Common Gut Problems: Gastrointestinal Diseases & Symptoms

Common Gut Problems: Gastrointestinal Diseases & Symptoms

The gut, also known as the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, plays a really important role in your overall health and wellbeing. 

But as important as it is, the GI tract tends to get overlooked. Why? Well, because people pursuing healthy lifestyles forget about their gut health when making lifestyle changes.

The gut is not only responsible for digestion, but it is also home to trillions of bacteria that contribute to lots of aspects of our health—including our immune system, mental health, and even weight management.

Neglecting your gut health can lead to a whole host of gastrointestinal problems you may already be suffering with like bloating, constipation, and diarrhoea.

So, without further ado, let’s dive into all things gut, exploring gastrointestinal symptoms and gut diseases. 

We’ll also learn how you can prevent future gut issues and improve your gut health while recommending the best products for the job.

Why is gut health important?

A healthy gut is crucial for overall health and wellness. 

In fact, we need a happy and healthy gut for many of the processes in our body to work.

When the gut includes organs such as the stomach, small intestine, large intestine (colon), liver, and pancreas, each with a distinct role in the digestive process, you can see why looking after your gut is important in more ways than one.

SmartFact: When your gut runs smoothly, you feel lighter and more energised.
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The benefits of good gut health

A well-functioning gut can help prevent numerous health issues, including digestive problems, bacterial infections, and chronic inflammation. 

A healthy gut microbiome (the microorganisms living in our gut)  plays a vital role in proper digestion and can even help prevent gastrointestinal disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease.

Let’s take a look at what the benefits of good gut health are in a little more detail…

Immune system regulation

A well-functioning gut can support a strong immune system (1) by helping to regulate inflammation and defend against harmful pathogens. 

Surprisingly, around 70 to 80% of immune cells are found in and around the gut. This really shows the huge role it plays in regulating immune functions. 

The gut is home to a large portion of our immune cells,  which are also known as gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT). 

A healthier immune system means being able to fight against harmful pathogens and keeping illness at bay.

Digestion and Nutrient Absorption

As the gut breaks down food and extracts nutrients, a gut with a diverse microbiome ensures efficient digestion(2) and absorption of essential nutrients.

This means your body can truly experience the benefits of your diet with nutrients properly broken down and absorbed.

In fact, The Harvard Medical School (3) states that the gut microbiome helps break down food, produce certain vitamins, and absorb nutrients like calcium and iron which are crucial for overall health. These super vitamins also help with waste elimination.

An example of this you might know is celiac disease when the immune system mistakenly reacts to gluten and launches an inflammatory response in the gut. 

The small intestine is damaged, specifically the villi, whose role is to absorb nutrients. 

Metabolism and weight regulation

SmartFact: There’s growing evidence that the gut microbiota influences our metabolism and body weight (4).

The same review article goes on to state that there are gut bacteria that can affect the breakdown of food and regulate energy balance. This has an impact on metabolic health and overall weight as a result. 

This may be news to many of you who put pressure on yourselves to eat right, sleep right, and keep active in order to lose the pounds. 

But could it be gut health that is a place to focus too?

The brain-gut axis

Research suggests that a healthy gut may also have a positive impact on mental health, as the gut microbiome interacts with the brain through the gut-brain axis.

This is definitely one of the most fascinating facts about the gut, with its direct link to the brain.

The brain and gut are in constant communication via the gut-brain axis, which allows the gut microbiota to influence mood, brain function and even mental health.

So that ‘gut feeling’ you have in your belly could be the dialogue between the brain and gut (5).

So what does it mean? A happy gut may mean a happier you.

Hormone production

The gut produces a few different hormones. These actually include those involved in satiety and appetite regulation. 

So that means, when gut health is good (you have a balanced gut microbiome and hormone levels), it can help control appetite, prevent overeating, and promote feelings of fullness. 

Who knew a healthy gut can promote a healthy relationship with food?

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The downsides of bad gut health

Let’s talk about bad gut health, gastrointestinal problems and gastrointestinal diseases. 

It’s really useful to learn about them so you can understand your own health better.

Possible chronic gastrointestinal discomfort

Bad gut health often leads to uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms, which we’ll cover more about below.

Compromised gut health can impact daily life with GI problems and GI issues leading to pain and discomfort. And learning about them and why they happen can put you on the path to healing.

Weaker immune system

An unhealthy gut can affect the immune system. As we’ve mentioned, the gut is home to a significant portion of the immune system (6) and when gut health suffers—you’re more likely to get allergies, autoimmune disorders and infections.

Chronic diseases 

An imbalanced gut microbiome may also contribute to certain chronic diseases developing like cancer and cardiovascular disease. 

The fact is, an unhealthy gut can lead to a whole host of other health problems, too, such as irritable bowel syndrome, acne, obesity, and depression.

So,  taking care of your gut is arming your body against potentially serious illnesses in the future.

What are the most common gut problems?

Let’s discuss a few of the common gut diseases out there and talk about their causes.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

This condition happens when stomach acid flows back into the oesophagus, causing symptoms like heartburn, regurgitation, and difficulty swallowing.

