Many of us don’t pay enough attention to our gut health—until we can no longer ignore it.
And while digestive issues may be the most obvious (and distressing) sign of a problem with our gut, issues with your gut microbiome can have a wide range of consequences affecting virtually every area of your body.
But you may not always realize that your gut is to blame for problems popping up in parts of your body that are nowhere near your stomach.
The one common—yet surprising—sign that you may have an unhealthy gut? Dr. Christine Lee, a gastroenterologist at Cleveland Clinic, says skin rashes (and skin issues in general) are a huge one that most people don’t know about.
eye problems, visual changes, joint pains and frequent viral illnesses all signify unhealthy gut
Many of us assume the cause of rashes like eczema, rosacea and psoriasis—and other skin conditions like acne—lie just beneath the surface of the skin. And while a combination of factors is often involved, our digestive system frequently plays a bigger role than most people realize.
In fact, research has shown a strong connection between your gut microbiome and your skin, as The Skin Cancer Foundation and Dermatology Times have reported.
Many of us have already heard that certain foods can aggravate acne, but numerous studies indicate that overall gut health can have a significant impact on the state of our skin.
Other symptoms of an unhealthy gut
Dr. Lee says other surprising signs of an issue with your gut health include eye problems, visual changes, joint swelling/pains and frequent viral illnesses.
Then there are the more well-known or obvious symptoms, such as gas, abdominal bloating, diarrhea and/or constipation, fatigue and general discomfort in the abdominal region.
How to improve your gut health
The good news is that there are some relatively simple things you can do to help improve your gut health.
Not surprisingly, the best place to start is by analyzing your diet. Dr. Vijaya Surampudi, MD, a board-certified doctor of internal medicine and endocrinology, and a physician nutrition specialist at UCLA Health, recommends avoiding fatty, fried and processed foods.
She also notes that artificial sweeteners, like sugar alcohols and other sugar substitutes, have been associated with digestive issues.
Dr. Surampudi says whole fruits and vegetables in their natural form (or as close to their natural form as possible) are your best bet for establishing a healthy, balanced gut microbiome.
These types of foods are high in fiber, which can promote the growth of certain types of good bacteria in your gut.
She cautions that juicing or otherwise processing produce can sometimes remove or degrade this beneficial fiber.