“Gut Health” is used to describe the function and balance of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. A healthy gut contains healthy bacteria and immune cells which fight off bacteria, viruses, and fungi to keep the body healthy. A healthy gut contributes to a strong immune system, heart health, brain health, mood, sleep, effective digestion, and can even prevent autoimmune diseases and cancers.
Key indications of an unhealthy gut include…
An upset stomach can include gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and even heartburn. An unbalanced gut will have difficulty processing foods and eliminating wastes.
A High Sugar Diet
A diet high in processed foods and added sugars can decrease the good bacteria in your gut. This imbalance can cause sugar cravings. 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 several diseases and even cancers.
Unintentional weight changes
Gaining or losing weight without making changes to your diet or exercise habits may be a sign of an unhealthy gut. An imbalanced gut can impair your body’s ability to absorb nutrients, regulate blood sugar, and store fat. Weight loss may be caused by small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), while weight gain may be caused by insulin resistance or the urge to overeat due to decreased nutrient absorption.
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.
Skin conditions like eczema may be related to a damaged gut. Inflammation in the gut caused by a poor diet or food allergies may cause increased “leaking” of certain proteins out into the body, which can in turn irritate the skin and cause conditions such as eczema.
Medical researchers are continually finding new evidence of the impact of the gut on the immune system. It is thought that an unhealthy gut may increase systemic inflammation and alter the proper functioning of the immune system. This can lead to autoimmune diseases, where the body attacks itself rather than harmful invaders.
Food intolerances are the result of difficulty digesting certain foods (this is different than a food allergy, which is caused by an immune system reaction to certain foods). It’s thought that food intolerances may be caused by poor quality of bacteria in the gut. This can lead to difficulty digesting the trigger foods and unpleasant symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and nausea.
There are several testing options that are available to evaluate a person’s gut health. The choice of testing procedure is dependent on your symptoms and history.
Our testing options include:
- Blood testing
- Hydrogen breath test: A hydrogen breath test is used to measure exhaled hydrogen, which may indicate lactose or fructose malabsorption issues. It can also be used to diagnose bacterial overgrowth syndrome.
- Capsule endoscopy: In this procedure, a capsule containing a digital camera, is swallowed. The capsule transmits pictures to a recording device as it is digested. When the images are downloaded, the physician can view the small intestine (located between the stomach and the large intestine). This is an area that is difficult for us to examine by other means. Capsule endoscopy allows us to find obscure bleeding sites and tumors and to identify Crohn’s disease (inflammation of the small intestine).
- Bravo pH capsule test: This test is used to detect whether your heartburn is the result of acid reflux. In this procedure, we use an endoscope to attach a capsule to the lining of your esophagus. The capsule collects information and wirelessly transmit it to a small recorder that you wear. The physicians then analyze the information gathered from the recorder.
- Esophageal manometry: This test involves a thin pressure-sensitive catheter that is inserted through the nose and into the esophagus. This procedure evaluates swallowing difficulties.
- Endoscopic Ultrasound: This procedure uses a thin, flexible tube with an ultrasound device at its tip to examine and/or take biopsies from the lining of the esophagus, stomach, beginning of the small intestine, pancreas, and rectum.
Once your condition has been properly diagnosed and examined, our physicians can provide appropriate treatment options. We will work together to make the best decision for your care.
Don’t let discomfort stop you from leading your best life! To learn more about the Hunterdon Digestive Health Center or to schedule an appointment, please call us at 908-788-6448 or visit www.HunterdonGastro.com/contact.