Signs Your Gut Microbiome Is Making You Sick – Eat This, Not That

The gut is one of the most vital parts of our body as it impacts the overall well-being of everything from cognitive health to immune system and even Mental Health. While the gut is incredibly powerful, it can also be quite tricky. The gut microbiome is made up of billions of fungi, bacteria, and microbes that help control digestion, and when something upsets the balance, you’ll likely feel it in different ways. Eat this, not that! Health spoke with Dr. Chris Damman, MD MA Clinical Associate Professor of Gastroenterology at the University of Washington who explains the importance of the gut microbiome, how to prevent an unhealthy gut, and the signs you have one. Read on and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure signs you’ve already had COVID.


Dr. Damman tells us, “The gut microbiome could be thought of as our partner in health, and a community of microbial diplomats, teachers, and factory workers all rolled into one. Diplomats help appease pathogens invaders to keep us from getting sick, the teachers calibrate our immune systems to prevent autoimmune or allergic overload, and the factory workers take undigested foods like fiber and turn them into molecules for healthy growth. Some of these molecules are nutrients like B vitamins and amino acids that supplement our diets. Other metabolites like neurotransmitter precursors and short chain fatty acids (e.g. butyrate) are simply not present in quantity appreciable in our food and come mainly from our microbiome.All of these molecules are essential to provide n your body, immune system, and brain are factors that regulate metabolism, inflammation, and cognition.”

happy woman hands on belly

Dr. Damman explains, “I focus on balancing the four Ms and four F foods as a holistic approach to maintaining a healthy microbiome. The Ms of lifestyle include molecules (foods versus toxins), movement (exercise vs. sedentary lifestyle), mind (sleep and mindfulness vs. insomnia and anxiety), and microbes (environmental microbiomes vs. pathogens).Cutting-edge research supports the importance of maintaining balance in all of these areas to help promote a healthy microbiome and gut. Advice can come down to eating foods that support our microbiome (see the four Fs), exercising, resting, and spending time outdoors, gardening and around pets Fibrous foods include whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables Phenols are the phytonutrients that give fruits and vegetables vegetables their color, so it is basically recommended to eat the rainbow. F Foods are fermented foods that have been shown to improve gut microbiome diversity and decrease inflammation in the body. Good fats are especially omega-3s found in sources like avocados, nuts and seeds.”

mature woman struggling with poor gut health, stomach pain in bed

According to Dr. Damman, “An unhealthy gut can lead to ‘leakage’ in both the gut barrier and the blood-brain barrier, causing both bodily inflammation and neuroinflammation. Neuroinflammation has been linked to disorders of mood, sleep and energy In addition, the gut microbiome synthesizes precursor neurotransmitters that impact gut neurons and the communication highway called the vagus nerve that connects the gut to the brain. In fact, the gut has more neurons and neurotransmitters than the brain and some have compared it to the “second brain.” More and more studies are linking gut health to brain health Beyond correlation, interventional studies involving probiotics (eg, Bifidobacterium), postbiotics (eg, butyrate) and prebiotics (eg, fibers such as resistant starch), show that the Improved gut health may actually improve brain health.”

upset woman in toilet with diarrhea, constipation, hemorrhoids, hemorrhoids

“This is perhaps the most obvious sign and it may reflect an imbalance of microbes in the gut,” Dr. Damman points out. “A diverse diet will support a diverse gut microbiome which, in adults, is correlated with gut health. We are learning that different people may have different diets that are optimized for gut and overall health and that working with a healthcare professional can be helpful to find that optimum in each individual.”


Dr. Damman says, “In a twist of the macabre, we can think of ourselves in some ways as puppets at the whim of our microbial masters. This could be especially true for our hunger and cravings which are influenced by molecular signals from our microbiome that can turn our “ileocolic brake” on and off. Fiber and resistant starch in particular might be one of the best ways to kick the brakes and control cravings.”

Woman scratching her arm indoors

Dr. Damman says: “The gut calibrates the immune system and, through molecules like butyrate, helps keep gut and skin barriers intact as well as the immune system properly calibrated. Infants who have higher levels of Bifidobacterium are less prone to asthma and allergies, and recent research has shown that providing butyrate can alleviate allergic rashes, at least in mice.”

Thoughtful girl sitting on ledge embracing knees looking at window, sad depressed teenage girl spending time alone at home, upset pensive young woman feeling lonely or frustrated thinking about problems

Dr. Damman explains, “The gut is truly the ‘second brain’ and through the gut brain connection can influence our emotions. When our gut is happy, our brain is happy and we learn that eating healthy foods or supplements high in certain types of fiber like resistant starch may be especially important for a healthy outlook on life.”

Heather Newgen

Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather is currently a freelancer for several publications. Read more

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