Yes, it all sounds very fancy, but the easiest way for you to tell if you have a healthy gut is by paying attention to the signs of an unhealthy gut:
1. Upset stomach. Stomach disturbances like gas, bloating, diarrhoea can all be signs of an unhealthy gut.
2. High-sugar diet. A diet high in processed foods and added sugars can decrease the amount of good bacteria in your gut. This imbalance can cause increased sugar cravings, which can damage your gut still further. High amounts of refined sugars, particularly high-fructose corn syrup, have been linked to increased inflammation in the body. Inflammation can be the precursor to a number of diseases and even cancers.
3. Unintentional weight changes. Gaining or losing weight without making changes to your diet or exercise habits may be a sign of an unhealthy gut.
4. Sleep disturbances or constant fatigue. An unhealthy gut may contribute to sleep disturbances such as insomnia or poor sleep, and therefore lead to chronic fatigue. The majority of the body’s serotonin, a hormone that affects mood and sleep, is produced in the gut. So gut damage can impair your ability to sleep well.
5. Skin irritation. This one was a red flag for me. As a vegan, I eat lots of fruit, vegetables, smoothies, tofu, and I also drink about 2 litres of water every single day. Yet, my skin still looked horrible: red spots on my forehead mostly, but also my chin, and I couldn't seem to get rid of them with diet alone.
After trying to go down the 'water' route as a way to solve my skin irritation, I was incredibly disappointed to see that NOTHING had changed after a few months. I mean, NOTHING! My skin was still breaking out like crazy, and while I was having sugary foods occasionally on the weekends, I seriously doubt they were the cause of the all those breakouts. Something else was going on, and I was done ignoring it.
I have a very well balanced diet, and although sometimes I jump off the bandwagon and have sugary foods and sometimes processed foods, I do balance it off with eating lots of fruits and vegetables, and through eating the right amounts of grains, protein, fat, and carbs, including lots of skin-healing foods such as celery, lemon, turmeric, garlic, etc. However, even after all the efforts to get rid of the stubborn acne, everything remained the same. Furthermore, I started wondering whether my thick, dark facial hair that I often get around my chin area or on the sides of my face was in fact, also connected with a hormonal imbalance.
Getting the help of medical professionals was a complete waste of time! I was told facial hair was completely normal in European and middle eastern women, it was all down to my DNA, it was completely NORMAL. At this point, I thought 'well, that's it, then. I'll be waxing my face for the rest of my life....it's cultural, it's in my DNA, and I can't possibly change my DNA.'
Then, one day, many months ago, I was lucky enough to find a few people on social media, whose accounts were strictly dedicated to hormonal acne and how to treat it naturally. And guess what the most mentioned words were when it came to natural treatments for hormonal acne? Prebiotics and probiotics! My research was just getting started. I spent days glued to the computer, doing as much research as possible, as I was determined to figure this out on my own, since the professionals were IGNORING the problem. It doesn't matter how many times I said 'I feel like something's wrong, this isn't supposed to be happening to a healthy woman with a high in vegetables, fibre, vitamins, calcium and iron diet. '
I was convinced that I was dealing with a hormonal imbalance! Why? My spots would get significantly worse at certain times of the month, and since I am no longer in my teens, there's no reason why this would be happening. It was happening around my chin and jawline, and also my forehead (these are typically the areas for hormonal imbalance related spots), and also, due to my anxiety, my stress levels are often out of whack... and all of these factors can affect your hormone levels.
This is why I knew in my gut (no pun intended...) that this was the problem! Those bloody hormones...