. This means that the intestines can’t contain the chemicals that belong in the gut as well as healthy intestines can. 

The chronically stressed are at risk as well. You see, the brain and intestines are connected through the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is a conduit between the gut and the brain. 

Because the microbiome is responsible for deciding how the gut should respond to various stimuli (Should it inflame? Should it attack? Should it absorb?), the gut receives stress signals from the brain and responds in kind. 

For example, according to Dr. Kelly Brogan, there is “a lot of data that suggests that lipopolysaccharide…a component of gram negative bacteria that doesn’t belong circulating around our blood system, when it gains entry to systemic circulation, you develop the symptoms of depression.” 

The gut talks to the brain and the brain talks to the gut.

And even what can seem as innocuous as an upset tummy may be a symptom of a larger problem — depression? A lactose intolerance? Nutrition deficiency? Low-fiber? Leaky gut syndrome?

It’s always best to consult with a doctor before making any significant changes.


Pay attention when your gut is trying to talk to you. You’ll learn a lot about yourself, and your body, by going with your gut on this.

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Dr. Pedram Shojai

NY Times Best Selling author and film maker. Taoist Abbot and Qigong master. Husband and dad. I’m here to help you find your way and be healthy and happy. I don’t want to be your guru…just someone who’ll help point the way. If you’re looking for a real person who’s done the work, I’m your guy. I can light the path and walk along it with you but can’t walk for you.