How Do I Know If My Gut Is Unbalanced?


The human gut consists of 100,000 billion microorganisms. The gut bacteria is a diverse ecosystem that can be modified for various reasons like changes in season, diet, or lifestyle, stress, anxiety, or antibiotics use. A healthy symbiosis between healthy bacteria and the gut is essential for maintaining the intestinal barrier and immune system to prevent diseases. 

Duties of our gut

  The main function of the gut are:

  • Digestion
  • Absorption of nutrients
  • Excretion

Food we take is converted into a bolus, enters the food pipe and, with the help of peristaltic (pulsating) movements, reaches the stomach via the lower esophageal slit.

After entering the stomach, acid is secreted from the stomach which digests the food. Next, the food bolus reaches the intestine where bile juice (liver enzymes) further digests the food. After reaching the intestine, digested nutrients will be absorbed through the walls of the intestines.

Our gut consists of millions of microbes that help both in digestion and the absorption of important nutrients. An imbalance in the gut microbiome can cause adverse effects to these essential processes.²

Signs of an unbalanced gut

There are many signs that may indicate an unbalanced gut, including:

  • Burps
  • Bloating
  • Stomach pain
  • Food intolerance
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Leaky gut 
  • Burning sensation in the stomach
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting³

Various causes for gut imbalances

The most common causes of gut problems:

  • Hyperacidity
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disorder(GERD)
  • Crohn's disease
  • Gut infections or food poisoning
  • Bile salt malabsorption
  • Coeliac disease
  • Various cancers, including ovarian and colorectal cancer³

Women also face gut imbalances during their menstrual cycle.³ It is even said that the brain and gut are related to the nervous system. For example, studies have shown that prescribing anti-gastritis medication reduced migraine symptoms.

Through direct signalling of neural impulses, the association between the gut and brain is known as the gut-brain axis, and it plays a role in a number of disorders, including Parkinson's disease and autism.⁴


When symptoms persist for long periods, they need to be investigated to rule out any serious complications. The tests that doctors will do include:

  • Blood tests to check for anaemia
  • Stool test to check for blood or pus
  • Tests that measure the C reactive protein or erythrocyte sedimentation rate to rule out inflammation 
  • Thyroid function tests

Other procedures include endoscopies and abdominal ultrasounds.³

How to balance the gut

How to deal with gut imbalances depends on the cause of them. Some measures to re-balance the gut microbiome include:

  • Living a healthy lifestyle with a good diet and exercise regime
  • Avoiding stress and anxiety
  • Management of eating disorders like stress eating
  • Avoiding overuse of antibiotics, as they may cause the death of healthy and helpful gut microbiota.
  • Intermittent fasting may help to restore healthy gut bacteria⁵
  • Medications causing gastric imbalances in the gut microbiome should be identified and alternative medicine has to be taken.

Some examples include:

Proton pump inhibitors - used to treat stomach ulcers and GERD
Metformin - an antidiabetic drug.⁶
Ibuprofen, Aspirin and Naproxen have been proven to cause gastritis

Foods to help gut health

  • Green pea protein 
  • Prebiotics such as fruits, vegetables, and dry fruits
  • Micronutrients
  • Antioxidant vitamins like carotenoids
  • Whole grains
  • Fermented foods such as yoghurt
  • Polyphenol-rich foods such as dark chocolate, green tea, and broccoli

A study conducted in Finland explained that plant- and fibre-rich diets helped in increasing the diversity of the microbiome of the gut.⁸

Foods that negatively affect gut health

  • Animal protein
  • High salt diet
  • High sugar diet
  • Food additives
  • Some animal studies state that a high-fat diet causes intestinal dysbiosis⁷


Imbalance in the gut can be attributed to many reasons, the most common cause being an alteration of microbial flora in the gut. Microbes in the gut help the body function by absorbing various nutrients and digesting food. The best way to keep your gut healthy is to lead a healthy lifestyle filled with probiotics, antioxidants, and fruit and vegetables. A healthy gut means a healthy body.


  1. Holtmann G, Shah A, Morrison M. Pathophysiology of Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders: A Holistic Overview. Dig Dis 2017;35 Suppl 1:5–13.
  2. Valdes AM, Walter J, Segal E, Spector TD. Role of the gut microbiota in nutrition and health. BMJ 2018;361:k2179.
  3. Fikree A, Byrne P. Management of functional gastrointestinal disorders. Clin Med (Lond) 2021;21:44–52.
  4. Aurora SK, Shrewsbury SB, Ray S, Hindiyeh N, Nguyen L. A link between gastrointestinal disorders and migraine: Insights into the gut-brain connection. Headache 2021;61:576–89.
  5. Larrick JW, Mendelsohn AR, Larrick JW. Beneficial Gut Microbiome Remodeled During Intermittent Fasting in Humans. Rejuvenation Research 2021;24:234–7.
  6. Weersma RK, Zhernakova A, Fu J. Interaction between drugs and the gut microbiome. Gut 2020;69:1510–9.
  7. Rinninella E, Cintoni M, Raoul P, Lopetuso LR, Scaldaferri F, Pulcini G, et al. Food Components and Dietary Habits: Keys for a Healthy Gut Microbiota Composition. Nutrients 2019;11:2393.
  8. Koponen KK, Salosensaari A, Ruuskanen MO, Havulinna AS, Männistö S, Jousilahti P, et al. Associations of healthy food choices with gut microbiota profiles. Am J Clin Nutr 2021;114:605–16.
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Swathi Gadadasu

I am Dr Swathi G, from India, with experience as a dental clinician for 8 years, oral physician and Oral Maxillofacial Radiologist for 4 years, an academician for 3.5 years, an academic writer for 3 years and a medical writer for 1 year. With sound knowledge of clinical, non-clinical, scientific and academic and medical writing, working as a Freelancer Writer at Work foster. Due to my passion for writing, completed many national and international Publications in various indexed and well-known journals.

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