Featured Article: What is Gut Health and what are Some Common Gut Health Issues?

Do you ever feel like no matter how much food you consume, your body just isn't taking in the nourishment? Irritable bowel syndrome, acid reflux, and random inflammations with unknown causes can indicate something is off inside your gut.


What is Gut Health?


Gut health is a term used to describe the general well-being of the digestive system. This includes the proper absorption and digestion of food, keeping the gastrointestinal tract free from infection, and maintaining a balanced microbiome.


A healthy gut is essential for overall well-being since it influences various physical and mental health aspects. It focuses on balancing important microorganisms, including bacteria and fungi, in our intestines.


Why is it important to Maintain a Healthy Gut?


As explained above, your gut is responsible for digestion and absorption of nutrients in your body which is then used to yield energy which ultimately helps your body function normally. However, if your gut is compromised, not only will your body develop several nutritional deficiencies, but it will also impact your immune system.

Studies have suggested that your gut is responsible for maintaining your immune system, and up to 70% of immune cells are found in your gut [1]


Similarly, you might have come across the term gut-brain axis. It is the communication pathway between the digestive system and the brain. It consists of nerves, hormones, and bacteria that regulate how we feel and think based on what we eat. A 2014 study suggests that gut health directly affects mental health via the gut-brain axis [2].


What are Some Common Gut Health Issues?





GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) is among the commonest gut health conditions. It causes the lower esophageal sphincter to relax, which ultimately causes the regurgitation of acidic contents of the stomach into the esophagus. Its symptoms include:

  1. Heartburn [3]
  2. Chest pain
  3. Difficulty swallowing
  4. Regurgitation of food or sour liquid
  5. Sore throat


GERD is often managed with lifestyle changes such as not eating for a few hours prior to sleep, sleeping on your right side, and changing your eating habits such as:


  • Avoiding acidic food
  • Taking caffeine in moderation
  • Avoiding large meals


If symptoms still persist, it is often treated with antacids (proton pump inhibitors) [3] and H2 receptor blockers. However, in extreme conditions, surgery may be necessary to manage it [4].


Irritable Bowel Syndrome


Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic disorder of the digestive system. It can affect people of all ages, but it is more common in adults, particularly women. Symptoms of IBS include:



  • Bloating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea [5]
  • Mucus in the stool
  • The urgency to use the restroom.


There is no exact cause of IBS however, various factors that can result in its symptoms, these include food sensitivities or intolerances, stress and anxiety, hormonal imbalances, and/or bacteria buildup in the gut. Additionally, some research suggests that genetic factors could play a role in triggering symptoms associated with IBS.


Managing IBS can be challenging as there is no single treatment for this disorder; however, lifestyle changes and medications can help relieve symptoms and improve the quality of life for those suffering from IBS. One way to reduce symptom severity is to eat a healthy diet free from foods that may cause intolerance or sensitivity.


Additionally, reducing stress through regular exercise and relaxation therapy may help to ease tension throughout the body and promote better digestion. Finally, probiotics have been known to help reduce inflammation in the gut which can provide relief for some individuals with IBS [6]


Celiac Disease


Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects the small intestine. It is caused by an adverse reaction to gluten. Gluten has a compound called as gliadin which is mainly found in wheat, barley, and rye. People with celiac disease cannot digest this protein properly and instead have an immune system response that damages the lining of their small intestines. This damage can lead to serious health problems and make it difficult for the body to absorb vital nutrients from food [7]


Managing celiac disease starts with eliminating all sources of gluten from the diet. This means avoiding wheat, barley, rye, and some oats, as well as any products made with these grains or that may come into contact with them during processing.


Instead of these grains, people with celiac disease should focus on consuming naturally gluten-free foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, meat and fish, eggs, dairy products (with some exceptions), potatoes, and other starchy vegetables like corn and yams.


In addition to dietary changes, there are other steps people can take to manage celiac diseases, such as taking vitamins or supplements if recommended by an allergist or gastroenterologist; drinking plenty of water throughout the day; exercising regularly; getting enough sleep; avoiding highly processed foods; eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day; and reducing stress levels whenever possible.




Hemorrhoids, or piles, are swollen and inflamed veins in your anus and lower rectum. They can be caused by strain during bowel movements or increased pressure on the veins from pregnancy or other conditions. Symptoms of hemorrhoids may include itching, burning, pain, swelling, discharge, and bleeding.


Managing hemorrhoids often involves lifestyle changes such as avoiding straining during bowel movements, eating high-fiber foods to prevent constipation, and drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day. For more serious cases of hemorrhoids, medications may be prescribed to reduce inflammation, or your doctor may suggest band ligation, sclerotherapy, radiofrequency ablation, or surgery if necessary [8].


Lactose Intolerance


Lactose intolerance is a digestive disorder caused by the inability to break down lactose, a sugar in dairy products. People with this condition experience abdominal discomfort and other symptoms about 30 minutes to two hours after consuming dairy products. The primary symptom of lactose intolerance is bloating, gas, abdominal cramps, nausea, and diarrhea due to the body's failure to digest lactose [9].


The lack of an enzyme called lactase is the main cause of lactose intolerance. It results from a deficiency of the enzyme that breaks down lactose into two simpler forms of sugar called glucose and galactose. When the lactase enzyme is absent or deficient, undigested lactose passes through the small intestine and into the large intestine, where bacteria ferment it, producing excessive gas. This causes distension of the intestines leading to pain and other gastrointestinal symptoms such as flatulence and diarrhea.


Lactose intolerance can be managed by avoiding or reducing dairy products or taking supplemental enzymes containing lactase before consuming dairy products. Other dietary changes, such as increasing fiber intake or eating probiotic-rich foods, can also help manage this condition. Additionally, pharmaceutical options are available for managing lactose intolerance, such as Lactaid pills which contain an enzymatic form of lactase that allows those with the disorder to digest milk-containing foods without any side effects [10].




All in all, having a healthy gut is essential for overall body health and should be prioritized in everyone’s lives. While some gut issues are minor and can be overcome with healthy lifestyle changes, there are others that need to be addressed immediately and by a medical professional. Until then, general tips such as limiting sugar intake, eating probiotic foods like yogurt or kimchi which contain useful live cultures, exercising frequently, drinking plenty of water each day and getting good rest will contribute greatly to gut health maintenance.






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  2. Galland L. The gut microbiome and the brain. J Med Food 2014;17:1261–72. https://doi.org/10.1089/jmf.2014.7000.
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  5. Patel N, Shackelford K. Irritable Bowel Syndrome. StatPearls, Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023.
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  7. Posner EB, Haseeb M. Celiac Disease. StatPearls, Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023.
  8. Lohsiriwat V. Hemorrhoids: From basic pathophysiology to clinical management. World J Gastroenterol 2012;18:2009–17. https://doi.org/10.3748/wjg.v18.i17.2009.
  9. Deng Y, Misselwitz B, Dai N, Fox M. Lactose Intolerance in Adults: Biological Mechanism and Dietary Management. Nutrients 2015;7:8020–35. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu7095380.
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