The digestive system is one of the most important parts of the human body. It takes in food, processes it, absorbs nutrients, and expels any waste. Knowing this, it shouldn’t be a surprise that having an unhealthy gut can impact your overall health.
However, because your gut can affect you in numerous ways, you might not know how to catch the signs of irritation. Keep reading for four ways your digestive system tells you it’s upset and what you can do about it.
1. Feeling Bloated or Gassy
When your digestive system is upset, it usually responds by flaring up. This often makes you feel bloated. Your stomach might look bigger than it normally does, and your pants might feel tight. This is caused either by inflammation or a buildup of gas in your body.
Inflammation and frequent gas are both signs of an irritated gut. You should be passing gas regularly, between 10 to 20 times a day, according to Harvard Medical School Health Publishing. While you probably won’t be counting, it’s a good idea to take note if you feel gassier than normal. Additionally, you should pay attention to whether this bloating causes you any pain.
What to Do:
It’s a good idea to take action if you’re starting to notice any irritation. Continued bloating or gassiness could potentially get worse with time and affect your quality of life. Feeling this light form of irritation is usually the first step toward what could be bigger problems.
Many gastroenterologists recommend making changes in diet at the first sign of discomfort. Your gut’s reaction could be solely due to something you ate that it just didn’t like. For many people, these kinds of food are usually dairy products, like cheese and milk, or certain vegetables, like broccoli and beans.
It’s also a good idea to add some beneficial supplements to your diet. Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is proven to help with digestive health and regulating its immunity. If you don’t like the sound of downing spoonfuls of the sour liquid, try taking ACV gummies instead. Additionally, foods rich in fiber can help your digestive system break down food more easily. Try switching to whole wheat bread and eating more leafy greens.
2. Having Irregular Bowel Movements
It might not seem that important, but your body should be maintaining a schedule for its bowel movements. That doesn’t mean it should be down to the exact same minute every day. But an irregular pattern of going ‘number 2’ could be a slight cause of concern.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, having three bowel movements a week is considered regular. However, this also varies from person to person. If you’re used to having at least one bowel movement per day, then experiencing changes could mean something’s off.
What to Do:
You should be keeping track of how long you go in between bowel movements. Going several days, or even a week, without passing anything is a bad sign. You might not notice until you start keeping a record.
Certain supplements can be taken to promote a more regular schedule of movement. Gentle laxatives are beneficial to regulating your bowels and making processing food easier on your gut. Probiotics also help regulate the amount of good and bad bacteria in your digestive system, which affects your bowel movements.
Additionally, exercise can help get your gut moving better. Simply taking a walk can stir your bowels into action. If you’ve gone a few days without going number 2, try getting a little more exercise in.
3. Having Uncomfortable Bowel Movements
Having a bad experience on the toilet can sometimes ruin your whole day. Having painful or uncomfortable bowel movements are your gut’s way of crying for help. And this is something you should listen to.
Constipation and diarrhea are two opposite ends of the same spectrum of digestive issues. How your body reacts to irritants can vary from person to person. Some people who are lactose intolerant get diarrhea when they eat dairy, while others experience constipation. Either way, these annoying and potentially painful bowel movements mean something is wrong.
What to Do:
Try keeping a food diary if uncomfortable bowel movements are becoming a regular experience. Write down what you eat, and try to notice if certain foods affect you shortly after consuming. You could have a food intolerance or allergy.
You can also take supplements like laxatives or stool softeners for constipation. These medications allow the passing of stools to be more comfortable. On the other side of the spectrum, taking imodium or Pepto-Bismol can help soothe diarrhea. Just make sure you don’t take it too quickly — your body could be expelling that waste for a reason. If it’s not going away after a few trips to the bathroom, however, go ahead and take some medicine.
4. Feeling Fatigued Often
Have you noticed that you feel more tired lately? Surprisingly, your gut might be to blame. According to a 2022 study published by the National Library of Medicine, energy levels have shown signs of being connected to gut bacteria.
This means that your digestive health can cause you to be fatigued. Food is fuel, which means it gives your body energy — but food isn’t the only culprit. The balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut can cause fatigue if they become unbalanced.
What to Do:
Try balancing your body’s levels of bacteria by taking probiotics and prebiotics. Probiotics are the healthy bacteria in your gut. Prebiotics are like the ‘food’ for probiotics. That means they’ll strengthen the effectiveness of the probiotics. Here’s another situation where you can take ACV, as well. It’s shown to help balance the bacteria in your digestive system.
There Is a Pattern in Solutions
If you’ve noticed, maintaining a healthy gut typically comes down to the same thing — what you put into your body. Your diet heavily affects how your body functions. Making changes might be necessary to sustain a healthy digestive system.
Whether these changes come through taking away certain foods or adding supplements is determined by your body’s needs. Listen to your gut. Experiment with solutions. Your insides will thank you.