When the average person hears the words “digestive problems” visions of gas, heartburn and belching come to mind.
But sometimes digestive issues don’t manifest themselves as digestive symptoms! Instead, they can come out as something totally different that you would never associate to your GI tract.
Here are 10 sneaky signs of digestive problems that you should start paying attention to:
1- Bad breath
Believe it or not, the same bacteria that causes ulcers (Helicobacter pylori) can cause bad breath.
About half of all Americans carry H. pylori. While they won’t all develop ulcers, they stand at least a 1 in 10 chance of it causing bad breath.
In addition, intestinal dysbiosis (having an imbalance of gut flora that favors harmful bacteria) can also come out as halitosis.
2- The 2pm lull after lunch
Nothing the human body does demands more energy than digestion.
So if yours isn’t going along so well, that can sap your energy and leave you needing toothpicks to keep your eyelids open after eating.
3- Body odor
Your body expels toxins through urination, bowel movements, exhaling, sneezing and sweating.
One of the biggest source of inner toxin buildup is inadequately digested food, so if your digestion is not what it should be, that can be coming out through your skin when you sweat and causing some serious BO.
4- Dry skin and hair
Your skin and hair need a variety of nutrients including biotin, vitamins D, B6, C and E, zinc and omega-3 essential fatty acids.
So the presence of dry skin or hair can suggest either an unhealthy diet or inadequate absorption of nutrients—a consequence of poor digestion.
5- Acne and other skin problems
When your intestinal wall is unhealthy and too porous (leaky gut), harmful bacteria, poorly digested food molecules and other wastes can get into circulation and stir up inflammation anywhere in your body.
When your skin is affected by this inflammation, it can prompt acne and other skin problems like hives and rashes.
6- Body aches and pains (including arthritis)
These too are tied to a leaky gut wall—the inflammation caused by toxins in your bloodstream can lead to body aches and pains.
7- Food sensitivities
When your digestion is not efficient, inadequately digested food particles can bully their way into your bloodstream, aggravate your immune system, and trigger the development of food sensitivities.
Low serotonin levels have been linked to migraines.
Most people don’t realize this, but the beneficial bacteria in your gut produce 80 percent of your body's serotonin.
So if your intestinal flora balance is not as healthy as it should be, this could mean your body is low in serotonin which in turn could be contributing to your migraine attacks.
Just like migraines, depression can also be the result of low serotonin levels. So if your gut isn’t cranking out enough, it may be affecting your state of mind.
In addition, inadequate nutrient absorption can be a cause--many people who suffer from depression are deficient in B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, zinc, magnesium and omega-3 essential fatty acids (especially DHA).
Gastrointestinal blood loss (such as from an ulcer) is one of the most common causes of iron deficiency. In addition, insufficient stomach acid can lead to poor digestion and nutrient absorption, thus reducing iron levels.
Steps to a healthier GI tract
Now that you can see that issues with your digestive system can cause problems that go WAY beyond just stomach aches or constipation, it’s increasingly important to make sure all 30 feet of your GI tract is in tip-top shape and working the way it’s supposed to!
Here are some tried and true measures to pamper your food path:
Eat real food! If you don’t know what an ingredient is on a food package, neither does your body. So your poor GI tract has to deal with the mess until it passes the chemicals, preservatives and heaven-knows-what-else on to your liver and kidneys to detox out of you.
Take a daily probiotic supplement. The fact is, very few people get enough natural sources of probiotics like fermented foods, so just about everybody can benefit from a daily dose of friendly gut bacteria. Probiotics are especially helpful with gas, constipation, leaky gut and harmful bacteria overgrowth.
Supplement with digestives enzymes if necessary. As we age, our ability to produce enzymes diminishes. Plus if you use acid reducers, you’re shutting some of yours right down, and may be paying the price with heartburn and poor nutrient absorption.
Make its job easier with simpler meals. Both proteins and starches are very concentrated foods, so eating both at the same meal is enormously taxing on your body. Combine proteins OR starches with lots of veggies for an easier digestive process.