What Are the Symptoms of an Unhealthy Gut?

Medically Reviewed on 12/7/2021
Symptoms of an unhealthy gut include upset stomach, chronic fatigue, insomnia, change in mood, intense food cravings, weight gain or loss, and migraines.
Symptoms of an unhealthy gut include upset stomach, chronic fatigue, insomnia, change in mood, intense food cravings, weight gain or loss, and migraines.

Food is fuel. A healthy gut will break down food into a simple form to supply the bloodstream and body with nutrients. A healthy gut will also help protect your body from bacteria, viruses, and fungi. It will communicate with your brain through nerves and hormones and help your overall wellness.

What is the gut?

Typically, people use the term “gut” to refer to the region in which the bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses in the gastrointestinal tract function in the body. There are trillions of microorganisms within your body, and together, they make up your microbiome. These microorganisms are considered to be a supporting organ.

Most of them are in the small and large intestines but they are in your whole body. In a healthy person, these microorganisms live in peace. Each person’s microbiome network is created uniquely based on their particular DNA.

You begin to build your microbiome as an infant when you begin to drink your mother’s milk. As you get older, what you eat and what is in your environment affects your microbiome. There are usually two sorts of microbes in the microbiome: symbiotic and pathogenic. Symbiotic microbiomes help your body whereas pathogenic microbes promote disease.

Typically, they both exist together. However, there can be things that disturbance their gentle balance. These things can be:

  • Infectious illnesses
  • Diets
  • Long uses of antibiotics

Gut health is essential because it helps you:

  • Get energy from the food you eat.
  • Eliminate toxins.
  • Fight bacteria and viruses.
  • Make the “happy chemical” serotonin.

What does it look like when you have bad gut health?

Digestive health issues are prevalent; around 70 million Americans have some sort of digestive disease. When your gut functions, there are many health benefits. When it doesn’t, the symptoms can be intense. Some of the main symptoms of an unhealthy gut are:

Upset stomach

Your stomach could be causing you a lot of discomforts, or you could feel nauseous, bloated, or have diarrhea. Additionally, you could experience gas, bloating, constipation, or heartburn. These are all signs that your body is having trouble digesting food.

Chronic fatigue and insomnia

Often, a sign of a digestive disorder is that you chronically feel fatigued. Unhealthy guts can also cause insomnia or unrestful sleep. Serotonin, which helps regulate your mood and your sleep, is produced in your microbiome.

Change in mood and mental health

If your body’s production of serotonin is disturbed by bad gut health, you may experience a fundamental shift in how you feel mentally. People often report sudden feelings of depression and anxiety.

Intense food cravings

High amounts of processed sugar feed the “bad” bacteria in your gut. Eating a lot of sugar causes inflammation and causes disease.

Weight gain or loss

An unbalanced gut is a gut that is unable to absorb nutrients, store fat, and regulate your blood sugar. If you have irregular fluctuations in your weight, this could be a sign that you may have an imbalance within your microbiome.


Headaches and frequent migraines accompanied by nausea or vomiting is often a symptom of bad gas. These symptoms are also linked to gastrointestinal disorders.


Super Tips to Boost Digestive Health: Bloating, Constipation, and More See Slideshow

How do I fix my bad gut?

Some of the best ways to help your gut health are:

  • Avoid antibiotics if you can. Taking antibiotics can be disastrous for your gut health. However, trying not to accept them if you do not need to can be helpful to promote good bacteria and decrease harmful bacteria.
  • Eat foods that have naturally high probiotics in them. For example, yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, and kimchi contain good bacteria from fermentation.
  • Try eating less processed foods. Instead, try to eat simple, unadulterated fruits, vegetables, dairy, low-fat dairy, and whole grains.
  • Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of unflavored water will help jump-start your digestive systems.
  • Eat foods that aid digestion. High-fiber vegetables, fruits, and whole grains nourish the good bacteria in your body. Specifically, apples, asparagus, bananas, corn, flaxseed, leeks, onions, oats, and lentils can help your gut repair itself.
  • Exercise often. Moving your body helps keep your bowel movements regular and prevents disease.
  • Sleep regularly. Seven to eight hours of sleep each night is essential to keep your hormones in control. It also puts your body on a more regulated schedule in which your digestive system has time to properly process the food you have eaten.
  • Limit or stop smoking. Smoking is harmful to your digestion in many ways.
  • Identify and cut out foods that irritate your digestive systems. Certain foods may be incredibly irritating for you. Try and identify what they are and avoid eating them.
Medically Reviewed on 12/7/2021
Frederick Health: "10 Signs of an Unhealthy Gut."

Harvard T.H. Chan: "The Microbiome."

Piedmont: "Living Better newsletter."

UC Davis Health: "What is 'gut health' and why is it important?"