There are trillions of beneficial and harmful organisms in the gut. Our "gut microbiome" is made up of these individuals. It is important to maintain a healthy balance of organisms. The composition and diversity of your health can be impacted by factors like diet, exercise, medications and genetics.

Gut health can affect a lot of things. Separating fact from fiction can be difficult. We wanted to know what the experts thought about gut health, from the good to the bad.

  • Best probiotics 2022: Support your gut health and reduce bloating 

What is gut health?

Gut health covers the health of the entire digestive system, which is the part of our body that breaks down food into different components.

Sue-Ellen Anderson-Haynes told Live Science that the gastrointestinal tract begins in the mouth.


She said that it continued to the stomach, small intestine and large intestine for further digestion and absorption before leading to the end product.

Sue-Ellen Anderson-Haynes, RDN

It's easy to digest food because it's easy to break down. Some people who live to be 100 years old have unique gutbacteria that are related to the gut microbiome. Athletes may have an advantage due to gut microorganisms.

Foods that help one person thrive may cause irritation to other people.

illustration of colorful microbes in the intestinal tract


Why is gut health important?

According to Anderson-Haynes, the gut is responsible for a number of functions.

The majority of immune cells are found in the gastrointestinal tract.

Gut health is important for immune function, according to a review. The gut wall protects it from harmfulbacteria. The barrier can become porous and allow the bugs to enter the bloodstream and cause illness. A combination of factors, including diet, inflammation and antibiotic use, can make a difference in the integrity of your gut barrier.

People with certain conditions are more prone to infections.

According to a review published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, there is a link between gut health and mental health. The communication between the gut and brain is called the gut-brain axis. Gutbacteria can send signals to the brain through the vagus nerve. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that can affect your mood.

Signs of good gut health

How can you tell if you have a good gut? There are several signs, according to Cristy Dean, the founder of Fettle and Bloom.

It is normal to pass a stool between three times a day and three times a week. Something isn't right with digestion can be indicated by slow or fast transit times. It is recommended that stools be medium to dark brown, smooth, sausage-like and be passed without pain.

Signs of bad gut health

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 70% of Americans have some sort of problem with their gut.

  • Bloating
  • Loose stools
  • Constipation
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea and vomiting 

woman holding her stomach in pain

(Image credit: Getty Images)

There are other signs that are less obvious.

  • Fatigue and poor sleep: a 2020 review published in Sleep Medicine Reviews (opens in new tab) found that an imbalanced gut microbiome could lead to disturbed sleep and low energy. 
  • Skin irritation: Skin irritation can be a symptom of poor gut health, according to a 2019 review, published in the Microorganisms (opens in new tab) journal. 
  • Bad breath/halitosis: Since the mouth is the gateway to the gastrointestinal tract, bad breath can be a sign that something is off balance in the digestive system, suggested a 2020 review, published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences (opens in new tab)

Changes in bowel habits can be a sign that something isn't right. It could include waking in the night to pass a stool.

She said that sleep disturbances, increased fatigue, skin irritation, food sensitivities, and unintentional weight changes can all be linked to an unhealthiest gut.

It is a good idea to visit your doctor if you have symptoms.

What factors affect gut health?

There is a balance in favor of beneficial strains in Optimal Gut Health. There are many factors that affect the composition of the gut.

Mode of delivery

Gut health starts at birth.

Anderson-Haynes said that "often overlooked factors include whether a child is born via vaginal delivery or cesarean section." Babies who are born via vaginal delivery and are breastfed have more gut diversity according to research.

The exact mechanism behind this is not known, but researchers believe that the birth canal exposes a newborn to the mother's vaginalbacteria first. They drink maternal milk exclusively for a significant portion of their development.


Gut health can be impacted by diet.

Anderson- Haynes said that overconsumption of ultra-processed foods can lead to a lack of diversity. Ultra-processed food is high in salt, sugar and fat.

She said it's important to eat a variety of fiber-rich foods. She said prebiotics and live active cultures found in yogurt and sauerkraut can support gut health.

The review found that a plant-based diet was associated with higher levels of beneficialbacteria. The growth of friendlybacteria is promoted by the high fiber diet.

Antibiotics can affect gut health. They don't distinguish between beneficial and harmfulbacteria, which depletes overall gut flora.

Lifestyle and environmental factors 

According to Anderson- Haynes, lifestyle and environmental factors can affect gut diversity. A compromised immune system can be traced back to this.

The article is not meant to give medical advice.