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3 signs and symptoms of an unhealthy gut and how to fix it, according to a gastroenterologist

Dr. Will Bulsiewicz and a woman holding her stomach
Dr. Will Bulsiewicz shared three signs of an unhealthy gut, and how to fix it.Dr. Will Busiewicz/ Getty
  • Gut health is a buzzy topic right now.

  • Dr. Will Bulsiewicz, a gastroenterologist, shared three signs of an unhealthy gut with Business Insider.

  • He also shared three ways to improve gut health and fix those symptoms.

Gut health is a buzzy topic, with the digestive health supplement market projected to grow by 8.68% each year to reach $21.41 billion by 2030.

And with the rate of colorectal cancer cases in under 50s increasing, maintaining good gut health is more important than ever. But there's no miracle pill to improve gut health, despite what the greens powder or probiotic supplement brands might have you think.

The kitchen can, however, be one gateway to good gut health, according to Dr. Will Bulsiewicz, a gastroenterologist and the US Medical Director of the nutrition company ZOE.

He told Business Insider the three potential signs of an unhealthy gut and three approaches that could fix it.

3 signs of an unhealthy gut

Bloating

"I don't mean a little bit of bloating, I mean chronic issues with it," Bulsiewicz said. "That is indicative of your gut struggling to process and digest your food."

People often misinterpret bloating as an intolerance to certain foods and so cut them out. But Bulsiewicz said often it's actually a sign a person needs to eat more of those foods, such as beans and lentils, because it could suggest the gut isn't used to digesting them.

Poop that' aren't "Bristol 4"

Bulsiewicz said that poops are mostly microbes, so "the state of your poop gives you some insight into what's happening with those gut bugs."

If yours doesn't fit the criteria for healthy poop — a soft, snake-like stool, otherwise known as number four on the Bristol stool chart — it might be "indicative of a microbiome that's unhappy and unsettled," he said.

When a person heals their gut, Bulsiewicz said their stool tends to move back toward the middle of the chart, rather than being liquid or solid pellets.

Lacking energy

Gut health is connected to the functioning of all the different systems in the body, so having an unhealthy gut can contribute to other health issues, such as autoimmune conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, and ulcerative colitis, which lead to a lack of energy.

"When you change your diet to something which empowers your gut microbes, your energy levels can improve very quickly and your sleep improves," if you have an autoimmune condition or chronic inflammation, Bulsiewicz said.

3 ways to heal your gut

Focus on fiber

"Fiber is the food that feeds gut microbes. It's their preferred food and energizes them. Fiber comes from plant-based foods, so fruits and vegetables but also whole grains, seeds, nuts and legumes," Bulsiewicz said.

BI previously reported on Bulsiewicz's F-GOALS method that he uses to incorporate fiber into his diet, which includes Greens, Omega-3, and Seaweed.

Eat a varied diet

Bulsiewicz says to eat 30 plants a week, whether that's fruits, vegetables, spices, or coffee. 30 isn't "some magical threshold," he said, but it's a helpful way to think about maximizing the variety of foods, nutrients, and fiber in your diet.

Trying new foods at restaurants is another good way to add more variety to your diet, he said.

Eat fermented foods

"By increasing our fermented food intake, we can enhance the health of our microbiome and reduce inflammation," Bulsiewicz said, because such foods have been associated with a more diverse gut microbiome.

Fermented foods include pickles, kombucha, kimchi — and even dark chocolate, he said.

Read the original article on Business Insider