What are the Consequences of an Unhealthy Gut?
There are three primary consequences of an unhealthy gut: inflammation, nutrient absorption issues, and immune/autoimmune issues. All of these issues can have devastating health consequences.
It is believed that the gut is the primary cause of inflammation in the body. Inflammation is a primary contributor to disease and also results in many uncomfortable symptoms. An inflamed body is an uncomfortable body.
There are several symptoms that can be caused by inflammation, including:
- Insomnia. It might be hard to believe, but gut inflammation has been shown to be a cause of insomnia. If you have trouble sleeping, and you’re unable to pinpoint another cause, your sleepless nights might be due to gut inflammation.
- Acne and other skin disorders. It is believed that acne, psoriasis, and many other skin conditions can be caused by inflammation in the digestive tract.
- Depression. Inflammation that reaches the brain can influence the production and ratio of neurotransmitters.
- Anxiety. Anxiety without an identifiable cause can also be caused by inflammation.
- Fatigue. Inflammation can lead to imbalances in the body’s stress hormones, resulting in adrenal fatigue and overall fatigue throughout the body.
- Brain fog. Inflammation in the brain can be a cause of brain fog.
- Hormone imbalances. In females, gut inflammation can alter the levels of hormones and cause hot flashes, alter menstrual cycle length, and affect PMS symptoms. In men, hormonal imbalances due to gut inflammation can result in fatigue, muscle loss, erectile dysfunction, and poor memory.
- Thyroid-related symptoms. Systemic inflammation in the body can make it more challenging for your body to utilize thyroid hormone properly. This can result in symptoms of hypothyroidism, even if your thyroid hormone levels are normal.
Nutrient Absorption Issues
The nutrients that your body are able to absorb and utilize are affected by your gut bacteria. While most of the absorption of nutrients in the human body occurs in the small intestine, there is also a significant amount of digestion that occurs in the large intestine. Nearly all of the digestion that occurs in the large intestine is the result of bacterial activity. The bacteria ferment the remaining proteins and carbohydrates that made it beyond the small intestine. These proteins and carbohydrates are converted into short-chain fatty acids which can be used for energy in the body. Bacteria in the gut are also needed to synthesize vitamin B12, thiamin, folate, riboflavin, vitamin K, and biotin. A healthy gut is necessary for the synthesis and absorption of nutrients.
Autoimmune and Immune-Related Issues
Interestingly, gut bacteria are believed to play a huge role in autoimmune diseases. It turns out that proteins produced by the common gut bacteria can serve as the trigger for many autoimmune diseases such as ulcerative colitis and rheumatoid arthritis. These proteins mimic proteins that naturally occur in the human body. The immune system becomes sensitized to these proteins and begins attacking these proteins and the naturally occurring proteins. Leaky gut syndrome can also contribute to autoimmune disorders.
An unhealthy gut can be the primary cause of many autoimmune disorders, such as:
- Celiac disease. Celiac disease is an immune disorder that prevents people from eating gluten without injury to the
small intestine. The immune system is activated in the presence of gluten and attacks the small intestine.
- Gluten intolerance. There are many people that don’t have a true gluten allergy but are very sensitive to gluten in the diet.
- Inflammatory bowel disease. This is a broad term that describes disorders that involve chronic inflammation in the digestive tract. It includes several diseases, the most common of which are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
- Depression. There is mounting evidence that depression is at least related to many autoimmune issues.
- Irritable bowel syndrome. While celiac disease affects the small intestine, irritable bowel syndrome targets the large intestine. Irritable
bowel syndrome doesn’t cause permanent damage but can be troubling to manage. An immune system response or changes in gut bacteria are often to blame.
- Food allergies and reactivity. Bacteria imbalances in the gut have been implicated in many food allergy cases. Intolerances to certain foods can also be blamed on gut flora.
- Joint pain. Rheumatoid arthritis can cause great joint pain and long-term damage in the joints that are affected. This is an autoimmune disease that affects 1.3 million people in the United States.
- Hypothyroidism. The most common cause of hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disease that is often treated by addressing infections in the gut.
Hopefully, it’s beginning to become clear just how important a healthy gut is for general health. 100 trillion bacteria have the potential to either cause a lot of challenges or to support good health. Autoimmune diseases can be debilitating and life-threatening.
If you notice symptoms that interfere with your daily life, CLICK HERE to schedule an appointment or call Tracey Mixon at 512-643-3631 to arrange to have your hormones and nutrition evaluated.