Why is GERD caused? By the flow of stomach acid back into the oesophagus, resulting in irritation to the esophageal lining—ouch.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

IBS is a chronic disorder that affects the large intestine, causing symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhoea, and constipation. 

It’s not fully known why IBS is caused, but it’s believed to involve abnormal gut contractions and increased sensitivity to certain foods. Further research is ongoing as to its cause.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

This term covers conditions like Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, which are chronic inflammatory disorders of the digestive tract. 

Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhoea, rectal bleeding, weight loss, and fatigue.

Constipation

When bowel movements become infrequent and difficult to pass, it often leads to discomfort and bloating. 

Common causes include a low-fibre diet, dehydration, lack of physical activity, certain medications, or underlying medical conditions.

Diarrhoea

Frequent loose or watery stools are typically associated with an infection, dietary issues, certain medications, or underlying conditions like irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease.

Gastroenteritis

Commonly known as the stomach flu, gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the stomach and intestines, usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection. 

Common symptoms are vomiting, fever, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, nausea, and fatigue.

Peptic ulcer disease

Peptic ulcers are open sores that develop on the lining of the stomach, upper small intestine, or oesophagus. 

These ulcers can be caused by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori or long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)(7).

Common symptoms tend to be stomach pain, bloating, feeling of fullness, gas, belching, and an intolerance to fatty foods.

Gallbladder disease

Gallbladder diseases include gallstones, which are hardened deposits that form in the gallbladder, as well as inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis). 

Symptoms of gallbladder disease (8) can include abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.

Gastritis

This condition refers to inflammation of the stomach lining and can be caused by factors such as infection, excessive alcohol consumption, regular use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or autoimmune conditions.

Symptoms may include abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, indigestion, heartburn, fatigue and loss of appetite.

Food intolerances

Intolerance to certain foods, such as lactose or gluten, can result in digestive issues like bloating, gas, diarrhoea, or abdominal discomfort after consuming those specific foods.

How can you prevent gut problems & improve gut health?

Luckily there are plenty of ways to kickstart and maintain your gut health so you can get your good bacteria great again. 

Some of the ways you’ll already know but some of them might surprise you.

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Eat a balanced and diverse diet

Eating a range of nutrient-dense foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats—can help promote gut health. 

Fibre-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes help make digestion run smoothly and support beneficial gut bacteria.

Include probiotics in your diet

Probiotics are live bacteria that provide health benefits when consumed in the right amounts.

Foods such as yoghurt, sauerkraut, fermented vegetables, and kombucha contain good levels of probiotics. 

Consuming these regularly alongside other factors helps your gut health achieve optimum balance.

Stay hydrated

Drinking plenty of water can help maintain the balance of fluids and electrolytes in the gut, which means normal bowel movements and a healthy gut.

Exercise regularly

Regular physical activity can improve gut motility which results in maintaining a healthy weight and increased blood flow to the intestines. So, get moving.

SmartTip: Check out our Smart Guide to diet and exercise tips and hacks for levelling up your lifestyle this year and beyond.

Manage stress

SmartFact: High levels of stress can lead to gut problems.

Make sure you take time for yourself to relax with the practice of mindfulness, deep breathing, yoga or other relaxation approaches to help keep stress at bay.

Consider supplements

Probiotic and prebiotic supplements may help support gut health.

But what are they, exactly? Prebiotics are indigestible fibres that promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. You can find them in foods like garlic, onions, and bananas or as supplements. 

Probiotic supplements can also help increase the beneficial bacteria in the gut. 

If you’re not sure you get the probiotics you need in your diet, supplements are an easy way to take in their goodness. 

Make sure you choose a high-quality supplement from a regulated brand for the best experience and effect.

Boost your gut health with Smart Protein

If you’re looking for a smart, tasty and simple way to gain good gut health and banish your gastrointestinal symptoms, why not try Balance Gut from Smart Protein?

These yummy gummies help support your metabolism, immune system and good bacteria with premium quality nutrients, greens and superfoods. 

Arm yourself with better gut health and fight gastrointestinal disease with gut-friendly gummies you can rely on. It’s time to take charge of your gut health once and for all.

Sources

Smart Protein is committed to sourcing only the best and scientifically-backed research in our articles.

1. Cleveland Clinic:

https://health.clevelandclinic.org/gut-health

2. lww.com:

https://journals.lww.com/jcge/abstract/2019/04000/unilateral_versus_bilateral_lung_transplantation_.13.aspx

3. Harvard Medical School:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-gut-brain-connection-how-diet-amd-the-microbiome-affect-mental-health

4. Nature.com:

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41579-020-0433-9

5. Harvard Medical School:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/the-gut-brain-connection#:~:text=The%20gastrointestinal%20tract%20is%20sensitive,juices%20before%20food%20gets%20there.

6. Healthline:

https://www.healthline.com/health/gut-health

7. Everyday Health:

https://www.everydayhealth.com/digestive-health/common-digestive-conditions-from-top-bottom/

8. Medical News Today:

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/list-of-digestive-disorders

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