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Signs of poor gut health

How do you know if you have poor gut health? Diondra Atoyebi, D.O., a Piedmont family medicine physician, shares the signs of poor gut health and how to get back on track.

Why is gut health important?

A healthy gut means you have a good balance of bacteria, or microbes, in your gastrointestinal tract. These microbes help the body:

  • Obtain energy from the food you eat

  • Get rid of toxins

  • Fight harmful viruses and bacteria

  • Produce the mood-boosting brain chemical serotonin

Signs of poor gut health

When your body doesn’t have enough good bacteria, bad bacteria can thrive. The following can be signs of a gut bacteria imbalance: 

“When I hear people mention these symptoms, I’ll ask about their diet and the quality of the foods they are eating,” says Dr. Atoyebi. “If there is no other medical cause, their symptoms could be related to an unhealthy gut.”

Can poor gut health affect your mood?

Your mood and sense of well-being can be strongly affected by your gut health.

“It has been amazing to see the correlations between gut health and depression, anxiety, and fatigue,” she says. “When patients complain of chronic fatigue or depression, I’ll investigate and often find they are eating a lot of processed foods. Food affects how you feel, which manifests in your mood. While mood disorders are not solely regulated by gut health, it is definitely a factor.”

How to improve your gut health

To improve your gut health:

  • Avoid taking unnecessary antibiotics. Antibiotics can reduce both good and bad bacteria in the body.

  • Consume natural sources of probiotics. Plain yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha and kimchi all contain helpful bacteria from the fermentation process.

  • Cut back on processed foods. “If your great-grandparents wouldn’t recognize a food, reconsider eating it,” says Dr. Atoyebi. “Don’t fall for gimmicks that claim processed foods have added vitamins or minerals. Instead, go back to eating what we’ve been eating for thousands of years – vegetables and fruits.”

  • Eat prebiotics. Many high-fiber vegetables, fruits and whole grains are prebiotics, which serve as “food” for good bacteria in the body. Unprocessed foods like apples, asparagus, bananas, corn, garlic, flaxseeds, leeks, onions, oats, lentils and walnuts can improve gut health.

  • Stay hydrated. “I recommend drinking plenty of water,” she says. “I discourage patients from consuming vitamin supplement drinks. If you want to add flavor to your water, add some fresh fruit.”

  • Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. The perimeter is where you can find fresh and frozen produce, lean proteins, whole grains, and low-fat dairy.

When to see a doctor about your gut health

If you have any of the poor gut health symptoms mentioned above, talk to your doctor. Your annual physical is a good time to check in with your provider about your gut health and bowel habits to ensure everything is working correctly.

“I ask about bowel and diet habits in each of my patient visits,” says Dr. Atoyebi. “Bring it up at each visit – don’t wait until you have a major concern. What may seem normal to you may not be healthy.”

Dr. Atoyebi practices at Piedmont Physicians of Monroe, located at 2161 West Spring Street, Suite A, Monroe, GA 30655. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Atoyebi or one of our other primary care providers. Save time, book online.

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