How to Know if Gut Health Is Something You Should Actually Be Concerned About

Between a mile-long to-do list, squeezing in a workout, and dealing with typical work stress, gut health may not be on your day-to-day radar (especially if you're not dealing with any of the symptoms typically associated with digestive issues).

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But recent stats say digestive issues prompt more than 32 million doctors visits annually, according to the CDC, suggesting that focusing in on your microbiome—and the trillions of beneficial microbes that help your digestive system thrive—is a pretty big deal for your health.

When your gut flora is off, it can spell bad news for your overall wellbeing—and sometimes the symptoms don't present in obvious ways. For the need-to-know intel, here are the subtle signs that you need to zero in on your gut health.

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1. Your digestive system is less than optimal

Wondering what the gold standard of gut health looks like? Ellen Vora, MD explains it like this: "Optimal gut health means you poop like clockwork every morning, and your stomach feels comfortable, even after you eat." Period.

When your digestive system is operating at its peak, there's "no heartburn, no hemorrhoids, no bloating or distension, no excessive gas or burping, no straining, and no loose stool or tiny rabbit poops," she says.

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2. Brain fog settles in during the day

Gut health can directly affect how you feel, think, and move. So if you find yourself heading for the coffee machine every day after lunch to combat the sudden dip in brain power, your gut may need a boost.

"Some people experience symptoms after they eat, such as fatigue, itching, rashes, brain fog, or headaches," Dr. Vora says. "This can be an indication of intestinal permeability (i.e., leaky gut)."

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3. You're a woman

Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with chronic digestive diseases compared to men, and women's microbiota differs from men's in many ways, according to Dr. Vora. "For one thing, women's gut microbiomes shift with our cycles," she says. Then consider the fact that women are more likely to interact with birth control, perfume, lotions, and beauty products, which can alter gut flora.

Not to mention, women are also more likely to experience life events such as pregnancy that can majorly alter the inner workings of the gut. Hence, it's essential for woman to be proactive about gut health and take probiotic supplements that are specially formulated to target a female body's needs—like RenewLife® Ultimate Flora Women Care Probiotic 25 Billion.

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4. You're feeling a little off

There's a common misconception that gut imbalances only affect your digestive tract, giving you symptoms like bloating, constipation, gas, etc. But because your gut acts as a sort of control center for your whole body, many other issues can stem from there.

"Without a healthy gut, there is really no way to be in a state of overall health. So if something is not functioning optimally in your digestion, it's worth addressing," Dr. Vora says. An imbalance in the gut can affect your mental health, hormones, period, skin, joints, immunity—"and just about everything else," Dr. Vora says.

(Image: Unsplash/ Analise Benevides)

What to do to prioritize your gut health

If any of those characteristics describe your current health situation, you could probably benefit from giving your gut a little more love. Luckily, taking care of your gut doesn't have to be complicated.

Start off with eating whole, unprocessed foods that make you feel your best, and pay close attention to how you feel after meals. "You can go a long way toward healing your gut by following your body's intuition and shifting your food choices toward foods that agree with your body," Dr. Vora says. "It's all an art of listening to your body and being gentle with it."

Then add in gut-healing foods like bone broth, ghee, and fermented foods, and dial up the support of the good bacteria in your system with a daily probiotic supplement with high-quality strains like Renew Life® capsules. Your gut—and your overall wellbeing—will thank you.

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