Your gut impacts every cell and organ in your body from your skin to your heart, brain and bones through a variety of ways. It impacts every single cell in your body because it absorbs all the nutrients your body needs to keep you functioning. These nutrients are the essential building blocks your body needs to create blood cells, energy and hormones and keep your heart beating and your brain working.
Your gut also keeps your entire body in balance because it chooses what to reabsorb in order to keep your body functioning and eliminating waste. Your gut will reabsorb hormones, nutrients, certain molecules and even water to keep your body balanced and your organs and bones healthy and working optimally. It also houses 80% of your immune system so it plays a big role in determining if you’ll get sick and the level of inflammation in your body. Meanwhile, your gut microbiome has just as big of an impact because it influences your brain’s neurotransmitters as well as your mood, inflammation, liver, heart health and more.
While self-assessment cannot replace a professional medical evaluation, there are some signs and symptoms you can pay attention to that may provide insights into the health of your gut. If you're concerned about your digestive health, take our 10-step gut health self-assessment:
1. Regular Bowel Movements
Normal bowel movements vary among individuals, but regularity is key. Pay attention to any changes in frequency, consistency, or difficulty. One 2018 study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology found that anywhere from three times per day to three times per week can be an indicator of good health.
2. Stool Characteristics
Observe the colour, consistency, and shape of your stools. Normal stools are usually brown, well-formed, and easy to pass. Changes in colour or consistency may indicate underlying issues. Want to learn more? Take our stool self-assessment here.
3. Digestive Comfort
Feeling digestive discomfort? Feeling bloated or gassy after eating? Some digestive discomfort is normal from time to time, but persistent digestive discomfort may warrant further investigation with a health professional.
Adequate water intake is crucial for digestive health. Ensure you are staying hydrated to support normal bowel function.
5. Food Sensitivities
Notice how your body responds to different foods. If you consistently experience discomfort or other symptoms after consuming certain foods, you may have sensitivities or intolerances.
6. Energy Levels
Gut health can influence overall energy levels. Chronic fatigue or a lack of energy could be linked to digestive issues.
7. Mood and Mental Well-being
The gut-brain connection is well-established. Notice if your mood, stress levels, or mental well-being are influenced by changes in your digestive health.
8. Skin Health
Skin conditions, such as acne, eczema, or unexplained rashes, may be related to gut health. The skin is often reflective of overall well-being.
9. Immune Function
A significant portion of the immune system resides in the gut. Frequent illnesses or infections may indicate a compromised immune system, possibly related to gut health.
10. Fermented & Fibrous
Incorporate fermented foods such as yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut and fibrous foods such as fruit, vegetables and legumes into your diet. Generally, men should strive for 30g of fibre per day and women should strive for 25g of fibre per day. These can contribute to the overall quality of your gut health.
Remember, your gut health is not a fixed environment, meaning it can improve at any time.
It's important to note that these signs are general indicators, and individual responses may vary. If you have persistent or severe symptoms, it's advisable to consult with a healthcare professional. They can conduct a thorough evaluation, order necessary tests, and provide personalised advice based on your specific health situation. Regular check-ups and discussions with your healthcare provider are crucial for maintaining overall health, including digestive health.